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Going to a museum or an aquarium sounds like a fantastical luxury during a time when many states are under order to stay at home and the world isolates from coronavirus, but one place is still allowing for experiential scientific learning: video games. One of these, Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch, has a museum at its core. Run by the lovable entomophobic owl, Blathers, the museum has always been a key component to the low-key town simulator. Now that the newest game has taken the world by storm (and most folks don’t have anything better to do at home), real-life museum experts have given a tour through this virtual wonderland of learning.
A collaboration between The Monterey Bay Aquarium and Chief Curiosity Correspondent Emily Graslie from Chicago’s Field Museum, the tour took fans through the wings of the museum — which include an aquarium, a bug collection, and an extensive fossil exhibit — on Monday afternoon.
Fans can watch the Twitch replay of the two-hour tour below:
“With these institutions closed because of COVID-19, the game can become a virtual escape to do what is, at its core, what the Aquarium and other museums do every day. We show you the amazing life you share your planet with, and tell you fun things about it!” aquarium social media specialist Emily Simpson and content creator Patrick Webster said to Polygon. “When we’re playing Animal Crossing, it feels a little bit like we’re back in our exhibit hall, rejoicing in discovering new things and sharing that with the world.”
Documenting all the wonders of the Animal Crossing island is a scientific boon for those working in the natural history world — and a wealth of information for amateurs.
“The fact that you can find a Dimetrodon in the game has been awesome, and that the developers use this as an opportunity to also educate players about Dimetrodon’s evolutionary history is even better,” Graslie said of the ancient near-mammal creature. “Now my social media feed is filled with players sharing their screengrabs of Dimetrodon. It’s a nice reminder that they learned something (and had fun doing it.)”
The multi-leveled aquarium section has been a showstopper for the game’s audience, but the real treat for these science nerds has been the evolutionarily-organized fossil wing. Now fans can learn the real-life information behind their in-game collections — all without spending a Bell!