“We are all Animal Crossing bloggers now,” said one travel blogger on Twitter at the outset of the COVID crisis.
The timing of the Nintendo game’s release seemed to time with the beginnings of social distancing in such a way that it led everyone from my daughter to John Oliver to (jokingly) imagine COVID as a conspiracy; to visualize video game execs plotting in their villains’ lair. “This will keep them all inside. Where can they turn? Their ISLANDS (insert maniacal laughter here).”
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And my daughter did turn to her island. Fortunately, she had an online friend so they could meet up and help with each others’ islands. In the absence of travel — something I normally love to to, I was relegated to island tours myself. I ended up wandering around my daughter’s island named, “Paradise.” Paradise, it turns out, includes a cemetery and a really nice bathroom. And face masks. Apparenly, there’s no escaping from COVID no matter where you go.
My daughter wanted me to create an island, but that would mean purchasing a new Nintendo Switch, which I’ve, so far, declined to do. I’d probably end up naming my island something like Purgatory, counter to her Paradise. I’m a great mom.
However, the second Switch might not be too far off if I continue on my current path. To quell her boredom, I’ve given in to her request that I play “Fire Emblem Three Houses,” a Switch game set in a medieval-and-magic type world in which, for the first part, you’re both mercenary and teacher with students your own age and a mysterious past. For the second part, it seems, you’re God.
The game has several possible routes you can play. It’s essential to my daughter that I play all three so I can get “a full picture” of the entire storyline from each possible perspective. She frequently demands to know which of the students are my favorites.
I play it for her because she wants me to. I play it, and I pretend that I’m not beginning actually to care about this video game. I’ve already played the route called “Blue Lions.” Now, we’re on to the “Golden Deer” route, where I’ve dressed all of my students in maid and butler attire during the first half of the game, just to amuse myself and to watch my daughter get irritated. I tell her that it’s to remind these young nobles that, as future leaders, they are servants of the people.
But the truth is, I’ve grown secretly fond of Dimitri — he has serious issues, yes, but maybe, finally, here’s a man I can fix. I feel bad for Marianne and truly angry on her behalf when anyone tells her she should speak up or smile more. Introverts need to support each other! I go and have tea with my students and feel genuinely ashamed at seeing their expressions of disappointment when we fail to have “impactful conversations.” Failing to have impactful conversations. Too much like real life. I think I’m going slowly, quietly insane in COVID exile.
My younger daughter likes animation (I’ve only seen my older one on Zoom chats since COVID ensued.) She will, for the most part, only watch animated shows. Her high-functioning autism makes her frequently uncomfortable with facial expressions. We are watching lots of animation during COVID exile. And, I have to admit, she finds some interesting choices.
We watch Padak, a South Korean animated film about doomed fish in a tank at the front of a seafood restaurant. My husband makes a quick, masked, trip to our local gourmet grocer that night and picks up sushi. I weep quietly.
We watch Bojack Horseman — all six seasons, a show I would never have watched on my own. At first impression, it strikes me as something like an Adult Swim type cartoon. Surprisingly, though, the story of this dysfunctional has-been Hollywoo horse is remarkably good. I think about it so much that I find myself referring to Diane and her transition as a writer when talking to my husband. His expression changes to one of disdain and contempt; I have, again, failed to have an “impactful conversation.” The sound effect that Fire Emblem makes when you strike out during teatime plays in my head and vow to never again make an animation reference. Am I, like Bojack’s mother, drifting into dementia? Should I have my baby doll at the ready? The creepy old one my husband refuses to get rid of? I make myself feel better by finding an article on a psychology website that analyzes the personality types of each character on the show. Diane, like me, is an INFJ. I knew it!
Right after COVID Exile started, FFVII Remake came out. I played the original when it came out in 1997, between work and baby naps. Games are semi-addictive to me, but I decided, “what the hell?” After all, I’m mostly trapped at home except for the occasional walk. Why not explore Midgar? Thirty-five hours later (well, thirty-five hours spread over weeks), I wanted to tell everyone the very interesting choice Square Enix had made with the plot. But I realized that what I was blathering about seemed incomprehensible to people who hadn’t played the game. I’m not sure I understood, myself.
Meanwhile, I’ve been doing things to counter my drift into frivolity. I’ve been trying to get back to exercising, resume my meditation practice. Blogging has kept me busy. I’ve been continuing to study French. My French teacher wants us to watch TV shows in French. We have Netflix. I turn on Netflix and start viewing Marseilles, but then switch to Nailed It! France, a show where they have to recreate fancy cakes. Then I lose my attention on that, turn it back to Bojack, and set the language to French (did you know that, as a name, they don’t translate Horseman? Chevalhomme would just sound weird!)
And, while I haven’t emerged from COVID exile to attend any of the protests, I have been using the time to take some of the books on racism and racial bias off of my reading list and actually read them.
I plan to head out again and hit the trail. Walking and being in the woods is something that I miss. “Forest bathing” is the new term if you want to sound more spiritual. We used to call it “being in nature” or just “hiking.” But there’s a lot to do at home these days to keep active and keep a brain busy. I’m doing some of those things. Adult-like things. I’m going to do some of those things. I am.
But first, have a Skyrim cookie while I tell you about the psychology of Mr. Peanutbutter (Monsieur Beurre D’Arachide, s’il vous plaît.)
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