New Horizons: A Critical Examination of Animal Crossing for Cultural Heritage Institutions

This session critically examines how the game's impact on museum digital engagement internally and the public's understanding of what museums are or could be. Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a digital opportunity and cultural phenomenon particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We seek to interrogate the ways museums have leveraged this game and the cultural moment around it.


Unknown Speaker 00:00
Hi everyone. My name is Andrea Ledesma.

Unknown Speaker 00:02
My pronouns are

Unknown Speaker 00:03
she her hers, and I am one of the CO chairs for ampersand 2020. And

Unknown Speaker 00:07
thank you for joining for this

Unknown Speaker 00:09
session. New Horizons a critical examination of Animal Crossing for cultural heritage institutions. A little background about him Santa, as I'm sure you've heard, but um, Santa is a nonprofit volunteer run professional organization. committed to growing the digital capacity of museum professionals. We have a deep and active community made up of conference attendees and members like you engaged in your round conversations, webinar, resource sharing Slack and so much more. If you're interested in getting involved with MC n or joining as a member you can learn more at and Sanda

Unknown Speaker 00:39

Unknown Speaker 00:40
And also like to thank our sponsors, Microsoft, our registration Assistance Fund sponsor, axial, our Ignite sponsor, and all the other sponsors listed in the program schedule for helping make this conference possible. So today's session is a zoom webinars, which means we're using the q&a box for questions and the chat for technical issues. So please post your questions in the q&a box. And we will respond to them throughout the session. And at the end of the session as they come. I'm happy to emcee this session. I'm very excited for it. I am not a hashtag Gamer Girl. But when I saw this, come through the session proposals, I was very excited, as I think we were all sort of brought into the cultural moment that was Animal Crossing during closures and was so exciting to see museums be a part of that. So with that, I'm going to hand it off to our session presenters.

Unknown Speaker 01:30
All right, Hey, everybody. So I'm Jeremy, we're gonna each structure this is where he can introduce ourselves real quick. Each of us had is going to talk about different facet of Animal Crossing as it relates to cultural heritage institutions. And then time permitting, there will be q&a. So I'm Jeremy Munro, I am the database administrator at the National Museum of African art. My pronouns are he him, I'm to use a phrase somebody used in the last session, I'm an unmarked white man. I'm wearing a lumberjack kind of flannel shirt. I'm sitting in a gaming chair. And I have behind me as a banner of the wave up against the famous Japanese wave woodblock print thing. I can remember the title. And so Caroline, you wanna introduce yourself?

Unknown Speaker 02:17
Sure, I'm Caroline Culbert, I'm the director of digital communication engagement at the guns gallery at Kenyon College, which is a small liberal arts college in Central Ohio. So my pronouns are she her hers. I am a light skinned woman, I have dark hair and dark eyes, my hair is pulled back. I'm wearing a cool sweatshirt with a cat on it. And my background is a virtual background showing the for your of our lovely museum. Sam, would you like to go?

Unknown Speaker 02:58
I'm Sam. I am my pronouns are they them or she her? Both are fine. I'm a white non binary femme presenting person. I have red hair and wearing a scarf and a sweatshirt. In my background, you can kind of see the edge of my desk which has a tape reader on it, and ate with some different collecting items on top. And I have a background in museum education and evaluation. I am an independent self advocate in the artistic community and I am also the membership and marketing manager at museum education Roundtable.

Unknown Speaker 03:41
Okay, hi, my name is Rene Alberto Garcia Cepeda. I'm a Mexican academic. I'm teaching at anata which is a small liberal arts college where I teach new media art and museum studies. I am currently getting my PhD actually in two days. But um, anyways, I don't have a preferred pronoun key, she's fine. She, he is fine. Don't worry about it. And I think that's about it. Although I specialize in new media art, but I also have a museology degree. So that's where I come in into this.

