Home Tech ‘A fascinating insight into pandemic psychology’: how Animal Crossing gave us an escape

‘A fascinating insight into pandemic psychology’: how Animal Crossing gave us an escape

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‘A fascinating insight into pandemic psychology’: how Animal Crossing gave us an escape

“TToday is the first day of your new life on this beautiful and pristine island. So congratulations! » says Tom Nook, the tanuki’s benevolent owner, a few minutes after the start of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. (Nook is often smeared online, but there’s no denying that he’s extremely welcoming.) Many gamers are reading this heartwarming message at a destabilizing and frightening time in the real world: Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on Nintendo Switch on March 20, 2020. , a few months after the start of the Covid pandemic and a few days before the UK entered its first lockdown.

It was serendipitous timing. When we were all stuck at home, the game allowed us to plant our native fruits, tend to our flowers, and see what the town store had to offer, paying off our large loans (interest-free, thankfully) to Tom Nook to escape us. the daily chaos and death toll. We opened the doors to our islands and welcomed friends and strangers into our pristine little worlds. As real life fell apart, we started again with cats with glasses, sheep in clown coats And rhinoceroses that looked like cakes.

The game’s sudden popularity caused Nintendo Switch Sales skyrocket amid pandemic-induced shortages. New Horizons had sold 44.79 million units by December 2023, almost three and a half times more than any other game in the Animal Crossing series, which has been around since 2001. It is the second best-selling Switch game to date, behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

“We visited friends that I was really far away from actually”…many people still play this game today.

Player April tells me that she and her partner, Matthew, have racked up over 700 hours of gameplay, turning their island into a joint creative project. “We planned the specific themes and items we were going to use, the look of the neighborhoods, and even the history of certain locations and characters,” she says, adding that an in-game party hosted by Matthew was the one of the best birthdays she’s ever had.

“I’ve never identified as a gamer and this is the first game since I was a pre-teen that I bought and played,” Amy says. “I could see the sense of community it gave my friends when we couldn’t do things in real life. We spent date nights there, stargazing, visiting friends and taking photos with people I was very far from in reality.

Many players, including Amy, still play now. She shares the game with her five-year-old niece: “we now play together and I can pass on what I already know and see the fun continue. » She discovers Amy’s island, filled with happy memories created over the past four years.

John O’Shea, creative director of National Video Game Museumin Sheffield, is extremely proud of his team’s work on the Animal Crossing Diaries, a digital exhibition aimed at documenting the defining and memorable moments experienced by gamers during global lockdowns. O’Shea compares the project to Science Museum Group collect key “artifacts” from the Covid era, including the first vial of the vaccine used in a mass vaccination program.

“In the future, we can look at these and say this is representative of what the pandemic was. But actually, I think the Animal Crossing diaries, as an archive of people’s experiences, provide a fascinating insight into the psychology of that era,” he says.

Christine Davitt (avatar, right) and her partner on their first date, which took place in Animal Crossing. Photo: Animal crossing

The entries are deeply personal and allow us to relive an aspect of the pandemic through the eyes of someone else, solo pride festivalsat a 50th birthday party (disguise required). In a familiar sentiment, one author describes how the game helps them “forget all the terrible things happening right now“. by Shivani journal entry documents the creation of their island, Bollywood, “to pay homage to my cultural upbringing.” They found gaming a creative outlet as India battled the pandemic. With travel bans, they hoped Bollywood would allow visiting players to experience Indian culture.

Other players have been inspired to take their Animal Crossing experiences beyond digital borders once lockdowns finally end – like May Naidoo, who made it her goal to see the real-life counterparts of the 43 works of art in Animal Crossing’s in-game museum. Naidoo documented his experience on Tic Tacaccumulating over 1.8 million views on the video marking challenge completed.

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We can build it… Animal Crossing: New Horizons helped players set goals and challenges as lockdown ended. Photography: Nintendo

“Taking on this challenge broadened my appreciation of art in general, and I was able to see iconic works of art in person and visit dream countries and cities for the first time,” says Naidoo. “I probably would never have visited some of these places without this goal. It definitely seems global and in the last few cities I visited, after previous videos gained attention online, I was able to meet people and make friends in new cities, get invited and visit in private certain museums.

Naidoo, like others telling their stories, feels grateful for the opportunities and experiences he gained playing the game during the lockdowns and carried it with him, long after the world opened up. Others find that talking about memories creates a desire to return to them.

In his book Playing with reality: playing during a pandemic, journalist Alex Humphreys looks back at the role video games have played in our lives during Covid. Looking through the newspapers, Humphreys notes the blurred lines between realities: “sometimes the only way to know which world they’re talking about is to see the monetary ‘bells’ referenced in the next sentence.” » For millions of people, Animal Crossing has become much more than just a game.

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