When Nicki Broderick’s father passed away during the pandemic, she didn’t know what she was going to do. He had tested positive for COVID-19 so she couldn’t see her mother to mourn because she had to quarantine for two weeks.
I lost my dad yesterday. I’m in absolute shock. He was positive for COVID-19, but was getting better.I am utterly lost and heartbroken. pic.twitter.com/vF04MMIB9i
— Nicki Broderick (@alaurei) April 1, 2020
“I made a space on my island to visit him, since I can’t visit my mom,” she wrote in a tweet. She created a small place where she could grieve on her Animal Crossing: New Horizons island. It was something to help her cope during a pandemic that’s made mourning more difficult than it already is.
While memorials and funerals still happen during the pandemic, they are harder to plan and hold. The CDC says that virtual services are recommended as “many people have become sick with COVID-19 after attending a funeral service.” Players have used past Animal Crossing games to build memorials, but memorials in New Horizons have become more prominent because of the pandemic.
Some players have held in-game memorials to help families that are unable to connect in person. Others have created small spaces that are just for them; whether it be for a daughter they lost or a lifelong pet that passed away.
Animal Crossing islands are an extension of home for many players. People design their islands like places they love in real life, such as Disneyland or their office at work, in order to make playing everyday feel special. Memorials are an incredibly personal extension of that idea. In-game items, like gravestones, candles, and black flowers, have made memorials somewhat easy to create. Players have used other items, like a guitar that one player’s grandfather was learning before he passed, to help personalize these spaces. Anything to make regular walks around the island more meaningful.
“Today would be my youngest daughter’s 2nd birthday, and tomorrow marks the day she left us. Her name is Lily Mae,” said Animal Crossing player and Redditor flyme-tothemoon. “I play this game nightly so I felt a memorial was fitting.”
Having a physical place, especially one that’s separate from your home, is important when mourning. It’s vital to remembering, grieving, and recovering after a family member or friend passes away, according to experts. Videos games have become an important way to help people mourn and the pandemic has made that more apparent with Animal Crossing.
Animal Crossing fans tend to play each entry in the series for years, so these memorials could be a part of their lives for some time. The pandemic has made mourning more difficult. Real life memorials, funerals, and other related gatherings aren’t easy to hold. These in-game memorials work as substitutes until things become safe again.
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