The following post was written by Candice Chau and originally published on Hong Kong Free Press on November 21, 2020. This edited version is reposted on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement.
Japanese video game giant Nintendo has told players of its hit game Animal Crossing: New Horizons to stop adding political or commercial content. The warning came after various users around the world, including pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, started sending messages of this nature.
The game has been a hit since its launch in March, selling more than 20 million copies by September. It allows users to create tools, decorations, and other creature comforts from scratch on their own deserted islands.
Nintendo has called on companies and organizations to refrain from bringing the policy into the game and said those who break the guidelines could be banned.
However, some users have used its features including communicate with each other via direct messaging, sending postcards, updating their passport status and setting up bulletin boards – to send political messages.
In Hong Kong, some players created pro-democracy and anti-government content, including flags with protest slogans such as Free Hong Kong, the revolution of our time, funeral photographs of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and mean sessions for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.
US President-elect Joe Biden is among those hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the games. Before the elections, Bidens campaign launched its own virtual island, allowing players to volunteer at the Islands Campaign HQ and tour polling stations. According to the new guidelines, the island is likely to be banned:
Nintendo bans brands from using Animal Crossing: New Horizons for politics https://t.co/LOk8cosUmP
– Eurogamer (@eurogamer) November 19, 2020
Activist Joshua Wong told the Hong Kong Free Press that he has participated in a number of virtual in-game events this year:
What Animal Crossing stood for was not only the entertainment during the lockdown, but also a reflection of real-life events. It offers an alternative when institutional channels of expression are restricted… It is a pity that Nintendo has neglected the importance of this game.
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