You can’t escape the real world forever. It isn’t possible; it isn’t healthy. But, now more than ever, seeking solace in a safe virtual space is a welcome retreat for those needing to grieve or heal. Japan has excelled in providing us these simple spaces where we can feel heard, accepted, loved and in control. With games like Tomodachi Life, Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons, Princess Maker 2 and Animal Crossing, we can find a moment of peace.
When our lives get rough, turning to people who make us feel comfortable and happy allows us to take a moment and remember what’s important. We can appreciate the connections we make with other people and talk with them. It lets us remember we’re not alone and feel like we’re confiding and helping one another. Tomodachi Life offers that sort of encouragement. As an omnipresent caretaker, we can bring all of our loved ones to an apartment building on a desert island. We can watch as they spend time together doing happy, pleasant things. We’re capable of providing for them and meeting their needs. We get to shelter them from harm and ensure their contentment.
With the Story of Seasons series, we’re offered an opportunity to be of use. We are the lynchpin that ties a community together. Our farm supports an entire town. The actions we undertake are influential enough to improve everyone’s quality of life, making new events and festivals possible. Prosperity returns to impoverished areas. New citizens move it. It might even become a tourist destination. It’s all because of our hard work, which always pays off. This is a virtual world where one person can turn everything around; we get to be that person. There’s no struggle. There’s infinite time. As long as we keep peacefully playing, we’ll eventually succeed.
In Princess Maker 2, we get to experience the joy of raising someone and knowing there’s no way we won’t do a good job. The only way we could possibly mess up this innocent child’s life is if we purposely set out to do so. As long as someone is practical and offers a balanced schedule, she’ll grow up happy and satisfied. No one will ever actually hurt this child. She can roam happily throughout towns. She can even go to the very edges of hell and come away almost unscathed. This prospective princess is never in any real danger, and thus we are always safe.
Then, there’s Animal Crossing, the cream of the Japanese life simulation crop. This series’ most recent installment, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, covers every possible base. We have full control over the situation, as we’re the mayor of our own town. We determine guidelines, placement of properties and, now that it’s amiibo compatible, who lives there. Our animal neighbors listen to us, remembering nicknames and catchphrases we give them and keeping precious letters we’ve sent them. These same neighbors want to always interact with us. They want our input on design choices, to visit us in our virtual homes, participate in games together and celebrate special occasions. They care about our characters.
There may be difficult times ahead of us. We may have moments where we need to find a cozy place in our homes to enjoy something soothing. Japanese life simulations are the perfect games to turn to for a virtual vacation. With games like Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Princess Maker 2, Story of Seasons and Tomodachi Life, we can have our moments where we’re completely loved and in control.