Letter 38

May 21, 2020

On video games

Most mornings, in between making my first cup of tea of the day and sitting at my desk to work, I play Animal Crossing in bed to ease myself awake. I go through my daily chores in the game (watering my flowers, digging up fossils, talking to my neighbors, checking the shops) before I’m ready to tackle my daily chores in real life. Once I finish working for the day, I’m eager to return to my students in Fire Emblem Three Houses (which Summer recommended in this newsletter before I was ready to hear it). And all the moments in between, I spend plenty of time watching Twitch streams, liking tweets about Breath of the Wild, and sending Summer way too many Discord messages about the games we’re playing. I’d like to say something here about how video games are a place to “find solace” in these “unprecedented” and “trying” times, whatever that means. Instead, I will point you to two essays that I keep returning to that say it better than I can: “Video Games Are a To-Do List That You Play” is required reading to understand me, and Alanna Okun’s recent piece about playing video games in quarantine hit me especially hard. Here’s a quote from the latter: “I want a place that’s not here, a set of problems that aren’t these, something I can talk about with my friends and co-workers and strangers that isn’t going to claw me apart with anxiety.”


It’s been just a year since I graduated college, which means it’s been just a year since a month-long period began in which I did very little each day besides play Breath of the Wild. I was so exhaused. I was getting sicker each day, from some mysterious dust in my apartment (I’m ok now, I use my inhaler and everything). I was anxiously waiting to hear back from a few jobs but had no energy to apply to others. Really, there was nothing else for me besides playing. The only major story point I had left was to defeat Ganon. And for a month, I didn’t; instead, I wandered. I felt too scared to fight the last battle without a friend with me. I’m not trying to make this into some sort of grand metaphor about how I wasn’t ready to move onto the next phase of my life in the interim of graduating and an office job, but the wandering in Breath of the Wild helped soothe my anxiety about urgency; the big things could wait, and handling the…side quests of life?…was valid, for now. There isn’t a time in my life in which video games did not assist that urgency to do More, and there isn’t a time in which video games didn’t improve other aspects of my life. Games made my brother and I have a good relationship, helped me make friends, and continue to help me come down from stressful events. Jill and I talk about video games basically every day, and like her, Animal Crossing is part of my morning routine—it was part of my morning routine when I was eight, too, and when I was fourteen, when there was no pandemic and I just carried general anxiety and stress about the world. It’s a constant that’s not actually a constant. And I need it! I love video games. Always have and always will.


We recommend

📺 Sex and the City

Sex and the City is under the “comfort viewing” section on HBO. I thought I was tuning into an adult Gossip Girl, dealing with the absolutely bonkers stakes rich people create for themselves but instead it’s actually? Comfortable? Oh to go to brunch with your friends, oh to walk the New York streets at night in your $400 shoes, oh to be part of a campy group of friends that are archetypal yet fleshed out. The disconnect from my actual life—Carrie mentions meeting Mr. Big at 9 o’clock to which I said god that’s so late, to my boyfriend’s amusement—is just strong enough to not remind me that I can’t drink wine and laugh with my friends without a computer screen. Normally I don’t recommend something I haven’t finished, but I’m flying through season 2, and having a very good time.


💡 Cleaning your desk

I did not have the greatest week, to be honest. A bad combination of PMS and anxiety left me feeling absolutely horrible for a few days, and while I’m still not feeling great, I did manage to take advantage of a slight burst of energy to clean off some of the clutter on my desk and rearrange things in a way that’s making my brain feel a little bit better. I replaced the haphazard piles of sticky notes with a daily planner! I moved anything I don’t use on a daily basis out of sight! The thing is: cleaning up your workspace is not a perfect, permanent solution to any of the bad stuff, but it’s probably one of the only things in your control right now, so it definitely doesn’t hurt.


🎶 Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedication Side B

I woke up pretty sad this morning and guess what! Carly helped! We love a complex album that tracks a relationship and mixes the upbeat with the sad! I’m still in my initial listens, but as someone who got into CRJ relatively late—this is my suggestion to you: go have fun! Go to Spotify!


📖 Rebecca Solnit on hope

One of the most comforting things I’ve read so far during all this is Rebecca Solnit’s essay in The Guardian about what the coronavirus can teach us about hope. I suggest you read it, too. And when you’ve finished that and want some more, you can read her book Hope in the Dark, which explores how hope and human compassion can be catalysts for change in moments like this.