The Power Of Nostalgia In A Pandemic

animal crossing new horizons on switch nostalgia

Nostalgia: a sentimental feeling towards an element of your past.

Sometimes saddening, sometimes happy but always shared. I often get told I am too nostalgic and that I am too young to feel this way about aspects of my childhood. 

I disagree. Nostalgia is a universal comfort blanket for the young and old alike. 

It has certainly been one for me during this apocalyptic time. Many people have needed a little bit of childhood to revert back into this year.

At the very start of the first UK lockdown Nintendo sold 13.41 million copies of Animal Crossing New Horizons worldwide in six weeks. In less than two months the newest instalment of the much-loved game franchise sold more copies than the two previous games in the series have in 7 and 15 years respectively. Of course, that means a lot of these consumers were new to the franchise but trust me old fans made house-arrest the perfect excuse to fall back in love with the Nooks and the Able Sisters. I can vouch for that. My whole family splashed out on the newest edition on the very first day of release. 

It came through my front door that day, March 20th. It feels like years have passed since this day now.

I do, however, remember this day and exactly what I was feeling. Had it been my very last day at sixth-form? Will I have exams? No exams? When will I see my friends again?

In truth, I didn’t even have time to burst into tears as the door shut behind me. My youngest sister (12, sassy and relatively untrained in the mastery of Feng Shu, the stalk market and Crazy Redd’s scams) came running, a shiny new game in hand. Three hours later and our dad was having no luck calling us for tea. He didn’t complain too much. It was the longest time we’d spent together in years.

It’s a reminder of the time spent in a constant state of both comfort and naivety.

And that is exactly the power nostalgia can have. In just the opening theme tune of an old show or a few moments of a game, reality is suspended. We are all once again innocent, procrastinating spelling practise and swapping any childish worries (we knew our party invite didn’t really get lost in the post) for playful laughter and fun. 

I look fondly on my childhood, despite some people telling me my adult life hasn’t even begun yet. I am sure I am not alone in the pure, unadulterated joy that a flashback to the most carefree of times brings. In times like these, when nothing is certain and no light at the end of the dark tunnel can be seen, we all need a bit of childhood.

For me, it’s a reminder of the time spent in a constant state of both comfort and naivety. 

A life I loved not because I knew I was lucky to have it, I was too young to realise I was, but because I was raised on Mario and Luigi and endless fun. 

Despite the moans and groans from my siblings after I propose yet another game of Mario Party, my family would agree with me. It takes us back to how, toes just through the door, we’d immediately pull schoolbooks out of bags to do our homework so we could be granted an hour or two on the day’s chosen game. 

We’ve changed since then, naturally. New problems have sprung up in our lives that we’ve had to manoeuvre – mostly on our own. A lot less time is spent together than before. Lockdown granted us more than we ever knew we needed. 

Shielding as a family means even more time has been spent at home than most this year. Although it’s been strange and sometimes frustrating, something to make us forget for a little while was a saving grace. We have never laughed harder than when racing manically against each other as Mario, Toad and Princess Peach.

Powering up our long lost DS’ whisked us back to growing up together in a world not suffocating and a country not divided. 

Our childhoods were not defined by these games. We certainly did not spend all our time at home watching tiny screens. But these games that we still hold onto are physical markers of years spent laughing and proof that we can return whenever we want.

Albeit temporarily, of course.

It’s been good to come home, even for a little while.

But, lockdown 2.0 has begun. Now that I’m at uni there is no long-lost Wii console to be found in my flat. There are no family or childhood friends here with me this time around. No old bedroom or no unchanging garden. No siblings to argue with to distract me from this world of politics that controls my life more and more every day. 

Maybe this time I’ll finally let go of this longing for my past. I don’t know if I’m ready yet.

Nostalgia: a wistful affection for the past, coming from the Greek root word ‘nostos’ meaning ‘homecoming’.

It has been good to come home, even for a little while.

Words by Jessica Sharkey

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