Is It Possible To Play Animal Crossing And Still Be Depressed? Oxford University Wants To Find Out

Is It Possible To Play Animal Crossing And Still Be Depressed? Oxford University Wants To Find Out
Image: Nintendo - Animal Crossing

A collaborative study between Nintendo of America and The University of Oxford aims to explore a possible link between playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and a player’s mental health. You know, because Tom Nook probably served as all of our therapists at one point during the last year of COVID lockdowns.

The survey — which was sent out to a random selection of Nintendo account holders — asked participants a number of questions about their recent ACNH playing habits. Throughout the survey, participants were asked about how much time they clocked in-game over the last fortnight, and how much of this time was active playing time, as opposed to time in which the game was simply running in the background.

After answering the initial questions, players were prompted on their satisfaction in-game. Questions included:

  • I could always find something interesting in Animal Crossing: New Horizons to do.
  • My ability to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons was well matched with the game’s challenges.
  • I played Animal Crossing: New Horizons to forget about my problems. (uhh, dark)

And last, but finally not least:

  • I played Animal Crossing: New Horizons because I’d feel awful if I didn’t.

Finally, players were questioned on their overall mental health outside of the game. One Twitter user shared a screenshot of the survey, which you’d be forgiven for mistaking for the mental health survey you have to take at your GP.

“Please think about what you have been doing and experiencing during the past two weeks. Then report how much you experienced each of the following feelings, using the scale below,” one question asked.

“Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you, and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stood over the past two weeks,” another asked.

Are you still playing Animal Crossing? And more importantly, should you be seeing a therapist? The University of Oxford would like to know.


  • “Is It Possible To Play Animal Crossing And Still Be Depressed?”

    I get that clickbait titles are necessary, but that title grossly misrepresents what the survey aims to actually investigate. For all we know, it could be investigating a correlation between ‘calm/relaxing’ videogames and elevated self-reported mental wellbeing.

    Such a title is rather loaded, and subconsciously perpetuates the damaging stereotype that you can’t be depressed unless you’re moping about all the time.

  • I imagine this question could be re-phrased as, “Is it possible to take painkillers and still have a broken bone?”

    Coping mechanisms aren’t cures.

  • Funny, how would Animal Crossing not cause depresion (much like the only copy I bought was on one of the previous nintendos and returned that same day.).

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