Animal Crossing FOMO? Here’s How to Start Playing Video Games!

If you’ve been social distancing for a while and plan to keep social distancing for a while longer, there’s a good chance you’re thinking about getting into video games — again or even for the first time. If you haven’t already, my guess is you’re worried about either the cost or the learning curve. Well, I’ve got some good news: You very likely already have what you need to start gaming, and video games have never been more accessible. Here are three easy steps to help you get started.

1. Figure out what you want to play, and why.

All of my Animal Crossing villagers have started calling me “burrito.” I like it.

One of the most overwhelming things about getting into video games is that AAA games — blockbuster games that cost major developers millions of dollars to make — generate the most buzz, so it can seem like the only games available are ones that require you to already know dozens of combinations of button smashing that were gleaned from years of playing and absorbing the world-building lore of all the games in the series. And yes, those games exist (although, these days, you can pretty much pick up with the newest game in any series and learn what you need to know in a matter of hours; game developers want new people to play their games), but those huge titles absolutely don’t make up the majority of what’s available to play.

Think about what kind of games you actually want to play. The classic Nintendo, Sega, PC, or even coin-op cabinet games you grew up on? Puzzle games? Simulation games that let you build farms, cities, or entire civilizations? Story-driven games with very little combat? Role-playing games that allow you to become the epic hero of your own story in a fantasy land? Sports games? And think about why you want to play! Is it to connect with other people who are also playing the game, to get lost inside another world, to challenge your brain and fine motor skills, to pass the time with Netflix on in the background?

There are so many video games to choose from because there are so many reasons to play video games, and they’re all valid!

2. Decide which gaming platform will work best for your budget and your interests.

In Stardew Valley you can build friendships with everyone, including your cat.

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You may simply know that you want to play Animal Crossing because all your friends are playing Animal Crossing and it looks chill and adorable. Boom, done: you want a Nintendo Switch. But probably you clicked on this article because you’re looking for a little more guidance than that. Consoles — like the PS4, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch — are the most popular ways to play video games, and for good reason. They’re powerful, easy to use, the catalog of games available for each one feels infinite, and you’ll need one to play those aforementioned AAA games. With the Xbox and PS4, you’re also getting basically everything you get with a Roku (Netflix, HBO Go, Spotify, Hulu, etc.) They’re the biggest investment in terms of platform, unless you really want to get a legit gaming PC, in which case you’re jumping from a few hundred to potentially a few thousand dollars, and in terms of how much games cost. Most new-ish major console games will run you about $60. But there are other, way less expensive ways to get into gaming.

Right now, you’re reading this post on a supercomputer a zillion times more powerful than the one that took astronauts to the actual moon! If you want to play video games on your laptop, simply download Steam, the world’s largest digital video game distributor. It’s a completely free service. Which games you’ll be able to play will be restricted by what your laptop is capable of, but I think you’ll be surprised by how many — and how many types of — games you’ll be able to download. And unless you’re getting major studio releases, you’ll find the cost of games much, much cheaper. You can also order a PC controller for as little as 20 bucks to get started. Similarly, you can turn your phone into a console. Like with Steam, you’re going to find SO MANY games in the Apple Store or through Google Play. Any controller that has the latest bluetooth technology can be connected to your phone and used to play hundreds of games. You could also spring for something like a BEBONCOOL controller that’ll make your phone operate like a handheld console! If you think you want to get into gaming, but aren’t sure, this is a good way to test out your theory without dropping $500.

3. Choose your games and get going!

No what now? No geese, you say? HONK!

Video games aren’t cheap, but in my opinion, the only thing with more entertainment value is a book because you can read most books a gazillion times and get something new out of them every time. If I pay $60 for a big game, I know I’m going to get hundreds and hundreds of hours of playtime out of it, for years to come. But again, you don’t have to toss out that kind of money. Some of the most popular games of the past several years will only cost you 15 bucks. Take Stardew Valley, for example. Or Untitled Goose Game! (One thing to keep in mind is that some games — for example, Animal Crossing, or any of the classic Nintendo games available on the Switch — require an online subscription service that can range from five to twenty dollars a month to play with other people.)

Quantic Foundry built a five-minute quiz you can take to figure out what your motivation is for playing video games. You could pair it with the soul searching you did up there in #1 and then search out games that fit your personality. I’ve made a few little mini-lists of some of my favorite games in some of my favorite categories to get you started.

Best gay video games: Last of Us (warning: scary zombies), Life Is Strange (warning: heartbreak), Stardew Valley (no warnings, a perfect game), Steven Universe: Save The Light (also no warnings). You can also have love interests of any gender in most modern open world RPGs that have romance options.

Best low-stakes games for chill times: Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, The Sims, Pokémon Sword and Shield, Untitled Goose Game, Kind Words, classic Nintendo games.

Best AAA open-world RPGs with women protagonists: Last of Us, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Dishonored 2 + Death of the Outsider, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Skyrim.

Best games for socializing: Animal Crossing, Fortnite: Battle Royale, Minecraft, Mario Kart, Overcooked! 2.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask question. Queer nerds like me love to talk about what they love. Try it out in the comments below!

