The Korea Herald


Relaxing games offer sanctuary in times of coronavirus

By Lim Jang-won

Published : April 1, 2020 - 17:08

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“Animal Crossing: New Horizon” offers a haven from the coronavirus. (Nintendo) “Animal Crossing: New Horizon” offers a haven from the coronavirus. (Nintendo)

As COVID-19 continues to keep people apart, games that are less stressful are gaining attention and bringing people together.

While most games usually have a final boss to beat, a mission to complete or a competition, driving the players to reach the end, games that have no specific goals or endings are helping people enjoy the time indoors and remain positive by simulating a virus-free virtual reality.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, for Nintendo Switch, released in Korea on March 20, is one such game going viral.

The latest version of the 20-year-old game allows people to live on an island where they are free to collect and build. Players can go fishing, digging, bug-catching and communicate with animal neighbors, among other things. As the game time reflects reality, meaning seasons and hours of the day correspond, players can log in and just enjoy the aesthetic views in the game with passing time, offering security and peace.

The game provides a safe haven from COVID-19 and the anxiety that comes with it, and many people, including celebrities such as Kim Hee-chul of K-pop group Super Junior and Tablo of Epik High, have made posts on social media of themselves playing the game.

Even WHO Director General Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted a suggestion to play games along with listening to music and reading books to overcome anxiety from watching news regarding COVID-19.

“I don’t have to beat any level or players. I can just chill and do whatever I want on the island. The game has a low stress level, and I feel relaxed while playing. I can take a break from reality,” one user told The Korea Herald.

There is also the satisfaction of working toward your own goal as the game does not pressure you to do anything in any way, be it collecting all the rare fish or finding dinosaur bones. As there is no need for social distancing online, players can also invite other people to see what their island looks like and interact with together.

The price of Nintendo Switch has soared in Korea since its release, as the production line of Nintendo Switch in China was affected by the outbreak of the virus along with the high demand for the console. Nintendo Switch Korea announced on March 20 that the next batch of Nintendo Switch Animal Crossing edition would be released in April.

University of Pennsylvania students have recreated the campus online where graduation events can be held. (Screenshot by Makarios Chung) University of Pennsylvania students have recreated the campus online where graduation events can be held. (Screenshot by Makarios Chung)

Minecraft is another game fast gaining popularity. Players of Minecraft can build anything to their own liking using different colored blocks, much like Lego. Like Animal Crossing, Minecraft is about setting personal goals and striving to accomplish them in addition to creating representations that mimic reality.

Although recreation of famous buildings around the world such as the Eiffel Tower and Taj Mahal have been around for a long time, students of universities that have shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are recreating campuses to host graduation events online using Minecraft.

“I think we’d be happy to recreate the campus just for the sake of it, but others are also interested in recreating a campus so that, being kicked off campus (due to coronavirus), we can now graduate on Franklin Field and walk down Locust Walk for Hey Day (a ceremony for rising seniors),” Makarios Chung, a sophomore at University of Pennsylvania, told The Korea Herald.

“Playing Minecraft with other people is a great way to form a community, especially when we’re all isolated,” added Chung, as over a dozen people gathered online to recreate the campus.

Meanwhile, a parent in Japan tweeted a video on March 14 of students of an elementary school in Japan, including his son, gathering online in an auditorium made in Minecraft without any parental or teacher supervision, to hold their graduation ceremony.

By Lim Jang-won (