Back in 2019, I picked up this console for myself as an early present. I got it in the summer, anticipating to mainly use it when the new Pokemon game comes out six months later. I barely used it until December of that year, when I actually got into Breath of the Wild.
When lockdown began three months later, this little thing became my lifeline. Both my sister and my boyfriend convinced me into getting the new Animal Crossing game, since they thought it would be up my alley – low stakes, adorable characters, and a simulation game of sorts. Sure enough, the island life agreed with me. It also allowed me to “hang out” with my sister while we were both locked down in two different cities.
It became my way of staying connected and socializing with others. I’d have some friends visit my island, or I’ll visit theirs. We’d hang out for a bit if someone’s got shooting stars. I’d shop at their tailors’ if they have something cute that day. Even if it’s only for half an hour, it was still something to take me “out” of isolation.
Fast forward to my cancer diagnosis, and my Switch has been my best friend and my lifeline.
When Covid restrictions meant going into hospital appointments alone, my Switch has been my designated companion. On days I had to wait two or three hours in the waiting room for an infusion that could last for 3-5 hours, this console kept me occupied and entertained.
It took my mind away from the sanitized smell of the hospital to a sunny island owned by a greedy tanuki. It made me pretend I was a Pokemon trainer in the Galar region with an adorable electric corgi. It offered the fantasy of moving to a little place called Pelican Town, where I could leave the city and live in solitude surrounded by fresh produce and farm animals.
Since the beginning of 2021 (and the start of this cancer roller coaster), I’ve played on my Switch almost every day. It became my escape… whether it’s to an island, a little town, or a world with battles with pocket monsters. It freed me from the confines of clean white walls and the noise of the multiple IV pumps beeping. It allowed me to withdraw from my reality, especially when the days got more difficult. It was the release I needed when all I wanted to do was disappear into a world where cancer didn’t exist. Even for a little bit.
Perhaps if anyone sees my player activity, with the amount of time I put in to all these games, you’d think I was addicted to playing.
I was at the peak of my second cycle of chemo when I got to this cut scene with Penny. I had to sit and process it because at the moment, it felt like the game somehow knew I’ve been faced with my own mortality. This was probably the game that gave me the best balance between escape and simulated realism. It had so much good dialogue about life and struggle, with a good touch of humour. It had more mature script compared to AC’s adorable kid-friendly cuteness.
This may not be the healthiest of coping mechanisms, but it was the most convenient — portable, light, versatile (handheld on the go, docked to the TV at home). Most of all, it distracted me from a lot of things cancer-related… most of the time. It made me feel like I could go (out!) and do anything when I was enduring the chemo and its side effects.
When I bought it a few years ago, a part of me regretted the purchase for a bit because I didn’t have many games to play on it. It was a pricey purchase for something that collected dust in my room for most of the week. Later on, I realized that I just didn’t have the games that I wanted to play, and as soon as I got those games, the Switch was on most of my free time.
Some people might think spending money on games or gaming consoles is a waste. Same goes for spending most of your free time playing video games. But what do they do? Maybe bingeing a series on Netflix? Drink more than the “recommended amount” of booze with friends? It’s all relative. You spend money and time on anything you do, if it gives you joy, then keep doing it.
But of course, spending some time with real people in your life is good too. Sometimes they give you tips on how to play your games better.