When Andres’ post popped up in my Medium feed, I was excited to see his insights regarding “plant parenting” and how he handled the process. However, as I read through his published piece, I was specifically caught on his highlighted importance of finding the smaller things to care for to find joy in a time filled with so many concerns. To build off of Andres’ presented ideas, I reflected on the things I interacted with outside of schoolwork for the past year that helped with “feeling needed”. While I have personally attempted to take care of succulents in the past, my lack of a green thumb didn’t stop me from finding another way during this semester to “create my own garden”.
Over the past several months, I’ve managed to keep my sanity through playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. For those who aren’t familiar with the franchise, Animal Crossing is a game where you play as a “villager” among anthropomorphic animals. While there are no specifically defined objectives, the player is encouraged to spend their time in the village performing any number of activities, including bug catching, fishing, fossil hunting and planting flowers to watered and cross-breed.
Now, I’ve been a long-time fan of this series, still having fond memories of visiting Celeste at the observatory in Wild World and going to K.K. Slider’s private concerts in City Folk. So, when Nintendo announced that they were adding another game to the series, I was ecstatic to get my hands on it. While I was originally intending to buy New Horizons at the beginning of quarantine last year (with the money I was planning on spending for prom and “grad nite”), I ended up holding off and saving the money to spend when I moved to LA in the fall. However, when it was announced that our school year would start virtually, I never ended up buying myself that “going-away gift”. It was only during winter break that my mom bought the game for the both of us so we could play together (before and after I moved out).
Through this “trivial activity” in the larger scope of my college career, I was able to find solace in the midst of the chaos and stress this semester has brought. During a year where it has been difficult to keep track of the passage of real time, having this game as a way of grounding me to reality through the completion of virtual daily tasks was helpful in making me feel productive. Having the control in multiple aspects of the game helped me feel less anxious during a time where I felt that I had practically no control over anything else. When it was difficult for me to be able to talk with my friends (since I couldn’t see them in-person anymore), New Horizons allowed me to keep in touch with a group of interesting villagers with their own unique personalities that I could socialize with in the meantime.
During a time of “artistic despair” while theatres remained closed, the game gave me a creative outlet to create custom designs and layouts and explore aesthetics. Being able to create patterns for outfits and accessories along with the various ways to customize items and terrain, I truly had a new version of a “blank canvas” at my fingertips, with the ability to design my island (which I decided to name “Cometfield”) any way my heart desired.
Through reflecting on Andres’ experience caring for his houseplant, I was able to discover how Animal Crossing: New Horizons provided a positive space for me in which I could care for “the growth of my island”, allowing me to escape deadlines and Zoom fatigue for a few moments and focus on simple, more manageable tasks. Cometfield was my version of “T-Plan”, something that found a new home on my desk which I’m grateful for finding and continuing to cherish. While it may not require water and sunlight, this game evolves similarly to a plant, blossoming more with the amount of attention and care I give to it. In no way is this post a sponsorship nor an ad for Nintendo, but it serves as a display of my genuine love for the game as well as a reflection on how it has helped me during my college experience. With that said, I’m curious to see how my relationship with the game evolves when I do end up moving out for college and prepare to turn over a new leaf.
(P.S. If you play Animal Crossing too, let me know so we can exchange dodo codes and visit each other’s islands. :) )