When Animal Crossing: New Horizons released amid a global pandemic, the game instantaneously took on a new definition as a symbol of change in a world of chaos.
With lovable furry characters that seem limitless and daily tasks that helped us get through the grind of the shelter in place, the game also provided a vision of a future that could help us become a healthier civilization.
While capitalism is the definitive political praxis in New Horizons, socialist tendencies between the happy human camper (you) and your furry friends bring forth a new type of sociological system that relies on solidarity, mutual aid, and maybe a bit of Marxist ideology.
This platform has inspired so many that the game was also used as a tool for spreading information and democratic ideologies from Chinese activists. Utilizing the ability to talk to other people who were not able to see what was happening in China helped to evade the intense censorship these activists were receiving.
In the States, the game franchise has seen an enormous amount of positive reception from LGBTQA+ gamers who appreciate the ability to change their clothes regardless of gender presentation or sexuality. New Horizons has also spawned a series of memes being shared that quoted Marx or anti-MAGA rhetoric. The idea that political ideologies can be shared in a video game is a game-changer. Games such as Wolfenstein have raised the bar in sociopolitical commentary via recreation, though killing Nazis may be a bit too much for the average, fluffy gamer.
So what are some of the lessons the "social stimulation" game can teach us during such turbulent times? Here are my five takes (starring ME on my Island, Leviathan).
Sharing is caring
In order to bring more campers to your island, you are encouraged to establish a relationship with your neighbors by assisting in them obtaining housing, foraging for food, and providing items to help with the move to your island. In a way, this type of mutual aid depicts how most leftist circles provide resources for the disenfranchised.
Whether it be Food Not Bombs, fundraising for activist circles, or bail money — the concept of mutual aid has entered the vocabulary of many who have just begun their activism. Long seen as a staple in subcultures and oppressed communities, mutual aid has been a resource that has saved many lives. A community that does not take care of each other cannot survive! Tom Nook is definitely on to something!
Take care of Nature and Nature will take care of you!
With the climate crisis being a number one priority for millennials and the like, Animal Crossing does an excellent job at promoting environmental responsibility in its universe.
You, as Resident Representative, have the responsibility of planting trees, harvesting fruit, foraging for fossils, and preserving local wildlife for the local museum. While museums have a very complicated history (ie. looting of cultural artifacts), ACNH's museum curates the sea life and dinosaur bones.
Using art as a means of creating community
Who doesn't bond over their favorite musicians? As Camp Leader, you are tasked to create a performance space for everyone's beloved rocker, K.K. Slider. In order to bring the entire camp together, you must gather the band's gear and pick an ideal place for the concert to take hold.
Through art and music, resistance lives on. Many DIY music festivals such as The Multivsr Is Illuminated, have been used as a means of fundraising, promotion of grassroots movements, or for community building. Art and activism are intrinsically linked and this combination is the glue to any self-sustainable community.
DIY or die!
One of the perks of Animal Crossing is the ability to learn new DIY projects. DIY (or do it yourself) is a movement that prioritizes self-reliance instead of outsourcing labor. While you rely heavily on the island's natural items in order to create much-needed items (all of your tools, bridges to connect lands, etc), the message of environmental reciprocation is sacrosanct. It's important to realize the many resources our planet gives us the privilege of having. Being able to build your own shelter or create our own community without reliance on money is the next step to self-governance.
I want YOU, autonomy!
While there are wholesome left-y ideals throughout the entire game, there is one problem. Tom Nook plays the "landlord" of the island, giving loans to island inhabitants for their homes and property. True autonomy would require the abolition of money for essential materials (housing, tools). While Tom will not hunt you down for your mortgage payment, you are not allowed to progress further until you pay off your debts.
This is a sober reminder that in our realities, lack of monetary privilege hinders ones' ability to live comfortably. Housing is an essential right and hopefully, for future games, you will be able to build your own, by any means necessary!
While it may seem that the world is crashing, it is helpful to have a game that manages to give us hope in ourselves and each other. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter which political affiliation you carry but the amount of good you create for the world around you.