Promoting conservation can be fun through video games like Animal Crossing.
This paper explores how features of the popular Nintendo game Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) can be used for pro-conservation messaging. The authors articulate how the video game may serve as a force for good to teach players about different animals and plants, to raise awareness for conservation issues (such as the illegal trade of certain pet species), as well as promote positive behaviours (such as recycling). Its benefits for conservation are shown in many features of the game, like how it is centred around players creating their own island on which they can learn about different seasonal plants and animals, collect fossils, and socialise online with fellow players. Players are incentivised to clean litter and maintain a diversity of flower and tree species. The game also focuses on traditionally less-popular species, including insects and fish, which do not get the same international publicity as charismatic mammals or birds. The social nature of the game encourages interconnectivity, furthering ACNH as a platform for education. The authors also highlight where pitfalls exist (e.g. encouraging the collection of threatened species) and principally frame these discussions in the context of Japan's cultural relationship with the natural world, including its history of insect-collecting and its management of green spaces. To conclude, recommendations about potential improvements to future releases, or for similar games that could further promote conservation messaging and behaviours are outlined.