By Thomas “TJ” Mattaboni
I am in no way saying that video games are a solution to mental health issues. This is simply a story from my childhood. If you do have depression or struggle with feelings of loneliness, please seek professional help.
I recently watched a video on YouTube titled “Animal Crossing and (my) Mental Health” by Boldly Wired. I recommend watching that video before reading this. You can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyNHUX7suSY
After I saw it, I became inspired to share my own experience with this game. This is going to be a somewhat personal story but I’ll try to make it as engaging as I can. While I do have depression, playing this game did not help me fight or cope with that illness. However, the game did help me cope with another problem that I faced as a kid. That problem was loneliness.
My Own Experience
I began playing Animal Crossing on the GameCube when I was only six years old. At the time, I had recently moved to Dingmans Ferry in Pennsylvania. I had also recently started grade school. School quickly became a big struggle for me because I am an introvert and I was really shy as a kid. I struggled to speak and interact with my classmates. Maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic here, but I soon felt out of place.
Not having any friends and not being able to go out and socialize elsewhere because, again, I was only six, I found a different way to socialize. I started playing Animal Crossing in order to pass the time and looking back, I realize that one of the things I did the most in that game was talking to the other villagers. Like Boldly Wired’s story, this is probably going to sound very cheesy, but interacting with my neighbors allowed me to establish the deep and meaningful relationships that I wanted in my life. As I talked to the residents more, they slowly revealed more about themselves to me and they asked my about myself from time to time. This allowed me to reveal characteristics about myself to them. They slowly revealed their own traits back to me.
After a while, it felt like the game was creating the life that I wanted to live. I suppose that’s why most people play this game though. I no longer minded being looked down upon by my classmates because I now had a place that I could go where I felt like I could be myself without judgement. Playing that game was something that I looked forward to almost every day.
In 2006, my family moved away from Pennsylvania to North Carolina where I have lived ever since. Once I was here, I began meeting people that I felt like I could really relate to. Many of these people are my closest friends and I still spend a lot of time with them to this very day. As a result, I did not really need to play the game anymore. I could now experience Animal Crossing in real life. I played Animal Crossing: City Folk for a little while but I didn’t play that nearly as much as I played the predecessor. I also recently played Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but once again, I’ve struggled to get hooked playing it. This is because, once again, the main role that the game played in my life was no longer necessary.
I would once again like to say that video games are NOT the cure for mental health and this article is not intended to be an excuse for people to just play Animal Crossing (or any video game for that matter) for the rest of their lives. This was just a story that I wanted to share.
Now having said all of that, I have two questions for anyone who reads this:
1. Do you have any unique experiences with this game?
2. Who are your top three villagers from the series?
My favorites are: Tank, Tangy, and Dotty.
“Animal Crossing and (my) Mental Health” by Boldly Wired https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyNHUX7suSY