How simulation games help me deal with anxiety

Aliyah Rodriguez, Features & Lifestyle Editor

A big source of my anxiety is my need to control everything around me. I don’t specifically want things to go perfect, or exactly my way, but I have the worst anxiety when things are 100% out of my control. And that’s honestly just about anything. Needless to say, I’ve been having a very bad time since a global pandemic changed my life without my consent. 

Growing up, one of my favorite games to play was The Sims 3 on my computer. If you’re not familiar with the game, it’s essentially a life simulator. When I first bought the game in 2010, it was pretty basic without much to do with your Sims, but 11 years later I’ve got all the expansion packs that allow me to do things like make vampires and fairies – anything that I can do to escape reality. I’ve found that being able to play a game that gives me some amount of control over what’s happening brings me a little bit of peace. Obviously, simulation games aren’t an answer to the world’s problems, but I think it’s a good way to unwind and do something simple that won’t bring much stress.  

Sim dies? Just restart the game from your last save. Your Sim loses their job? Just restart the game. You don’t like a Sim’s outfit or attitude? You can change that too! The Sims allows me to create an ideal world that I can escape into for a few hours and I become very attached to my Sims.  

But sometimes things that you’re used to doing no longer work to help you, so this summer I had to find another outlet to bring me peace. Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a purchase that I made solely to “hang out” with some friends while the state was shut down, but it quickly turned into a stress reliever in the same way as The Sims 3. I found peace in walking around my little island – where COVID-19 doesn’t exist – and making it pretty so new villagers could move in. Sometimes Animal Crossing is hard because it doesn’t allow you complete control, but I was able to create a little Utopian community where everyone is happy and living the simple life of chasing bugs and fishing all day.  

Being able to create virtual worlds that don’t have to suffer through the troubles of the real world has been a great help because it allows my mind to go somewhere else for a few hours. Others must feel this way too, since both of these gaming franchises have huge followings on social media.  

If you’re ever feeling anxious because of all the crazy things going on in our world right now, try finding one thing that you can control, and build from that. It may not be the easiest – nor the healthiest, quite frankly – but it’s one way to ground yourself and bring yourself into control of your surroundings.