How Animal Crossing Has Become Essential During the Coronavirus Quarantine

During this time of uncertainty, one thing is clear: we have to spend more time at home to prevent the spread of the recent coronavirus outbreak, better known as COVID-19 or novel coronavirus. And as we spend more time indoors, many of us are relying on our hobbies to get us through quarantine. Unfortunately, we can’t partake in many athletic activities outside the home, though almost 20% of millennials take part in water sports.

The top hobby right now? Playing Animal Crossing.

The long-awaited game for Nintendo Switch hit store shelves just days before government mandates locked us inside our homes. PCBs have been produced since the 60s but updates in technology have made newer games more streamlined and beautiful than ever before. It’s no wonder so many people are drawn to the soothing pastels of the game. When you’re stuck inside, the act of playing a new game in our favorite childhood franchise can bring about feelings of happiness and nostalgia.

Though we can still leave for essential purposes, like going to work or brief shopping trips to the store, seeing friends and throwing parties is out of the question. Instead of twiddling our thumbs, however, a growing number of people have picked up controllers instead. In fact, some news sites have noted that Animal Crossing is the game we all need right now to stay sane under quarantine conditions.

But how does Animal Crossing help us during this period of social isolation? Here’s why “the grind” actually helps our mental health.

The comfort of predictability and routine

Animal Crossing is a simple game where the player completes favors for others, gathers building materials, and improves their home. Where some intense gamers hate the droll of grinding away as they improve their character stats, the world of Animal Crossing flips this idea on its head, providing a game that focuses almost solely on the grind.

This steady game progression has achievable goals and a soothing design that draws in people of all ages. Whether folks played the original games as children or they are introducing their own children to the franchise for the first time, just about everyone has fun building their home and exploring different islands as the story progresses. About 10,000 people turn 65 each day and even elderly folks have caught onto Animal Crossing’s easy appeal. But the soothing layout and simplistic gameplay are only two factors that help its widespread appeal; at the end of the day, we relish the act of predictability and routine, especially in a world where our regular routine has been tossed in the gutter.

The COVID-19 isolation has prevented many people from going into work or seeing their friends. Some might have even lost their jobs in the process. Right now, Americans — and people all over the world — have lost an essential part of who they are and what makes up their day. By playing a simple, enjoyable game like Animal Crossing, players know what to expect and they aren’t held to any serious time constraints like other fast-paced video games. In fact, there’s very little pacing in the game at all: rather, it’s up to the player to complete tasks at their own pace, sometimes returning to projects days later in lieu of another task that seemed like more fun. In our real-life, regular world where time constraints and deadlines are a regular contributor to our stress, having a game like Animal Crossing is a breath of fresh air.

Of course, Animal Crossing isn’t the only game that allows characters to meet soft goals at their own pace. The Sims is another top game in the video game world right now. It’s a little more fast-paced than the world of Animal Crossing which makes it great for people who desire those boosts of dopamine at more regular intervals.

According to some studies, these games are all about control, especially in the COVID-19 world we are currently living in.

“[The Sims] gives you the sense that you can create a world and have control over the decisions that are made for that world,” explains psychology professor Chris Ferguson in an interview with CNBC. “You can feel like that world makes sense, and at the very least it has rules that you can understand.”

Another added bonus of Animal Crossing? The social aspect of the Switch games means you can trade items with friends and even visit each other’s islands. This feature ensures that even though we’re playing games alone, we’re never too far from the ones we love

There couldn’t have been a better time for Animal Crossing to come out. As we struggle through the next few weeks of quarantine, indulging in meditative, soothing activities is great for our mental health. Whether or not you play Animal Crossing is up to you.