Visitor attractions move to Animal Crossing during coronavirus lockdown

As cultural institutions remain closed because of COVID-19, many attractions are turning to Animal Crossing to educate and connect with visitors.

The popular Nintendo game, Animal Crossing, has become something of a phenomenon whilst people around the world remain at home. The game already features a museum on the island of Sears. Players are encouraged to find and catalogue animals, fish and fossils for this virtual museum.

Monterey Bay Aquarium and Field Museum

The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has been streaming Animal Crossing on social media for several days. It then collaborated with the Field Museum in Chicago for a special event. Together, they hosted fossil expert Emily Graslie from the Field Museum. She led players on a special tour of the Animal Crossing Museum.

Emily Simpson, social media specialist for The Monterey Bay Aquarium and Patrick Webster, content creator, told Polygon that “the game can become a virtual escape to do what is, at its core, what the Aquarium and other museums do every day. We show you the amazing life you share your planet with, and tell you fun things about it!”

Simpson and Webster said that all the fossils and animals found in the game are based on real-life species. One of the fossils that can be found, the T. Rex, is actually based off the famous fossil SUE which is actually in the Field Museum.

Using Animal Crossing to inspire creativity

Meanwhile, the Museum of English Rural Life has encouraged visitors to visit its online exhibition of smocks, and use it to design a smock in Animal Crossing. The museum encouraged people to explain what the smock is made of, and the techniques used to make it.

This not only encourages interaction with visitors, but it helps to educate people on the history of smocks. The museum has said that it would be interested in curating an online gallery of its favourite creations.

Replicating a museum

The Centre for Computing History has recreated its museum within Animal Crossing. Design and Communications Officer at the museum, Katrina, found herself missing the museum during lockdown. So she used her downtime to create it. She was helped by Collections Officer Adrian, and the museum is now open for visitors by appointment!

Creating virtual art installations

It’s not just attractions that are using the popular game. Installation artist Shing Yin Khor is replicating famous artworks inside Animal Crossing. Her most popular piece so far was her recreation of Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present. She invited her Twitter followers to join her as the artist’s avatar sat at a table across from an empty chair.

Khor told Artnet News that many people found “that the experience was surprisingly emotional…The simple act of sitting in a chair and staring at another person without speaking is still a moving experience, even if mediated by the internet and a video game.”

Although it is just a game, it appears that Animal Crossing can be used effectively to educate, entertain and create connections during these unprecedented times.

Meanwhile, a recent study by NEMO explored the financial impact of Coronavirus on museums around the world. Some museums are losing 75-80% of their income.

The attractions industry is also using other forms of technology such as apps and online AR to connect with visitors whilst closed.