Citizens of Hong Kong have been protesting the oppressive regime of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments for over a year. For most of the past year, these protests have taken place in the streets, with large gatherings of people banding together in opposition. Recently, these protests and gatherings have had to stop… in the real world at least. Hong Kong protesters have moved their protests off of the streets and into the virtual world of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The fun cartoony game allows players to create custom clothes and decorations, which, along with virtual gatherings, protesters are using to spread their political message.
The game has been hugely popular during the lockdown, so much so in fact that Nintendo Switches are selling out around the world, and protesters feel that it is a great platform to keep the attention of the public focused on this issue. Activist Joshua Wong was one of the first to share the idea with a tweet displaying his protest displays which he had set up on his Island. Wong explained recently why people should follow his lead.
For lots of people around the world who play this game, they have to put their ideal life into the game, and for Hong Kongers, we have to put our protest movement and our protest sites inside the game,
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) April 10, 2020
Now, the Chinese government seems to be cracking down on this by removing the game from popular eCommerce platforms Taobao and Pinduoduo, with sellers being instructed to not sell the game. It is not clear if this mandate is coming from the platforms or the government, but it seems likely that the government is involved.
Interestingly, the game is not actually legal to sell in China in the first place, as it has not been approved by their national gaming regulator. In fact, the Switch itself was only approved in China in December, a full three years after its initial release, and only three games have been officially approved for it there. Nonetheless, even if the Chinese government cracks down on these sales, people will still be playing. People are increasingly sharing ways to still buy the game, and joining in the movement within the game.
There are still ways to purchase the game also.
1. Mom & Pop stores
2. eShop via switching region
3. Contact a Taobao seller privately and in most cases they will still sell you the game under the counter.
That being said, this will no doubt impact overall sales/availability.
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) April 10, 2020
This is how #hongkong ppl spend our time during coronavirus lockdown – villain hitting in #animalcrossing, the villain is #CarrieLam, the worst governor in #hongkong history.#AnimalCrossingNewHorizons#StandWithHK pic.twitter.com/K5AbOTl9tD
— Studio Incendo (@studioincendo) April 1, 2020
— ティナ_12😷 (@T_12_Ka) April 10, 2020
People will always find a way to stand up for their human rights, and fighting through the virus and an oppressive government is no exception. Who would have thought that a game about living on an island with talking animals would be the site of a large scale political movement? Likely not many, and surely not the game’s developers, but it is happening, and the message of the protesters remains resolute despite isolation and censorship.