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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1058 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. Managed to get a Switch *right* as virus stuff was getting bad, which helped curb the FOMO I got from watching my girlfriend + friends play Animal Crossing.

    Asked my brother, who games on PC/Xbox/PS4/Switch, what the best Switch titles were and he recommended Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I am now, in turn, recommending to all of you.

    I didn’t know much about Fire Emblem aside from seeing a few characters in Super Smash Bros., and I really liked it. It has kept me…extremely occupied. There are three (technically four) storylines you can play through, and I completed the first two in about 70 hours? Definitely could have lasted me a lot longer if I had done all the quests/non-story battles, but I was eager to get to the main plot points so I neglected some of that.

    It’s a JRPG/turn-based battle game, so a bit more Intense than something like Animal Crossing, but on my second play through I set it to “casual” mode, which means your units can’t permanently die. There’s a lot of focus on building relationships with the characters and I hated watching them die permanently in my first run (not the best distraction from a pandemic!) Oh! And it has a couple F/F romance options!

    AT ANY RATE, I highly recommend. The only games I have right now are Animal Crossing and FE3H, and those have kept me more than entertained for the past month or so. Always appreciate new recs though, so I really appreciate this post highlighting a good variety of games!

    • Hi!

      Night in the Woods is one of my favorite games of all time. If you are interested in RPGs because of the narrative, I can’t recommend it enough. This is what Steam says: “NIGHT IN THE WOODS is an adventure game focused on exploration, story, and character, featuring dozens of characters to meet and lots to do across a lush, vibrant world.”

      It is like playing through a choose-your-own adventure novel. It’s melancholy and the main character, Mae, is pan!

      BUT while I recommend this game wholeheartedly I want to be clear that there’s a content warning for the development of this game. Once of the folks who worked on it did some very abusive things to many other folks in the industry. Unfortunately that person is no longer alive, so there can be no restorative justice. The reason that I continue to support this game is that the other developers were also victims and any further purchases support them.

      Hope that helps!

    • I’d like to add 2064: Read Only Memories as a rec! It’s a fully voiced, very queer point-and-click RPG with old-school aesthetics. I think it technically counts because you can set the pronouns of your character via a list or typing in your own (how cool is that)! You help a sweet robot try and solve the mystery of the disappearance of their creator/your old friend in a cyberpunk world. It’s a lot like Ace Attorney, but with more robots reflecting on what gender means for artificial life. Neat!

  2. I have recently joined the Switch life, and aside from Animal Crossing, the other game that I am IN LOVE with is Gris. I am not a super experienced video game player, and it was challenging without being too frustrating, and the art is so beautiful that I want like, prints of it for my house? Loved it, 10/10 recommend!!

  3. My faves that both work beautifully on my 5 year-old Macbook Air (aka a computer not really built for the intensive graphics of a lot of games):

    Celeste — a challenging but doable platforming game that follows a story about a young woman climbing a mountain and confronting demons that are metaphors for learning to embrace and accept anxiety/depression rather than pretending it isn’t there

    Baba is You — a (practically endless) series of logic puzzles that follow some coding principles with a main character that’s a cute lil sheep!

    Gorogoa — a visual puzzle game with gorgeous illustrations in a post-apocalyptic city (this one is really short — only takes 2-3 hours to complete)

  4. I HIGHLY recommend the Witcher 3 for PS4 or PC to anyone who either saw and liked the show/books, or generally thinks monsters, witches, and paranormal stuff is cool!

    There’s definitely cheesiness (though not nearly as much as the TV show– which I liked because I like the games, but which I honestly think is a hot mess) and definitely an amount of male gaze, but I can’t stress enough how many powerful and interesting women there are. Geralt is flanked by intense and incredible women who help him succeed throughout his entire story, and the “chosen one” character isn’t Geralt, but his daughter-figure Ciri.

    If you can get passed the peak cheese and learning curve in the beginning hours, you’re rewarded with a massive world to explore, hundreds of mysteries to solve, tons of fascinating and terrifying monsters, and beautifully-told and heart-wrenching stories. It is a hard and dark world that Geralt lives in, but Geralt himself is an incredible hero and the pockets of light you experience are blindingly bright.

    This is a good game for people who like/are interested in Skyrim but want to play as a fleshed-out character navigating a plot with more spooky vibes.
    You also don’t need to be “good” at video games– I’m certainly not. There is an easy mode and your attacks are automatically targeted, which I certainly appreciate as a person who may love swords, but doesn’t particularly find satisfaction in actual battle mechanics.

  5. It’s not mentioned here, but I can’t recommend Splatoon 2 enough. It’s on sale right now until Sunday (33% off – $42) and the free demo just ended, which is how I finally got into it after friends telling me for years to play. It’s a shooter, and I’m not a fan of shooting games – but guys, you’re shooting *paint* and it’s low stakes! There’s different modes depending on what you’re into, including a single player story mode, but multiplayer is the big draw so I wouldn’t recommend this if you don’t have Nintendo’s online service. It can be stressful but you don’t really get punished if you play badly, so I would say it’s newbie friendly.

    also I love Animal Crossing and it should be noted that AOC has been visiting people’s islands and giving them fruit and little messages on their bulletin board, very wholesome

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