Unknown Speaker 04:19
Awesome. Okay, I am first the slides. Okay, my presentation is called howdy gamers. Okay, so what the heck is Animal Crossing? Right? Okay, so it's not really a life sin, according to like as like a from like a gaming perspective. But it that's like a very easy descriptive word for non gamers. In the series dates back to 2001. Originally on the GameCube in the US, and 64 in Japan. The most recent installment dropped in 2020, which was already going to be pretty hype and then on the pandemic And then became even more hype because we were all stuck in our homes. And it was definitely kind of like game of the spring summer. There's like a big in critical circles around like video games was a bigger question of whether or not it is really Game of the Year, which is a whole other interesting facet. And like, the core thing of Animal Crossing is that in every game, you're either in a village or in this recent installment, you get an island as a quote unquote, deserted island, there's like, obviously, some colonialist issues here with that other people can get into that though. And, you know, you there's cute animals that live on the island. On the right, there's an image of a bunch of residents of the island and the series main kind of antagonists, maybe, I guess, Tom knuck, who I'll be talking about more in a second, um, the, you get a house, you buy things to put in the house, you hunt bugs and fish, you can sell them, you could put them in a museum, which is why we're talking about this game. And, you know, there's lots of other little things that you can do, but generally, it's just kind of like a feel good. Like, make your own space, you know, kind of game, um, it has a pretty if you aren't into games at all, it is a very major property for Nintendo. And it has a huge and very, very diehard player base. Um, so like, Animal Crossing is also kind of like friendly millennial debt simulator. Um, you know, like, as I said, the structure of the game is that your villager moves in Tom doke, who we see depicted on the right with his nephews Timmy, and Tommy gives you a house, or in this case, at the start of this game, you get a tent, which eventually you can get a house on, and that he put he instantly puts you in debt against kind of your world, like the game gives you no choice and like, No, I don't want a house, you have to say yes, so you do to advance the game, you need to get a house. Um, and so it puts you in debt that you never have to pay off. Um, but you do pay it off, because it's a video game, and you get money and eventually enough money to pay it off, you're like, Okay, I'll pay it off. And then the house gets bigger, and you're in debt again. Um, and the bigger the house, you know, the more things you can display in it. Um, and then there's a meme online, which is like Tom know, is he the last landlord to get the guillotine or the only good landlord that can stay alive? I'm generally inclined towards the he might be the only good landlord.

Unknown Speaker 07:25
And so like, why is this you're gonna be thinking, why is this game relevant to museums? Well, every iteration of the game has had a museum that you can put fish fossils, bugs, and now art, which makes it even more relevant to a lot of art museums, and not just natural history museums. inside. On the right, we have an image of the entry hall of the museum, we see the album Blathers, who is the museum's curator, we also see the completely inaccessible layout of the museum, in that it has stairs to go anywhere. Um, so Blathers gives little facts when you give things to him. So if you get like a fossil, he might tell you about, oh, this is a T Rex, whatever, or Oh, this is a, you know, this is this type of fish or whatever. Um, he hates bugs, which is funny, because he's an owl. Um, and he has really bad accessioning practices, which some of the panelists will get into. And boy, howdy, is the museum not accessible, just to say that again. And in general, my take on the Animal Crossing museum is that it's a cliche of what the public thinks museums are right? Like you go you look at some cool stuff, that's probably animals and stuff, and you might see some art and you have a good day you take some pictures, that's like kind of like the core museum experience. I don't mean that in a cynical way. I think that's great. People should go out in public spaces and have levity and have fun. Um, and so, my, my second, my second is on what could museums have done with this thing? Or could do I say have because there is a feeling that though there is like a diehard player bases game and there are dedicated Animal Crossing streamers on the cultural moment is kind of past a little bit from this from this visit this spring, like the time for you museums are really, really have been part of this was earlier this year, though. Some notably, some institutions are you still using Animal Crossing, and it's again, still played by millions and millions and millions of people. Um, I want to call it specifically the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which has done regular Animal Crossing streams on twitch, and extreme thanks to Dana Allen-Greil. For inspiring this presentation. More museums need to take game seriously as a platform for social media and live video content. And I think Monterey Bay does an extremely good job of it. Hire me, um, if you're a natural history museum. So here's some ideas right? So if your natural history museum, right, you have people want to talk about bugs and fish. This is something Monterey Bay has done. If you're an art museum, you can talk about the fine art system in the game and how forgeries are actually dealt with and how they're actually not as, you know, frequent as the public thinks that they are and we have so many processes. catch these types of things. And you can build a space where people come for regular respite where your staff streamers, build a following for the museum, and where people could come to just have an experience of a lot of the streams that I watched a lot of people watch just people that make you feel good, they might have good voices, you get to know them, they have personality, and you like the spirit of what they're doing doesn't really sometimes for me with streamers, doesn't matter what people are saying. It's more about like that I know the person, like, it's like, I feel like I know that I've watched your content for 50 hours, you know, it's all see whatever they do. And I think museums don't really do good leveraging of that. Animation crossing is still popular, but you know, the major kind of moment of its release has passed, but that doesn't mean straight game is still valuable. Um, and so you might be like, Okay, I'm not a game. I don't know anything about games. Ah, do I even have staff who play games? Like how could this even work as a thing. And it's because it sounds like it'll work. And if you bet it is, people regularly put in 80 plus hours and Animal Crossing to get to that end quote, unquote, end where you like have, you know, house fully upgraded and stuff like that, you know, there really is no kind of end date Animal Crossing. Um, you know, my girlfriend's put in, like, 140 hours or something over the course of this year, which is really pretty low, honestly, for this type of game. Um, and the staff that are playing like to get to the game of the state needs to be ready for streaming is work time, right? This is a problem that the video game industry in general has issues with, like in games journalism, where journalists aren't getting paid to get put the 80 hours into the need to put into a game that takes 80 hours to be.

