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The video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) was released in March 2020, just as the world was going into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Designed for children ages 3 and up, ACNH hosts a large player base from a wide variety of ages. For many, the idea of building an idyllic, remote island and connecting with friends online has been a valuable outlet in a time of isolation. For activists, it offers a space for engaging in collective action. Megan Musgrave coins the term “imaginary activism” to refer to the way activism in youth literature incorporates “reactions on the part of fictional characters, imaginative responses on the part of engaged readers, and the positioning toward real-world activism that potentially results from such imaginative responses” (xx). ACNH serves as an interactive youth text ripe for real-world applications of this. Summer 2020 saw an increase in ACNH gatherings to protest on behalf of Black Lives Matter and Hong Kong independence. While thousands hit the streets, others simulated the experience in the virtual world. Viewing ACNH as a children’s literature text, this essay examines the activist practices of Animal Crossing discourse communities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Musgrave claims virtual activism “is becoming the 21st century’s most effective mode of building an engaged citizenship” (174). In a time when it becomes increasingly difficult to gather, virtual activism in video games has been crucial to facilitating collective action and encouraging people to participate in cultural conversations about key social justice issues. Youth literature has long been a site for subversive work, and ACNH serves as a crucial site of inquiry regarding activism during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tidmarsh, Bryanna, "Holding Protest Posters And Handheld Consoles: Activism In Animal Crossing: New Horizons" (2021). English. 1.