Animal Crossing: New Horizons released at a unique time in our history: March 2020, when much of the world began reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Videogame Museum, located in Sheffield, England, has been awarded a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to chronicle the impact of the popular Nintendo game and how it affects socialization during a global pandemic.
“Animal Crossing is the perfect experience for a lockdown. The coincidental timing of its release provided a welcome relief for millions of people who wanted to go outdoors but couldn’t, who wanted to meet friends but weren’t allowed,” said Iain Simons, Director of Culture for the NVM. “It’s no surprise that this incredibly creative, social space became a safe haven for millions during this turbulent year. With the fantastic support of Esmee Fairbairn, we want to explore the different ways in which videogames touch our audience’s lives.”
It’s impossible to say how much the pandemic affected sales of New Horizons versus the quality of the well-received and critically acclaimed game. Nintendo recently announced an incredible 22.4 million units sold. That’s more than titanic franchises like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Pokémon Sword and Shield. Only Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has sold more units (26.7 million).
With social distancing still in place, The Animal Crossing Diaries will be an online exhibit to record, archive, and present unique videogame histories through the lends of the players.
The National Videogame Museum is running a virtual Saturday club throughout the month of August called Pixelheads. Kids are encouraged to watch the official NVM YouTube channel every Saturday for quizzes, discussions, let’s plays, and other gaming activities.