By K W Warburton, The Reluctant Spoonie

With the launch of New Horizons this month, I’m going back in time and documenting my 14-year journey with the Animal Crossing games which also contains some bonus insights into my teenage years. My Animal Crossing mental health journey begins in 2006 with Wild World on the DS.

Wild World (2006)

I started playing Animal Crossing games in 2006 with Animal Crossing: Wild World for the Nintendo DS. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time and probably used up all my birthday money to buy this game, but it was worth it. I played this game every day for the next 12 months. Why? I’m not sure, but there is just something about Animal Crossing that keeps you coming back again and again. Maybe it’s because the weather changes more frequently than in real life or the little tasks and errands that you have to complete for the Villagers. Whatever it was, I was hooked from as soon as I put on that work uniform I was given by Tom Nook.

Animal crossing wild world
ACWW on Nintendo DS ©2020 The Reluctant Spoonie

Order a custom Animal Crossing Villager through our Etsy shop here

In 2006, I was a teenager. I had a large group of friends, but none of them gamed or even owned a Nintendo DS. Living in a rural area, I wasn’t able to see my friends regularly after school as we lived far apart and were not yet old enough to drive. I was also at that awkward stage of puberty were I had braces and felt self conscious all day long. This was also the year that my dreams of being a writer were dashed by a teacher. I was feeling lost and lonely and Animal Crossing gave me a place that I could escape to where I felt safe and accepted for who I was.

And remember, bad times… are just times that are bad.

Katrina, Animal Crossing

The Villagers are what makes Animal Crossing a unique game. They are always happy to see you and they notice when you’re away from the game for a while. This was a stark contrast to my real life where I was ignore by most teachers as I handed my homework in on time and did not disrupt the class (I went to a terrible school). At the time, I was bored with life and although I knew that I was experiencing a mental health problem, no-one discussed and I did not know where to go to receive help for it. The thing that Animal Crossing gave me that I was lacking in my real life was a purpose. You always had something to do such as paying off your loan to Tom Nook, running errands for the Villagers or discovering new bugs and fish.

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Check out my Animal Crossing crochet villagers here

I can’t remember why I stopped playing Wild World. I suspect that I found something else to quell my teenage boredom. Obviously, I got over the whole ‘you’ll never be a writer’ thing as you’re currently reading my blog. School was a harsh place in the 00’s.

New Leaf (2013)

New Leaf came out when I was at university. I’d bought a Nintendo 3DS with the money from my first paycheck from my first real job. I now had friends who enjoyed playing Animal Crossing as well. Although this was a better time in my life, I was still experiencing mental health problems and Animal Crossing provided me with an escape once more. Stress and anxiety plagued me almost every day as a twenty-something with a complex lifestyle. Immersing myself in my Animal Crossing town for a short while every day helped me to reduce my anxiety levels. However, this time, I was not playing alone in my room.

I’m a lone wolf who doesn’t want to be alone.

Lobo, Animal Crossing

Often I was curled up next to my boyfriend or playing with friends vising their towns. The social aspect of Animal Crossing was something that I had missed out on as a teenager and provided me with a new dimension to the game. The new features of this game, such as being the Mayor, visiting the Island and swimming (!) was enough to keep me coming back each day even though I had the additional responsibilities of adult life.

New Horizons (2020)

animal crossing new horizons
Screenshot from my New Horizons game

Even though I am now an old married woman, I am still excited for the new Animal Crossing game and features. I no longer require the escape from reality that I used to as I have now received the professional help for my mental illnesses that I required as a teenager. Nevertheless, I am still looking forward to playing the new game. There is just something about Animal crossing that just keeps to coming back again and again. Maybe it is just guilt for not paying off my loan to Tom Nook in the first place or maybe it is the fact that you can create a space for yourself where you feel like you belong.

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Find out more about Animal Crossing and mental health in this video by Screen Therapy.

Have you also been playing Animal Crossing for a long time? Why did you first start playing the game and what makes you keep playing?

Check out my initial thoughts on the new game in this video

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