Unknown Speaker 11:34
And so I want to be very clear, I don't want to see I like I wouldn't want to see any museums do this that are compensating people for the time they're playing the game to get it ready, I'm streaming is extremely taxing. It's similar to being on TV, the harder and the often strings are more regular. And they're two, three or more hours long. I've done a little bit of streaming with my partner, and it's extremely tiresome, but it's really fun. And you know, you need equipment that again, shouldn't be an employee's expense, right, Mike's camera, good internet, you need really good internet, cuz you want to make sure you're not dropping frames, people are really particular about that on Twitch on and but the benefits here is huge. Right on, you're tapping an audience that is younger, it's way more diverse than the communities most museums reside in. Um, and you can build a kind of really diehard audience if you could do if a museum to do this, right, where you have people getting notifications, hey, my Museum, this museum is live. All right, this one I'm watching this afternoon while I'm doing work, while I'm, you know, still, you know, working on schoolwork, or whatever, or just chilling out, um, and all that content that you shouldn't have to go away to, because you can always depend on YouTube, which is what a lot of streamers do. Um, so I also just want to talk about other games, that museum that museums could stream, because there's so many possibilities, like it was hard to even just list this amount, um, like, Crusader Kings three came out this year, which is medieval family dynasty simulator. And it has a scope of 700 to 1500. And it ranges from Europe, West Africa, all the way down to even the very tip of like the North northern Congo, Middle East, India, Tibet. So it's not just, you know, Eurocentric. And for history museums, you know, there's this obvious like, how does this game, you know, nail history versus Where did they have to make a fun game, so they couldn't have an Oracle? Or talk about arts of various areas in various time periods, because the arts of these places definitely changed from 700 to 1500. And then, I know, I think I saw I think it was Monterey streamed among us, which is an extremely popular game, it's basically just mafia where you know, somebody the imposter gets thinner, who the imposter is, um, it's not museum relevant, but I just want to call it out as a great way to get staff on stream a lot of staff on stream because you have up to 10 people in among us and just, you know, get some more personality out there, introduce the public to your staff, and I'm personally not just the state like I'm a curator and you know, I'm today I'm going to tell you about this narrative information about this painting like, which is like all fine and well, but like, a little bit less interesting to a lot of people than like, just chatting with a curator and chatting with your staff and just seeing like them passively talk about things that interest them. I think it especially in like a non, you have to have like a conversational tone. With all of this kind of stuff. You can't be doing Hazel that professional stuff that we use all the time to talk like a real person. Um, and so you can also do like games that have cool landscapes or photobooth. Lots of games, that photo modes right now especially big, you know, triple A titles. You get your curators to talk about the landscape compositions, and a lot of the photos have had visitors or you know, people who are interested in your museum submit photos from these kinds of games, magic creators, talk about the composition of the photographs or whatever. That sounds really cool. Maybe paired with local artists. There's a lot of weird atmospheric games like fugue in the void which is like this brutalist kind of experience. game or islands, non places, which are short, they're only like half hour long. And they're really great for talking about contemporary art because a lot of the mirror here what's happening contemporary art at the moment, literally any Assassin's Creed game to talk about architecture a depiction of the time period, if you're worried about the violence in those games, the past two games on a tourist mode where there's like you just walk around in the space in Egypt, Ptolemy and Egypt and an ancient Greek mythology kind of Greece, and the tourism mode just lets you kind of like walk around and just experience all the space and the wonders that they put in that game. I'm assuming the current iteration Assassin's Creed Valhalla will get something like that as well. Um, and then any game with a museum or art, it could, you know, you could just talk about how the game represents museums and art, you know, like, it gets things right or gets things wrong. Lots of games featured museums and little small snippets, and some that made them bigger deal things. Lots of games have collecting systems, which are, which are, you know, often with like a collector character that they might call a museum. And that's interesting on its own to

