COVID in times of Animal Crossing

October is the month of birthdays in my family. My heart sank and my brain blanked when I tested positive for COVID-19 on October of last year. I drove to the nearest mobile test center one early morning with my Nintendo Switch and Animal Crossing: New Horizons within an arm's reach on the car seat. It was raining and the scene outside was a dreadful gray; the radio was nothing but a droning noise as the chatter left no impression; I watch other folks wait for the bus going about their day, while I sat in the car a little envious of their normal day.

I distracted myself with ACNH while the car dove forward a few feet at a time in the queue of vehicles until it was my turn to get the nasal-pharyngeal swab. Those two hours in the car were filled with uncertainty about what was going to happen. As usual my animal friends convinced and cheered for me that things will be okay.

It was 2008 when I bought my Nintendo Gamecube while I was working for an inventory company. We started living in an unfamiliar place and so life was back to a clean slate. The winters were extra cold as I didn't have many friends to talk, nor places to go, nor hobbies to do since money was tight. Fortunately, I spent my winters in my room after school playing Animal Crossing: Population Growing. It was a game that kept any looming depression or boredom at bay. Animal Crossing kept me company in its own way that also created fond memories. It's quiet in the room during winter since the snow absorbs the sound outside in addition to the padded walls -- so all I could hear are the hourly themes of the game, the UI bleeps, and my neighbors' Animalese chatter that grew up on me.

Someone needs company.

I found myself on the same situation after testing positive. During isolation and recovery, I spent most of the days and nights in my bedroom. I wasn't scared. I wanted to pass the time while my antibody was fighting. While my peers at work were worried for me, I wanted a distraction to steer away from the loneliness instead. I grabbed all of my Switch and placed them beside my bed; and every time I had an itch, I'd play ACNH. Whenever I felt a hint of isolation, I'd play ACNH and talk to my villagers simply to read their dialogue. When I had an idea what to do next, since the fall season looks cool, I'd play ACNH. It was a way of coping and I'm glad to have such a luxury at that point.

Don't leave me in your sleep. I'm still here.

No one else knew I caught this illness as I wanted to keep it private at that time. Instead of my DMs on social media, I wandered around my island. Besides, since we're not sure what this illness is back then, I wasn't sure how everyone would react especially after I recover.

Vesta and Filbert: easily two of my toppers.

This recovery period allowed me to achieve and realize things about ACNH. I've missed out on Maple  and only met her on ACNH. I'm glad Vesta is still in my island and she's still sweet. I managed to get my first five star island and grow my first blue rose. I learned that I don't have to strive on creating the perfect town to unlock those premium tools. I've collected all the fossils when I haven't before. Raymond is cool but overrated. I don't like Judy. I'm glad to have Skye and she ALWAYS sings. Terraforming combined with custom tiles/patterns blew my mind. And so on. After two weeks, I was back working from home on reduced hours.

How did COVID feel? In MY case, I had a fever overnight and then the rest followed. There was no headache, no mucus, no sneezing. But I TRULY TRULY felt the shivers during that one fever. I did have labored breathing, only because when the air touches my throat, it triggers an itch then I cough. I couldn't take a deep breath since I'll cough like crazy. Instead, I would take shorter breaths, or breathe in enough air not to trigger that itching cough. I couldn't lie down straight, because there's a pain at the back of my thighs. I also lost my sense of taste; this one I can clearly describe; it's as if a bitter sensation coated my tongue; or imagine not tasting anything (or not able to enjoy the food), because you badly burned your tongue. I also couldn't sit, because my body felt heavy and uncomfortable. All I could do was lie and wait to get better. 

I realized about my priorities in life while I was lying down. Health is more important than the "nice" things. I could have all these fun things, but most of them felt clutter in that situation. Certainly, Heroes of the Storm nor Starcraft 2 nor Call of Duty didn't help since my reflex was burdened. Animal Crossing spelled the easy life. Most importantly, I realized how every time I woke up was a blessing - it still is.

Notice that I purposely wrote the title this way. I didn't want COVID to dominate my life; I also don't want to downplay this illness either. If I wrote the title the other way around, it's as if COVID gets to dictate my life - so, no. Animal Crossing is only one game which influenced my personality in gaming. While I was fulfilling my islander representative duties and exploring the new horizons, too bad COVID interrupted. So I call it COVID in times of Animal Crossing.

THE HARVEST GAMER
Sam1, a portmanteau for someone, is an aspiring novelist in the romance, comedy, and horror genre. He is a university graduate with a degree in Business Administration and Applied Computer Science. He is an indie game-developer on itch.io and also an avid gamer. He currently works as an Exams and Adaptive Technology Coordinator.

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