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Families playing animal crossing together: Coping with video games during the COVID-19 pandemic

APA Citation:

Pearce, K. E., Yip, J. C., Lee, J. H., Martinez, J. J., Windleharth, T. W., Bhattacharya, A., & Li, Q. (2022). Families playing Animal Crossing together: Coping with video games during the COVID-19 pandemic. Games and Culture, 17(5), 773-794. https://doi.org/10.1177/15554120211056125

Abstract Created by REACH:

This study examined ways in which families used a video game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, to cope with stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic. 27 families (i.e., 33 parents and 37 children) participated in semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed based on parents’ and children’s methods of coping, as well as how each family as a whole coped with COVID-19 stressors. Emotion-focused coping (i.e., reducing a negative emotional response to COVID-19) and problem-focused coping (i.e., decreasing or eliminating stress from COVID-19) were two identified forms of coping. The findings shed light on the specific ways family members were able to cope with COVID-19 stressors.



Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Child of a service member or veteran
Spouse of service member or veteran


Preschool age (2 -5 yrs)
School age (6 - 12 yrs)
Adolescence (13 - 17 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Qualitative Study


Pearce, Katy E., Yip, Jason C., Lee, Jin Ha, Martinez, Jesse J., Windleharth, Travis W., Bhattacharya, Arpita, Li, Qisheng


The COVID-19 pandemic was stressful for everyone, particularly for families who had to supervise and support children, facilitate remote schooling, and manage work and home life. We consider how families coped with pandemic-related stress using the video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Combining a family coping framework with theorizing about media as a coping tool, this interview study of 27 families (33 parents and 37 children) found that parents and children individual coped with pandemic-related stress with media. Parents engaged in protective buffering of their children with media, taking on individual responsibility to cope with a collective problem. Families engaged in communal coping, whereby media helped the family cope with a collective problem, taking on shared ownership and responsibility. We provide evidence for video games as coping tools, but with the novel consideration of family coping with media.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Sage Journals

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Communication, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA, KEP
The Information School, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA, JCY and JHL and TWW
Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA, Ql and JJM
Department of Informatics, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA, AB


coping, communal coping, stress, video games, families, Animal Crossing, pandemic, COVID-19

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  July 2022

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