Love of Gaming: Animal Crossing, Gaming as Self-Care, and More

If you know me, it is no surprise I still play video games. I’ve had just about every incarnation of the Super Nintendo and the GameBoy color. All my life I’ve played only two kinds of games: Super Mario and Pokemon. (Most likely because I suck at other video games.) However, all that changed when I heard about Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a game where you (a human) play as a town mayor, and your villagers are all animals. You build your town up by doing favors for friends, water plants, harvesting fruits, fishing, looking for fossils, and more. You can expand your home by getting “home loans” and buy items across themes to decorate your home. The game is very simple. There isn’t really an end goal and you can’t “beat” the game as you would a Pokemon or a Mario game. People usually group Animal Crossing with games for really young kids or older adults. And a lot of people think the game is just plain boring. But to me (and over 144k members on the Animal Crossing subreddit,) this game is a staple in our lives.

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When I first starting writing about this game, in November 2016, I played this game religiously. Every day there was something new to do. I had so many goals to achieve in the game. The beauty of Animal Crossing is that it’s not a game you need to play for hours on end. For the daily things you do, like water your plants, collecting fossils, buying items, and helping with your neighbors’ requests, you only need about 20-30 minutes. I would play during work breaks and after work. If it was the weekend, I would play before getting out of bed and right before bed too. You may say obsessed, but I call it being a good mayor.

At a certain point in 2017, I stopped playing Animal Crossing as much. I would check in a day or two a week, instead of daily. Weeks turned into months, and before I knew it months had gone by and I wouldn’t touch my 3DS, for Animal Crossing or any game. Believe it or not, I felt guilty about losing interest in my town! I loved Animal Crossing so much. And if you play the game, you know the more time away you spend from your town, the harder it is to get back in. If you visit after months of not playing, you’ll find your town overtaken by weeds and roaches. Your neighbors will be sad that you left them for so long and even guilt you. It is a tragedy, really.


 

As a long time video game lover, I go through phases with all video games. I have periods of time where I play every single day and other periods where I can go weeks or months without playing any games. Sometimes I’m just bored with my current game selection. I’ve played every single Pokemon game I own over 2-4 times. I’ll beat it and reset and repeat. Other times when a new game comes out, all I do is eat, breathe, and sleep that came. (See Summer 2018, Lisa discovers Mario Odyssey.)  I’ll be honest and say I go through phases with mostly everything else too: reading, watching anime, and watching TV shows. I go through periods of obsession and then of not doing it at all.

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Mario shirt and using a Mario button as a hair pin, I was so cool

This year, I’ve gotten back into playing video games more consistently again. I beat Mario Odyssey, started Zelda: Breath of the Wild (currently on hiatus because I suck, but more about that later,) replayed Pokemon Crystal and Pokemon X, and now have started back on Animal Crossing. The sad thing with Animal Crossing is that I lost the game cartridge with my original file and had to repurchase the game and start a whole new town. I promise you, real tears were shed.

As I’ve gotten older, playing video games isn’t as easy as it was growing up. Now that I’m an “adult,” I have real life responsibilities to attend to. As much as I would love to play for 8 hours a day, your girl has real life stuff to do. So how do I fit in my video game time? I schedule it in. To me, playing video games is a form of self-care. It is something that makes me HAPPY. I enjoy playing games and always feel better when I do. So I make it a priority to get some time in when I can.

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High school consisted of wearing Mario and Pokemon tees and make ugly faces

One thing I do is give myself limits when I play. For example, if I want to play but I have to do things around the house I set timers. Clean for 20 minutes, play for 10-15 minutes, clean again, and play again. It may sound more time consuming to do it this way when I can just clean for an hour and then play but I like playing more than I like attending to my adult responsibilities. This way I break up the boring stuff and mix in the fun stuff! Another thing I do is work out and play at the same time. A lot of people usually watch a show while they bike or are on the treadmill. Since I have a workout bike at home, I will play and bike at the same time. This always makes it fun and I find that I pedal faster during an intense game moment like a boss fight.


 

Video games have always been and will always be an important part of my life. Since my parents got my sisters and I a Super Nintendo back in the 90s, I’ve always loved games. 20 plus years later and I’m still walking around playing something and pre-ordering the new Switch titles with my husband. I’m still arguing with someone on why Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door is the best Mario title ever and why Pokemon Crystal needs a remake for Nintendo Switch. Although a lot of people still think of video games as something for kids, there is a whole community out there of people who can relate to loving these imaginary worlds so much.

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