‘Animal Crossing Diaries’ collection comes to the National Videogame Museum

You might not associate Sheffield’s National Videogame Museum and the Animal Crossing Diaries with history but you would be wrong.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 3:30 pm

The museum in the city centre’s old B&C Coop was at the heart of this month’s Heritage Open Days.

The aim is to engage younger Sheffielders with the annual events and to widen the appeal.

Janet Ridler, coordinator of Sheffield Heritage Open Days, said: “We have been looking at new ways as part of ‘new wave’ which is the name of the overall project to encourage young people to take an interest in local history.

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National Video game Museum in Sheffield by Dean Atkins Photography

“We want them to know what is going on in Sheffield and to celebrate the cultural heritage while learning a little more about Sheffield’s history in passing while they’re here”.

Janet is very keen to make clear that Sheffield’s industrial heritage isn’t all about steel, the city is also home to a rich vein of videogaming history with the likes of Gremlin Interactive, Zoo Digital, Secret Mode and Sumo Digital, who were recently bought out by the Chinese gaming giant Tencent Holdings.

Conor Clarke, who heads up the marketing and communications department at the museum, references the impact and importance of videogames for him during lockdown as a means of engaging with people from all over the world, initially in the likes of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019).

“From a heritage point of view, videogames are so often seen as ‘low culture’, it’s not high culture, games are often seen as something that only kids play games and it’s a distraction in that certain way, right?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons introduction to your island, by Chris Hallam

"But they’ve been around for 50 years now and they’ve got bigger and bigger, more and more people are finding a personal connection – particularly with lockdown and our Animal Crossing Diaries project is based on Animal Crossing: New Horizons that came out in lockdown.

"We’ve been looking at how people used that to be creative and communicate with one another.”

The game was such a resounding success that it was even used as a means of reaching out to American communities during the US elections by Joe Biden’s administration as a means of engaging with potential voters.

Conor adds: “Videogames have now grown into this huge thing – it is a medium of culture where people from the age of 13-years-old are interacting and it’s become this really important cultural touchstone.”

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, character interactions

The Animal Crossing Diaries project encourages participants to share their experiences, thoughts, feelings and to also share visual elements – be it video, screenshots, comic strips and self-recorded testimonies – as a means of cataloguing the games impact throughout lockdown.

During lockdown Animal Crossing rapidly became an international sensation in which millions of players spent countless hours creating and managing their own tropical island along with a cast of talkative animal neighbours.

They shared these experiences with other like-minded gamers across the UK and internationally.

For many years now, people without much interest would scoff at the very notion of a videogame being an incredibly popular and impactful medium.

National Video game Museum in Sheffield

That same previously derided medium has grown, exponentially, with the videogames industry making multiple billions on an annual basis. You need to only take a look at the continual success of games like Fortnite, Call of Duty, Roblox, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Fifa 21 and Grand Theft Auto V to see that it’s a medium that is not going anywhere but in an upwards trajectory.

Iain Simons, Director of Culture for the NVM, said: “Animal Crossing is the perfect experience for a lockdown. The coincidental timing of its release provided a welcome relief for millions of people who wanted to go outdoors but couldn’t, who wanted to meet friends but weren’t allowed. It’s no surprise that this incredibly creative, social space became a safe haven for millions during this turbulent year.”

National Video game Museum in Sheffield