What happens when the virtual world collides with real-world loss?
My sister Cassie is a big "Animal Crossing" fan and has been begging me for months (years?) to try out the game. Between raising my toddler, wifey duties, running a business and just life in general, I always told her that I'd love to BUT I just don't have any time for video games right now!
Flash forward to 2020-2021-pandemic-quarantine-life and I finally gave "Animal Crossing: New Horizons" (the latest edition of the game) a whirl. And OMG am I on the bandwagon or what. My feet ain't even dangling off the edge.
It's safe to say I'm pretty much obsessed with ACNH right now.
I can see why Cassie loves it because I love it too, now. If you don't know anything at all about ACNH (like that was me just two months ago), here's a little gist: you create a character that represents you. You start and build a life on a deserted island that you get to name and become representative of. The more you build and develop your island, the more visitors you'll get. The goal is to expand your island to the point that the legendary K.K. (this singing, guitar-playing doggo) will want to accept an invite to perform a concert there. There are tons of customization options available in ACNH, and the entire game play is seriously relaxing. Many people say that it helps with their anxiety and depression levels, too, and I'm not surprised.
I mentioned customization - in the game, you can create almost any type of island with any theme or style you want. The other day I read a post about people who customize their island with cemeteries, whether as a decoration during Halloween time or as a permanent fixture.
And it got me thinking.
In the game, you can set your real life friends who are also on "Animal Crossing" as your "best friends" in the game. This means, for one thing, that you can visit one another's island, whether in real time or via "dreaming" with Luna (I'm not going to explain everything now - you'll have to try it out to find it out!) as long as you have a dream code.
With the cemeteries post, I started to think about how it would be if you were to unfortunately have a friend in real life, who was also your "best friend" in "Animal Crossing," pass away.
What would it feel like to visit their island in "dream" form, after the fact? In dream form, by the way, even if your friend is not online at the moment, you're able to see their character walking around the island, and you'll occasionally bump into them. Seemingly alive as can be, but only virtually and only in the game. What is the emotion associated with this? Is there a benefit or is this a detrimental element to this sort of experience? Would it be depressing? Macabre? Or would it be comforting?
Of course, I'm just an armchair psychologist. My chair probably doesn't even have arms if I'm being honest. But what do you think?
Just like Facebook has created ways to memorialize friends' profiles who have passed on, I think that it could be therapeutic, in a way, to create cemeteries in "Animal Crossing: New Horizons" for those we know and love, whether in real life or for our "best friends" in Animal Crossing. And I think it could be comforting, to a certain degree, to bump into these friends in a "dream" experience during game play. Just as they were (and dressed just as they were) the last time they logged in to the game.
You aren't going to know exactly what I'm talking about unless you get the game yourself on your Switch or watch some videos on it (I recommend JackSepticEye's series on it, he's hilarious). But I think you get the general idea! Let me know what you think about all of this in the comments below...it's fairly new phenomena that's only going to become more commonplace.