Unknown Speaker 16:03
sort of wrap up, I just have this great meme. You know, it's a screenshot of a tweet and a character in Animal Crossing sitting on the beach. And it says B two days ago, what is Animal Crossing exactly? Me Now I have to catch fish. So an owl can open a museum, which is one of the early gates in Animal Crossing to get the museum open is you have to give bladders specimens before he will open a museum as you can find in total. And that think that says a lot about like, the game Enos of this game, but then also, I think you should really think deeply about what that means for museums. Oh, whoops. So yeah, thank you, you can follow my dumpster fire of a Twitter, on Twitter calm at portraits.

Unknown Speaker 16:49
Um, so I'm Jeremy and Karolina mornay will share a little bit more about the different types of programming that museums have done or can do, and other really big brain ideas about a cnh, which I love. But I just wanted to highlight a specific audience that museums can engage with this kind of programming, and that is autistic people, particularly adults and young adults. As Jeremy mentioned, the cultural moment for Animal Crossing, in general does seem to have passed, but Animal Crossing is still very big in the autistic community. And you have the next slide, Jeremy? Oh, sorry. Thank you. Um, so I really think museums can use Animal Crossing to engage autistic audiences, just from my personal experience, even though there was so much digital content from museums coming out during the pandemic. The only thing that I actually participated in was the stream, the few streams from Monterey Bay and a couple other museums. They just felt like they were engaging, it was something I was super interested in. And it wasn't something that was trying to pretend to be the real thing when we couldn't actually be in a museum. So I'd like to point out most in person museum programming for autistic people is for children and families. Think of your classic sensory friendly hours, which are great, but there is a real gap in programming for autistic teens and young adults in older adults. museums are what Lewis Silverman referred to as social institutions, which means that they're well poised to create opportunities for autistic adults to socialize, develop skills and pursue areas of interest or to work in museums. I am a big advocate for accessibility in employment and hiring practices. Because having autistic people on your staff will improve the communication with your artistic museum audiences. Approximately one in four autistic adults are socially isolated, which means that they rarely or never see or talk to friends and are not invited to social activities. So museums do have the opportunity to create those third spaces in person. But of course now with everything being digital from home, and even after we're able to meet in person again, it will crossing streams and similar gaming programming can create those third spaces virtually, and create those feelings of connection but with less social pressure and commitment than attending an in person gathering. So I think museums could really try using Animal Crossing as an experiment or a starting point for engaging autistic adults. And just try it out and see what you can learn from doing that programming and from our community and apply that to other programs moving forward.

Unknown Speaker 19:56
Next slide.

Unknown Speaker 19:56
Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 19:58
I'm so In our online communities, Animal Crossing is very artistic culture. And the reasons for this are primarily because the game focuses so much on collecting that involves collecting the specimens to donate to the museum involves collecting and arranging items to decorate your island. And it's a structured space, but you can still express yourself. So there are a lot of rules and structure are not rules, but frameworks and structures within the game. So there is there are limitations. But having that structure and that framework is, you know, it's reliable, you're able to expect and anticipate what's going to happen. So it's very, it's same all the time, which is nice and creates a feeling of control. But you can still, you know, create meaning gather items that you'd like to see or that relate to your interest in real life and use them on your island. And Animal Crossing is so popular among the autistic community that the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, which is our larger advocacy, organization and alternative to Autism Speaks. They just had their annual conference over the past weekend, and they had a whole session that was just staff members streaming their Animal Crossing Island tours. So it was a really fun point of connection for us. I just love this quote to sort of backup the points about collecting and structure as making Animal Crossing appealing. From this great article by an autistic writer, called Island living in a pandemic. Animal Crossing allows autistic young people to express themselves however they feel most comfortable. This could be collecting cool objects or curating a space that is special for you. Ultimately, having the safe online escape that you can have control over came at the perfect time when it felt that the world took all control away from autistic people.

