Persona 5 Royal and Animal Crossing Are Giving Me Structure in a Structure-Less World
With the coronavirus affecting daily life drastically, Persona 5 Royal and Animal Crossing are giving me a semblance of routine once again.
Like I’m sure a lot of you are experiencing right now, the coronavirus pandemic has made things feel very weird and bizarre. After having been largely at home now for the better part of a month, I’m still finding it strange to adjust to the reality of the situation, especially coming to terms with how this is affecting so many people worldwide. Even though I’m generally a bit of a homebody to begin with, it’s hard not to feel a sense of unease in a time that has upended so many of our lives, with no certainty for when things can quote “go back to normal.”
In the midst of a situation that right now requires us to practice social distancing and flattening the curve, I’ve had my moments of anxiety and stress caused by the uncertainty of the moment. Even going outside for a brief amount of time can be filled with a bit of dread right now. This is a feeling that I’ve had a couple times while on a grocery run or just going on a walk for some fresh air. Thankfully, in those moments where I feel uneasy, I’ve turned to TV, movies, books, and especially video games to provide some comfort when needed. But two video games especially have been helping me cope in the middle of the pandemic and are giving me some sense of normalcy, even in these extremely not normal circumstances.
Two of March’s biggest releases, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Persona 5 Royal, might just be the games that I needed in the middle of all this. Granted, I’ve put a lot of time into plenty of games over the past few weeks of staying at home, including Half-Life: Alyx, DOOM Eternal, Resident Evil 3, and most recently finished Final Fantasy VII Remake. While each of those games gave me several days’ worth of escapism, Persona 5 Royal and Animal Crossing have each been giving me the kind of rhythm to my days that I’ve sorely missed in the middle of the pandemic.
At this point with having been home for so many weeks, the days have just started to bleed together; March especially felt like it was about five years long. As someone that was used to a very hectic daily schedule between work, social events, and general day-to-day life, going from that kind of routine to having nearly unlimited free time has been a bit of an adjustment, more than I expected it to be. For me, having too much unstructured free time can sometimes be as overwhelming as it is freeing and has left me to question how to use my days, or stressed about what I should be doing. What can I do around the house today? What can I clean? What will I make for dinner tonight? Should I go grocery shopping? What else should I do with my day?
Video games have especially felt odd to me over the last month in some ways. Before the pandemic, most of the time I would rarely get more than a few hours to play each week, which I now find funny compared to the dozens of hours that I’ve probably put into playing games over the last month. However, Persona 5 Royal and Animal Crossing have been helping me a lot lately to help fill in those gaps and give me a semblance of the structure to each day that I was used to. More than any anything else, they have certainly been the games I’ve kept coming back to when I need some comfort and stress relief while being thrown off from my normal course.
Now that I have a chance to finally play it (after I put a little bit of time into the original Persona 5), Persona 5 Royal especially has helped me to cope in the pandemic with its focus around structure and time management. By their nature, the Persona games have always been about sticking to a schedule between managing your school routine and navigating dungeons in the night-time hours. The social sim aspects of Persona have always been my favorite element of the series as a whole, and in a time when social distancing has upended much of my time interacting with friends in-person, having a small piece of that through the characters of Persona 5 has really been comforting.
While I’m still pretty early into Persona 5 Royal (at least by Persona standards), going into the game each time I play immediately has helped me to ease into a sense of normalcy by figuring out what I’m going to do each day. Do I spend the afternoon going to hang out with my friends to improve my Confidants ranks, or spend more time exploring Tokyo and taking in other activities? How much time should I give myself to explore Mementos? This all plays into what has always made the Persona games so appealing to me, which is figuring out how to use each day most effectively.
The sense of routine that Persona 5 Royal offers is something that I’ve found soothing when my real life routines have been so radically altered in the middle of the pandemic. From simply walking around Tokyo, to getting the chance to socialize and hang out with friends at the cafe, to spending time with my favorite characters like Futaba (who is the Best Girl), these smaller moments in the context of such a huge game have meant more to me than I would have thought. They’re small joys that wouldn’t have felt out of the ordinary a few months ago, but right now, they feel especially vital and needed.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons has nicely complemented my time with Persona 5 Royal, giving me another game that I can simply unwind with while still adhering to some kind of “routine.” While Persona 5 Royal’s story is meant to continue driving the player through its 100+ hour experience, the lower stakes and relaxed pacing of Animal Crossing have made it so easy to pop into my island village for a bit while I’m watching something on Netflix or before I go to bed, usually paired with a podcast.
While Animal Crossing is already a relaxing, soothing experience to begin with, having a game with such a carefree attitude in the middle of one of the most stressful situations of our lifetimes has been one of the small joys of this time. In the moments where I’ve found myself overwhelmed by reading the news and needing to take my mind off of things for a bit, having a small, deserted island to retreat to and spend my time has helped me cope tremendously, even if it’s at the servitude of perpetual loan shark Tom Nook.
Animal Crossing has been the kind of video game comfort food that I’ve found myself dipping into constantly throughout the past few weeks since it came out. It’s been easy to rely on Animal Crossing to help give some structure to my real-world schedule alongside the events that are happening in the game itself (even if they involved Zipper). Whether it’s been checking my turnip prices or seeing the latest fashions that the Able Sisters have in stock, the diligence of doing daily tasks in Animal Crossing is a nice substitute for the chores that would take up time in my day. Even simple things like collecting bugs or fruit, or working my way to pay off loans with Tom Nook, give small goals that I can keep coming back to. It may be busy work, but it’s the type of thing that I’ve found comforting each day when I need some time to do something mindless and easy.
With any sense of “normalcy” on hold right now because of the coronavirus, I’m glad for now, at least I have Persona 5 Royal and Animal Crossing to restore it slightly. Both of these games in small ways have helped to provide a sense of comfort in a time when each day feels nearly endless, and when weeks have sometimes felt like months. While there’s no knowing just yet when “normal” will happen again–or if it will even be the same as before–spending my time in Tokyo or on a deserted island with animal friends at least gives some hope that eventually, with time, it will happen once again.