How The Animal Crossing Diaries are chronicling the pandemic

In early lockdown I decided to send a letter to my future self. It read: “I feel calmer, yoga helps. I wish I had a dog.” They say brevity is the soul of wit but I’m not sure that applies in this case. To be fair, the letter was written in Animal Crossing: New Horizons using the Nintendo Switch keyboard interface, so it’s at least a testament to my stubborn button-pressing. Luckily there are far more interesting ways to chronicle the pandemic through New Horizons: the National Videogame Museum is launching The Animal Crossing Diaries project with this in mind.

Alex Roberts, a curator at the museum, explained that the research project aims to “expand the possibilities of what it means to collect experiences in games and document how to go about doing it in an ethical and sustainable way.” The latest instalment in the Animal Crossing franchise is the perfect case study for this, as they put it: “the serendipity of Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ release coinciding with the COVID-19 lockdown led to the game becoming an unexpected escape and a lifeline for many players.” The game doesn’t just provide you with a customizable pristine island paradise, it lets you visit your friends’ as well. As Alex pointed out, “finding a place in which you are able to go outside and meet up with friends transformed the role Animal Crossing could play.”

It seems like there are as many social media posts about ACNH as there are stars in the sky, but one shone particularly brightly for me. The “Good Night” exhibition was the first installation at the Woodsorrel Garden Gallery, with six pieces of art themed around night time. “The Garden Gallery came about when my partner decided to try Animal Crossing on my Switch, played long enough to set up a tent, and then didn’t log in again,” creator Sarah Cole explains on her website. “Second homes aren’t my style, so I decided to upgrade it, move it back into the garden, and turn it into a creative outlet-an art gallery.”

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