Stuck indoors for much of the year, many of us have been turning to video games for some escapism and a break from all the bad news. Personally I’ve been enjoying cracking through the puzzle solving Professor Layton series, a game which I never quite had the time for previously. The competition for overall game of the year will no doubt be a tricky subject which I’m not sure I want to wade into, but when it comes to the releases which gave us a helping hand and kept us sane, Animal Crossing has to be high up the list.
Unlike the chaos of the real world, the world of Animal Crossing has been calm and encouraging. It’s even given us a chance to socialise with friends, and experience some virtual travel as we set off to see different islands. It’s been the ideal year for the game to release, and the unusual circumstances have led to Animal Crossing being used in some unusual ways.
Back in September, politicians from Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party were competing to replace the outgoing leader of the party, Shinzo Abe. Although the successful candidate ended up being Japan’s current Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, one of the other members campaigning to take the top place stood out thanks to the unorthodox tactic of using Animal Crossing to grab public attention.
Appearing as an avatar version of himself, Shigeru Ishiba was planning to head out on a virtual tour to the islands of supporters to gather votes and improve his reputation. I can’t decide whether the idea was out of touch of a stroke of genius, but Nintendo stepped in to remind him about rules preventing this kind of political activity in the game.
When they’re not dealing with disasters, the Tokyo Fire Department are doing do their best to try and prevent them. Emergency drills are another activity made difficult by Covid-19, so the Fire Department has been spreading advice on twitter from Bousai (protection against disaster) Island.
Their twitter account has been updating with videos of Animal Crossing characters doing things like moving heavy furniture around for better earthquake safety, or demonstrating what fire safety building certificates look like; more of a success than Shigeru’s ill-fated campaign in my opinion.
As we know, the travel and tourism industry has been taking a real hit this year, but you can guess by now where Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture looked to for a solution. The popular destination has been recreated in Animal Crossing by the city office and Niigata prefectural government, albeit not with complete accuracy.
Players can take a trip to the island and discover mini tributes to region’s unique attractions, such as the special tub-shaped fishing boats, rice paddies and the gold mine which is set to become a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sado is also known for its conservation of the Japanese Ibis bird, which has been incorporated into the island’s design.
If you’re wondering what the code for Sado Island is, it’s DA-2797-3242-0564 according to the Sado City homepage, so give it a test and take a visit.
So that’s fire safety training, political campaigns and tourism… what other game managed all that in 2020?