Quarantine Part 2 / Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Emoji summary: 🥵🕳🏝
Review by: GDLP
Have you seen that video of the guy’s leg cramping, where he has it up on the dashboard of his car and you can see the outline of muscles and veins pulsing like a little thunderstorm right there on his body? that’s how it’s trying to move inside my head and my belly at the moment; it’s always just about to tip that way and make me sick. I wrote about the sitch in Quarantine Part 1 but if you missed it, briefly, my knot is this: I live with my Nan and my uncle and we cannot isolate because my Nan has carers coming in the house all day and night to look after her; the council’s not giving carers protective clothing bc it’s only for hospitals; and so sickness n death-ness are looking inevitable. it’s more a case of when? dark I know, n somehow it gets darker because since I wrote that text 2 weeks ago a family friend has died, the girl a few houses up is in a coma, the carers look after another woman who has gone to hospital with a fever, and yesterday a funeral car was spotted on the road next to ours, just waiting there, black and stark under the sun. Ah. We live at the bottom of a long hilly street and it’s, idk… what can we do? Corona will be coming down the mountain when she comes. So I find I fidget all day now, motivated by the tiny thunderstorms inside me, activated by ants in my pants and a big fear of what I know would be pure unhinged depression if I did not keep myself busy. I am Chris Traeger smiling on a bike when he says to the camera, ‘if I keep my body moving, and my mind occupied at all times, I will avoid falling into a bottomless pit of despair.’ The meme’s not wrong but I can’t quite manage the mind-stuff atm: this has been the slowest text to write because I can make one sentence, but I can’t put sentences together so easily, or remember what the last one said. It is all I can do to do (and do and do) because when I stop or when I think, it is terrible, but I when I run up and down the hills around my house it is only physically terrible, and that is not as bad.
I think a lot of people are coping this way - existing in an overdrive that does not amount to anything specific, but knowing that that’s not the point. The point is to be in the middle of something instead of at the end. Like, Zarina’s little brother has been using quarantine to dig holes in the garden (to his parents’ dismay). At the moment there are 3 holes out there and he wants to join them up into one big hole. He’s also been pulling the hose out and filling them with water. I love that. I get it. I have my own holes to tend to, and I dig new ones every day, tho granted they are much more mundane, n still, they are keeping away the corona blues.
I’ve been cleaning (i know), sewing mediocre masks from pillow cases, and painting my Nan’s nails. I put some screws inside the cupboard so we can hang up pans, and I have counted and organised everything ready for my 2019/2020 self assessment like a fucking nerd. I moved my wardrobe so there’s more floorspace in my bedroom: n it’s there I stretch my legs and hips out ready for ad hoc Kung Fu practice in the yard. I did a yoga class on Zoom last week, and I also shot an elaborate set of photos for my boyfriend, the production of which took up an entire evening so that’s something. I flit between YouTube, Prime, Netflix, Instagram, Headspace and WhatsApp; chat to my sister; n take photos of all the cats that keep crossing the road outside. Been run-walk-running every morning to a messy playlist of Dua Lipa, Linkin Park and New Order. And I coordinated a successful secret santa between the cousins in what we called Coronamas. That was really good, and it meant we actively had something to look forward to in the post, little care packages and games. I should say as well, in the world’s most boring statement, that I’m a big fan of the sky at the moment. nighttime looks calmer like the stars know they have more personal space now. Been looking out my window at them like I’m in a movie. I turned the lights off in my bedroom and filmed a whole thunderstorm the other day. Yep, these are my holes and they’re okay.
but say each Activity is a brick in the wall I am building to keep out Boredom and thus Depression, the newly released Animal Crossing has been the cement between ‘em all. it’s the element that ensures I am hands-full occupied between the minutes and moments and things, with aimless tasks and slow gratification; it’s like lofi beats in the background instead of silence, or the automatic fiddling your hands do while you’re on the phone to someone; doing squats while the microwave twirls. without this game, which was prophetically released as lockdown began here in the UK, I’d be starfishing on the floor and staring at the artex on the ceiling until it blurred flat. Really, when ITV news comes on my Nan’s telly, it’s as tho someone has opened that forbidden book in the first harry potter film where the face comes up out of the page and starts to scream. I can’t be hearing it. What I wanna hear is the whoosh of a balloon floating past my little town of Loveisland so I know when to grab my catapult and bag myself a prize. I wanna hear KK Slider, the town tune, and local tracks off the portable radio I’ve put down on the floor next to my work station. I wanna dye things, design things, shake the trees and fish. I’ve never been so grateful for a game in all my life. I’ve never been so grateful to play games and to understand them enough that I can give myself over to island life like that. Kinda dollhouse, kinda sandbox, very little narrative besides the one you lead yourself on. If I need to lose some time, which I do, I can just play. according to Nintendo I’ve clocked 75 hours so far. Good.
I put myself to bed in the game every single night and switch the lights off, and when I wake up the first thing I do is run along the water’s edge searching for any messages in bottles that might have washed up on the shore. I get my daily bonus at the ATM; dig for fossils and wake up Blathers so he can check em out; and then I head to the shop with the surplus so I can sell them n see what furniture they’ve got in there today. I walk up the little design code path I’ve downloaded, over the bridge and up to the tailors to try some things on before I go about the rest of my day seeing the neighbours, harvesting fruit, and raising money for new infrastructure. On clear nights I stand there looking up at the sky waiting for shooting stars to make wishes, n that isn’t too far away from real life right now I guess, bless. I’m not new to Animal Crossing but I also haven’t played it since I was a teenager, and it’s been fun remembering that things like hybrid plants exist, and gold tools; and the recipes and crafting feature in this edition really make it what it is, to the point where it’s hard to imagine what players did before that was ever introduced. I am enjoying the internet-ness of New Horizons too, which was probably boosted by the success of Pocket Camp wasn’t it. Connection means this promise of an ever growing catalogue and new events throughout the year. Fuck the bunny though, what cartoon donnie darko shit did he crawl out of.
This game is patronised for being cute capitalism and… I don’t disagree but I also don’t care. Yesterday I was visiting my friend’s island and found a firefighter outfit in the shop which I was able to buy and then drop off at my sister’s island for her to wear, because she literally finished real life training and became a certified firefighter this very week. I can’t celebrate with her and she is now frontline, stress, but at least we were able to share that moment apart.
I do play with a little bit of guilt because people are smashing mutual aid, actively making a difference, and articulating this perfect criticism of the way our government and employers are badly handling the situation. I see all that, I see it, and I stay over here collecting giant clams so that I can sleep inside a shell like a mermaid… inside a video game… because I want to. To be honest, that is all I’m capable of - that, making sure my Nan is happy and healthy for as long as possible, and making sure my brain does not need Ressetti. My fight has gone and it’s weird to be without it. I can’t think of a single critical meme, make work decisions, or come up with new ideas to not waste this special platform we’ve built and I want to apologise for that but I hope you know I would be organising if I was strong enough. I was talking about that uneasiness with a friend and this phrase came to mind, that charity starts at home. It’s something my mum has always said and i’ve taken issue with but right now in quarantine I’m understanding it, or maybe using it as defence. My friend replied the next day and said it’s not so much that charity starts at home but more like the plane health n safety practice of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others. Parents put on their own masks before turning to help their kids because they wouldn’t be able to look after anyone else if they didn’t look after themselves first. I’m finding my oxygen in all these things around me, and finding plenty in Animal Crossing and its toy town play-space, and I’m just glad that I’m feeling okay for now.