COLUMN: Stop and smell the (virtual) roses

Video game has provided a diversion during COVID-19 pandemic

If you told me a video game would be the key to maintaining my sanity during a global pandemic, I would have told you that you’ve lost your mind.

Now after nearly a month of self-isolation, that is exactly what is happening for not only myself, but thousands of others around the world.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is not what one would call a typical video game.

It doesn’t involve fighting, weapons or war. Nor does it have much of a plot or strategy. It takes place on a small deserted island that is freshly inhabited by your character, a racoon salesman named Tom Nook, his two apprentices Timmy and Tommy and two other animal villagers chosen at random.

When I started, I was put with a bunny named Snake and a sheep named Frita, who dresses in a hotdog dress and a hamburger hat.

Sounds bizarre, right?

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Even stranger is the fact there really isn’t an end to the game or a goal that needs to be attained like most other games have.

The only objective is to make your island into the most welcoming and enjoyable island for your animal neighbours.

This involves collecting the local fish, bugs and fossils to be donated to the museum, tending to flowers and building new stores and attractions for the local economy.

So, at this point, you are probably still wondering what this has to do with COVID-19 and the state of my sanity?

Animal Crossing came out on March 20.

This was around the time that everything started to shut down and I was spending nearly 100 per cent of my time at home.

In a strange way, Animal Crossing gave me the ability to create my own escape from reality whilst listening to the calming soundtrack and looking at cute little animal characters.

The game also has the capability to connect with friends over the internet and visit each other’s islands.

This fulfills my social needs more than just a phone call or a video chat, because we are still chatting on the phone, but we are also playing games and “hanging out.”

This Easter weekend, my one friend hosted an Easter egg hunt on his island. Something we can’t do in real life right now, but still just as fun!

I am not the only one who is finding solace in “life simulation” games like Animal Crossing.

Many have gone on record to say this series of games have improved their mental health because it is so calm, cheery and wholesome.

This game invites you to slow down, relax and smell the (virtual) roses.

If video games interest you, I would suggest checking out some e-books we have available through the Okanagan Regional Library, such as Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo and the Battle That Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris or the Sci-Fi novel that takes place within a video game, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Even though the library’s physical location is closed at this time, we still have lots of online content available for you.

E-books, e-magazines, movie streaming services or even help with reference questions. If you don’t have a library card, right now you can even sign up for one on our website.

Be sure to check out www.orl.bc.ca to see everything we have available for you.

Kayley Robb is an assistant community librarian at the Summerland branch of the Okanagan Regional Library and the resident representative of her own virtual island, Astraluna.

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