- Recently, I've been drawn back into the game and while playingI was the happiest I've been in weeks.
- Research says we turn to nostalgia during times of instability, and it can help us find a sense of meaning and buffer us from the things that scare us.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .
This weekend, I spent over six hours doing something I hadn't done since 2009: I logged onto Club Penguin.
Well, to be clear, I logged onto Club Penguin Rewritten, a version of the game lovingly recreated from old game files; the actual Club Penguin shut down in 2017 .
I'm a writer and editor in the thick of coronavirus coverage. Every weekday morning I start my day by updating Business Insider's running list of countries on lockdown a task that includes updating the death tolls. They climb unimaginably higher every 24 hours.
It's an important list to update, and I know it's informing people around the world. I don't consider myself to be on the frontlines of coronavirus by any stretch I'm just writing out words and numbers while our extraordinary healthcare workers are trying to save human beings each and every day. But it's still been taking its toll on me.
I also have anxiety and depression.
While experts recommend unplugging as one way to reduce anxieties , that's just not really possible in my job, the whole point of which is always staying plugged in, to better inform the public. I go to bed exhausted and drained most days, then usually dream about how much I want to go outside.
But over the weekend I felt a deep urge. And that was to investigate this new Club Penguin. In Club Penguin, your main (and only) objective is to build a life as a pastel-colored penguin. You can play simple, somewhat repetitive games to earn coins, and the coins can be used to buy clothes for your penguin, buy furniture for your igloo, or to adopt puffles basically pet pom-poms. Sometimes there's a dance party.
Perhaps my desire to create a new purple penguin was due to the power that nostalgia has research shows that we are likelier to feel nostalgic during times of instability , and this period could serve as the dictionary definition of unstable. It could be that Club Penguin reminded me of a happier and simpler time sitting in the living room of my childhood home one where I could go outside and had never heard of Twitter.
All I know is that the happiest I've been in weeks was while playing Club Penguin. I grinned the whole time. Yes, I even dreamed about it.
Why am I so enamored with this game again? There could be something a little deeper at play: Research shows that nostalgia can help us find meaning. Not only does it increase our sense of social connection, but it actually acts as a buffer for the scary thoughts that each of us probably encounters on a daily basis these days.
"In particular, [nostalgia] shields against meaning threat, and buffers the impact of mortality salience on meaning, collective identity, accessibility of mortality-related thoughts, and death anxiety," psychologists Constantine Sedikides and Tim Wildschut conclude in "Finding Meaning in Nostalgia."
In other words, retreating into Club Penguin for hours was probably a fairly healthy way to cope with my fears about the virus and the impact it could have on myself and those that I love.
Playing a game that I loved a decade ago also helped me establish what Sedikides and Wildschut call "self-continuity" I felt connected to a past sense of myself, and was able to build a mental connection between the child I was and the currently confined adult I am. It helps me place myself in time, and know that this is simply yet another period that I will look back on in 10 years.
But one of the best parts of Club Penguin was that it was, at its peak, a kid's corner of the late, great, wild Internet all you had to do was make a username and a penguin. It didn't require linking to Facebook, nor could it follow you to a job. It was an anonymous land of brightly colored penguins and so is Club Penguin Rewritten.
In a time of what feels like ultra-regulation I can't even walk down the street as I usually would the PG anarchy of Club Penguin felt deeply reassuring. Everyone in the real world may be stuck at home, but the penguins are out there like we'd like to be, sledding and dancing.
So, while it's no substitute for spending time in person with friends, I'll be playing hide and seek with my new cohort on Club Penguin for the foreseeable future. After all, with a little nostalgia, you can go wherever you want.
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