Animal Crossing：New Horizons has been definitely taking over most Chinese fans’ hearts for the past few weeks, even drawing attentions of those who don’t play games at all. In the financial Q&A meeting on Jan 31th, 2020, Nintendo had disclosed for the first time that there are currently about 3 million Switch users in mainland China. The popularity of this game in China lays in the three following reasons:
The need of Socializing and healing under the pandemic
As the quarantine efforts pushes everyone from schools, working places and public areas, many game players renew the social communication in the Animal Crossing world. As one of the principle game play of this game is decorating your own island in an unique way and other players can come to visit you, it opens a door to many social phobia’s hearts. The trip of fishing can be carried on with the new friends you just made. The weddings canceled in reality can be resumed on a beautiful island. And wishes can be made under the starry night. In a way, this game simulates a life that you currently cannot realize in the real world, which even pulls strangers’ hearts closer and reduces public anxiety of the pandemic.
A real story: A newly wed couple have their wedding in Animal Crossing while the one was canceled in real life due to quarantine condition
fishing with new friends
Beautiful wishes of getting close to natural utopia
Unlike most farm management games, Animal Crossing is not focusing on the loop of making more money and getting the gears upgraded. On the contrary, it creates a world “without purposes”. It won’t push players to do anything they are not willing to, even though you somehow carry a debt for enlarging your house, there is no time limit to pay the debt. For those who love diving, this could be a good opportunity to study all kinds of fish; For those who are tired of living in a concrete city, growing plants and inviting all the animals to your house could satisfy a dream of getting close to the natural; For those casual players, there is no need to fight for limited resources, all they want to do is sitting by the seashore and enjoy the beautiful sunset. In this world, you can literally enjoy a virtual lifestyle instead of being a screw role.
All kinds of fishes that you can study
Enjoy a beautiful sunset by yourself
Invite animals to your house
Individual expression of populism society
Even though New Horizons isn’t officially available in China, tons of Chinese gamers find a way to play the game and post their imaginary island on mainstream social media, which happens to be a kaleidoscope of Chinese social life. This game redefines the freedom under a populism society. Here you can express your political opinions, show off your personal interests, realize dreams that you’ve been longing to, or startup a small business. And there are many examples of interesting application of the game in China: Shanghai firefighting service has posted a short educational video on Weibo, which is shot in the Animal Crossing game. In the video the players’ fire exit is full of items that have to be removed one by one; and animal protection organization PETA took the opportunity to launch a vegetarian survival guide which recommends players not to fish and catch insects, only eat fruits.
I can’t say enough about this game, let me borrow the words from one Chinese gamer: “How funny the game is, only could be limited by your own imaginations!”