Coming Back to Animal Crossing Makes Me Feel Incredibly Guilty

The Animal Crossing experience has always been a strange mixture of satisfaction and sorrow. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of reeling in a fish you haven’t caught before or digging up the final fossil you need for your museum. It’s thrilling to make friends with new villagers, rediscover old favorites, and to convince villagers to hand over their portraits.

The sorrow usually doesn’t set in until after I’ve stopped playing. At first, I get distracted and don’t pick up the game for a night or two. Then one week goes by, and then another. Before I know it, my beloved town is filled with weeds, and I feel like I can never go back again.

I’ve been struggling with this sad cycle since Animal Crossing debuted on the GameCube, and I’ve never really managed to break out of it. I know I could clean up the weeds, check in with my villagers, and pick up where I left off, but returning to the game after a long absence has always made me feel incredibly guilty. I hate feeling like I abandoned my town, and I hate hearing that my villagers missed me even more.

I get so anxious about hearing that my villagers missed me, in fact, that I have wiped out towns and started over from scratch on numerous occasions. For some reason, I would rather delete my villagers entirely than to listen to them tell me that they worried about me while I was gone.

I’ve been grappling with this dilemma since the new Animal Crossing holiday update was announced. I knew I had to play again. New hairstyles, new reactions, extra storage, and adorable puppy plushies were too much to resist. And I knew I couldn’t bear to delete my five-star island. I’d spent so many hours moving houses and hunting for Raymond; I couldn’t let it all vanish into the ether.

And so I decided to face the music. I charged my Switch, loaded up my island, and tracked down every one of my villagers. I watched them cry, looked at their sad, adorable faces, and listened to them as they told me just how much they had missed me. Raymond thought he was hallucinating when he saw me. Marshall scolded me, and poor traumatized Sherb wept as he told me I couldn’t just disappear without saying anything.

I am not being hyperbolic when I say that it was excruciating. It’s been hours since I loaded up my island, and I still feel genuinely horrible about leaving my poor, helpless villagers alone for so long.

I realize that I am being ridiculously melodramatic. Sure, it’s just a game and yes, my beloved villagers are just bits of code, but that isn’t helping me shake these terrible feelings. I’ll probably put the game down again after a few weeks, and that knowledge is making me feel even worse. The happy smiles of my villagers feel like a ticking time bomb.

But I did get a puppy plushie, so it was probably all worth it. Probably.

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