Animal Crossing: A Case in Escaping My Life

Ever since I had played a couple weeks of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, I had always wanted to write a review on it, but never had my thoughts together. This isn't a standard review at all. I'm not concerned with the graphics (they're pretty great, though), or the use of 3D, or the technical aspects of the game. Instead, I want to have a more personal take on this as Animal Crossing is a personal game.

A lot has happened in my life since the new Animal Crossing game came out on June 9. I returned from a trip to Japan that involved a lot of stress on the way home thanks to flight complications. I resumed work at my community center job and transitioned to working with much younger children than who I had worked with before. I had finished my last year of college and left with a bachelor's degree. A close relationship I had with a friend and roommate came to an end just before I moved out of my apartment. I said goodbye to college life and ventured into adulthood, moving to a new city into an apartment with my significant other and staked out potential jobs.

I don't think it's a coincidence I latched onto New Leaf stronger than I did as a child with the first Animal Crossing in 2001 when I was only 10 years old. I played it then because a friend introduced me to it. I thought the player character was cute -- and the animals cuter --  and played it religiously for a couple months, later picking it up every once in a while. The same happened for Wild World and City Folk. While I started out playing New Leaf often, once I had my first weekend fill of it, I realized I had responsibilities to return to and set an hour away each day for me to play, missing days when I had things to do.

New Leaf is both a relaxing game and an exciting, engaging game that gives you a lot of customization in your town. You get to decide what to build, where to put it, and even if it's frustrating when a villager moves into town and builds their house in the middle of that path you set up, I don't think I'm wrong in writing that most of us get absorbed into Animal Crossing (and other games like The Sims) because it's a chance to not only escape our own lives and live in another world but also as a way to have some control over some universe. Sure, if you don't water your flowers regularly, they will die. If you don't play for a while, weeds will overtake your town. But no one in the game is going to yell at you for forgetting to water the plants or never catching that fish you said you'd get for them. There are consequences for your actions (or lack thereof), but they're easy to deal with.

Meanwhile, ever since moving into an apartment I've had to replace a shower knob, and this morning when I was supposed to get a new refrigerator installed to replace the dying one currently plugged in, the installers thrust it upon me to handle the plumbing issues concerning the water line to the current fridge. Home responsibilities are not fun. It's during these times when I'm about to scream, I take a moment, breathe, and flip open my 3DS and start up Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I'll go bugcatching on the island to make some quick cash, talk to my neighbors, go shopping for furniture and clothes, find new QR codes to scan, and occasionally meet up old friends or my sister in our towns to run around and make faces at each other.

My sister is weird.

One evening in my previous apartment before moving out, I was crying. I felt how frightening it was for familiarity of college to be over. I could see myself growing distant from some of the people I had spent time with the last four years. The next night, I resumed playing Animal Crossing and received a letter in my mailbox from my neighbor Avery, a cranky eagle and fellow Pisces.

Though I was mildly creeped out by the timing of this letter, it touched my heart. Avery is just a character in a video game, but in that video game he is my friend, and I am his friend. Animal Crossing looks like a simplistic game, but it's a way for me to escape from my daily stresses and spend a little time each day chatting with a range of animal characters who value my company. Games are more than just mindless entertainment; they're safe spaces for you to interact with others.