Animal Crossing: The game that saved 2020

Animal Crossing was a big hit in 2020: Flatlay of a Nintendo Switch with various items surrounding it. Pic: Liberty Lester

With potentially the best game release date in history, Animal Crossing was a hit globally, but how did it affect players’ mental health? Liberty Lester investigates this further.

In the past year Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been used as a platform for political campaigns, charity donations, and a way to see family and friends during the pandemic.

Notably Joe Biden, the current President of the United States of America having an island people can visit, and Hellmann’s encouraging people to donate their rotten turnips for a real life food bank (not full of rotten turnips…) for charity!

Naturally, with all the attention created, physical copies of the game and the console were sold out in the UK during March and April, and globally selling 22 million units in the first six months of release.

Let’s talk about the release, with the shock of COVID-19 being confirmed as a pandemic on 11 March 2020, everyone was looking for an escape, something to keep them busy.

On 20 March 2020 Nintendo’s eighth Animal Crossing game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, was released, and funnily enough, this life simulator game was just what we needed.

A bar chart showing the results of the survey.

As a cult classic there was already a lot of hype surrounding the game, as Nintendo hadn’t released a new Animal Crossing game in over eight years.

Lou-Lou Crossing, 22, YouTuber said: “I’ve learnt so many life lessons growing up with this game, it has always been a constant source of support and love in my life.”

Along with the lifelong fans, there were a lot of people who saw the excitement surrounding the game and decided to fork out nearly £400 to see what it was all about.

Quite risky considering the game is based on: paying off your 0% interest mortgage to a pushy tanuki (a Japanese raccoon-dog) and trying to get a high enough island rating so a singing Jack Russel called “K.K” performs at your island.

Other tasks include weeding, fishing, catching bugs, donating to your museum, and much more.

A chart produced from the survey conducted based on if Animal Crossing had an effect on mental health.

Weirdly enough when all of this is put together you get a game that can potentially become a stepping stone for mental health.

In a survey conducted internationally, 76% of players said that Animal Crossing has helped their mental health, even if they do not suffer from any mental health issues.

Many people who have suffered with their mental health have said that doing tasks in game has helped them to start being more active in real life as well.

One anonymous volunteers said, whilst playing the game over summer: “I was sober the whole way through and didn’t cut once.”

Along with that, 100% of players agreed that the game played a big role in 2020/2021.

The big question is: why does everyone love this game so much? What is there to do?

A bar chart from a survey about Animal Crossing.

A lot of people find happiness in the game from doing mundane tasks, it keeps the brain focused, and doing one thing at a time can be very therapeutic for some people.

Chuy Huerta, 29, YouTuber, said: “I hear from a lot of people that they go to museums and then they see all of these bugs and fossils, and be like ‘oh I know about this slightly’ and having that physical connection can reduce stressors for people.”

Another lovable aspect of the game is the community that has been created during the pandemic.

Large amounts of people have joined Animal Crossing Sub-Reddits, and follow Animal Crossing Twitter feeds.

Although there are a large amount of players that do not have your best interest at heart and may scam you on fan sites such as Nookazon, a lot of people will be there to help you if you reach out.

From the outside people may look at the community in a negative light due to thinking people push having a certain aesthetic, such as cottagecore, but many people within the community think this lies within the self.

Yasmin Mathewson A.K.A Yasmin’s Corner, 20, YouTuber said: “I even get it, I see these hyper aesthetic islands, and I’m like, wow, I I’m just not that good at the game.”

It’s clear to see that this game has a special place in people’s hearts, and due to this players around the world have been able to support each other through one of the toughest years in modern day history.

Many people are proud of the community they have built as it is purely based around a mutual love of creativity.