Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a video game series in which the player’s character moves to a village populated by several animal residents. This low-paced game encourages players to garden, fish, decorate, and hunt for bugs and fossils. The games are open-ended and player-driven, allowing each player to customise their playing experience.

Players are encouraged and rewarded to undertake actions such as recycling litter, planting flowers, and growing fruit. Essentially, this means that players are encouraged by the biodiversity and inhabitants to exhibit pro-conservation behaviours and attitudes (Fisher et al., 2021). At the same time, players are encouraged to acquire currency, buy furniture and clothes, and expand their home. This shows a foundation of materialism and consumerism, and that the game’s mechanics emphasize the economic principles of production, trade, and consumption (Hansen, 2020). However, the materialistic and consumeristic tendencies are softened by the non-player characters (NPCs), who only comment on the player’s social visits and not their materialistic gain (Bogost, 2013).

Caught insects and fish can be sold or donated to the local museum. The bug catching gameplay is inspired by the Japanese tradition of collecting invertebrates (‘mushi’), which is perceived as a way to reconnect children with nature. When the collected animals are donated to the museum, the player receives several educational facts about the animal. This way, the game has the potential to inspire appreciation for biodiversity (Fisher et al., 2021).

Animal Crossing has been picked up as a teaching tool by the non-profit Monterey Bay Aquarium, who collaborate with several specialists to fill their streams with educational content about the natural world.