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Virtual museum exhibition showcases lockdown experiences of social simulation videogame

Animal Crossings Diaries

The National Videogame Museum (NVM) has launched a new virtual museum exhibition: The Animal Crossing Diaries which it says opens up new ways of collecting, archiving and showcasing videogame histories.

The project is a response to the COVID-19 global pandemic and examines the role videogames played for their users during unprecedented social isolation.

Experiences of players

A new website showcases the experiences of players of the social simulation videogame Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which were collected through an online open call from the museum.

New Horizons was released in March 2020 – when much of the world was asked to stay at home to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus – and became a major commercial success, selling more than 32 million copies worldwide.

Extensive oral history initiative

Now the experiences of the videogame’s players, spanning the period from March 2020–April 2021, have been curated and showcased in what has resulted in an extensive oral history initiative. The virtual exhibition, the museum said, presents a vital and innovative way to understand players’ intimate experiences with the game during this time.

“This exhibition takes an innovative approach in collecting videogame history that forefront the players’ histories with the game,” the museum said.

New ways of collecting and archiving

“This opens up new ways of collecting, archiving and showcasing videogame histories, and record for the first time a highly meaningful but ephemeral and intangible experience through the perspective of its players.”

The NVA in Sheffield celebrates videogame culture and has 100 game consoles and arcade machines for visitors to play as well as 5,000 videogame objects with a mixture of permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Context and history

The NVA’s Animal Crossing Diaries website not only presents users diaries but also gives context and history by telling the story of the videogame’s developer, Katsuya Eguchi who joined Nintendo in 1986 as a designer.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the fifth and latest version of the Animal Crossing and visitors to the online exhibition will be able to search through various players’ stories.

The stories are grouped together in the following themes:

  • Keeping a Routine
  • Staying in Touch
  • Sharing Creativity
  • Representing Yourself
  • Making Your Space

Creating online exhibitions

Players were able to recreate events that couldn’t happen during the pandemic, for example, in the Sharing Creativity section Nick Murray shared his memory of being invited to a museum exhibition that a fellow player had created on her island.

“It had the subtle but distinct hint of a time when I would go to private views and show openings with friends as a student,” he said. “Not really sure where you’re going, or what you’re going to see, but keen to follow the trail of information that’s been passed through several hands to you.”

Alongside these stories is a timeline that combines the events that occurred in the game and from political protests, such as Black Lives Matter, campaigns, special events and seasons.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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