Marshall Bowers

Conjurer of code. Devourer of art. Pursuer of æsthetics.

Animal Escapism

Monday, May 11, 2020
556 words
3 minute read

Greetings, travelers.

It seems that everyone around me is playing Animal Crossing these days. I say "around me", but what I really mean is "within my social sphere and also on the internet". There's only one individual—my wife—who is physically close enough to me in order to satisfy the requirements of being "around". As someone who partook quite heavily in previous versions of Animal Crossing in my childhood, it's somewhat surprising that I'm not choosing to indulge now. After all, I've been stuck indoors for as long as I can remember, and it doesn't seem like I'll be getting out anytime soon.

My avoidance of Animal Crossing is in part related to physical constraints. Nintendo decided, regrettably, that players' islands in New Horizons should be limited to one per Switch console, as opposed to the more reasonable alternative of associating them with an individual user profile. Seeing as we only have one Switch, it would seem that having two separate islands is too big an ask. For all of the charm that Nintendo is able to capture in its titles, the company has a horrendous propensity towards cocking up basic quality of life features. Don't even get me started on how your islands can't be transferred between different consoles either.

Physical constraints notwithstanding, I just don't know how much I would enjoy Animal Crossing at this point in my life. The gameplay just seems tiresome and lacking in the repeated hits of dopamine that I find myself desiring in the titles I choose to play. The passage of time that matches the real world is probably the biggest thing putting me off from Animal Crossing. When I play video games I seek an escape from the real world, not something that is bound by the same laws of temporality.

Lately I have been escaping the tedium of reality by revisiting a different game from my childhood: RuneScape (specifically Old School RuneScape). I have played this game on-and-off for years, and it has somehow managed to retain its allure over time. While there are periods where I get tired of playing or take time off to engage in other pursuits, I somehow always come back to it.

I'm still undecided on how I feel about my use of video games as a form of escapism. Sometimes I feel guilty for playing them for hours at a time to forget about the cares of the world. I think part of this stems from my observation that people tend to stigmatize video games more than other forms of entertainment. While I entirely reject the notion that watching TV for some n hours is somehow preferable to playing a video game for the same amount of time, I still have a tendency to feel guilty after an extended gaming session.

I have noticed that as I've gotten older I tend to alternate more between different moods, specifically productive and consumptive ones. One week I may feel like playing video games, while the next I want to pour myself into the creation of something. I'm learning to embrace these moods as they come and let them guide me where they may. I find the outcome of this approach much more satisfying than attempting to fight against my innermost self.