Unknown Speaker 22:09
So that point about collecting, collecting, categorizing and arranging objects is a peak artistic experience. Collecting can help us to feel energized or calm, and it can bring order to chaos. And this great article from hyperallergic just points out that within the world of this game, the preservation exhibition of your islands natural history is considered so important that a museum is one of the foundational buildings of the community. So it just sort of speaks to, you know, the shared interest in collecting and categorizing objects that autistic people have, and museums focus on as well, whether for better or for worse. And like I mentioned, the game sector is predictable. And that makes it appealing to autistic people within that structure, you can make your island whatever you want. But the in game museum itself is one of the most limited spaces. So I have a screenshot from my island. And this is to the left of where my museum is, it's a picture of my avatar and a friend wearing a space helmet in the background. And we're wishing on shooting stars, I created a small Air and Space area to the side of my Museum, just to sort of expand it and have sort of my own exhibit because you can't do this within the museum itself. So there's just like a little spot for me to like make some meaning I you know, used to work at Air and Space, I miss it. So it's nice to kind of be able to make the museum my own in this way. So that's just an example of that. And in terms of the structure, I think museums in real life can learn from Animal Crossing to create programming for autistic people that is structured and predictable, but still has open ended and co creative aspects. And just finally, a note on keeping up with the autistic community. There is no singular artistic experience. I can only speak for my own experience and just what I've seen in conversation with others, we're all unique individuals united by a suite of common characteristics like our communication differences, sensory experiences, or you know, collecting Syrah, which is of course not to say that it's only autistic people who like Animal Crossing or who have communication differences or like collecting. It's just that the intensity of our experience varies. And if you do museum programming with autistic people, you know, you can really harness the relationship between what your museum has to offer and the interests that we are so passionate about. And you know, of course, if you are doing This kind of programming, you have to spend some time learning about access needs in terms of virtual programming or once you move into in person again, that as well. So it is worth familiarizing yourself with the community before doing any programming. And that can include, you know, like I mentioned experimenting with something like Animal Crossing that, you know, will likely go over pretty well, since it's something that's so popular for us. And then using that to learn about us develop relationships with our community, and then involve us to create and leave programming at your museum. As we say, in the disability community, I think about us without us. There are a couple of places that I recommend people to learn from us. So personal narratives and online artistic spaces include the hashtag actually autistic, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and the website, where I found the article about autistic people playing Animal Crossing that's called ambitious about autism. And within those communities, we have, you know, a lot of diverse experiences and narratives and conversations. And if you spend some time learning about them, you'll see connections to museums in general, or maybe to your specific type of museum. We have cultural touchstones like Animal Crossing, or recent conversations about how autistic people are asking questions about how much impact we've had on museum collections, and why curating objects is celebrated in museums, but pathologized, when done by autistic people. And I also included my favorite animal crossing meme to wrap this up. It's a little cartoon drawing, it says if real life are more like Animal Crossing, and there's a little cartoon lady holding a triceratops, maybe skull, and it says, Hey, I found this super rare dinosaur skull, do you want it? And there's a little stick guy at the Museum of Natural History. And

Unknown Speaker 27:09
it says, Now

Unknown Speaker 27:10
we've already got one, try selling it to the 711 down the road, which references that once you finish up collecting all of your fossils, you can sell them off at next cranny to make some bells and pay off your loan. Thank you. And you can find me on Twitter at Sam Theriault or my website Smith And yes, I would love to play Animal Crossing with you. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 27:41
Okie dokie, that was great, Sam, thank you so much. And thank you to everyone attending and possibly giving up their lunch hour. So I hear about animal crossing. When I introduce myself, I forgot to tell a little bit about my background, because I get a little uncomfortable thinking of myself as any kind of authority. But I do have a background in Information Science and a long background in museums, especially academic museums. So my presentation is is gonna have a lot to do with theory, and different disciplines. So get ready for that high level experience. But it will touch upon a lot of the things that Jeremy and Sam talked about. So next slide, please. All right. So I think we can all agree that that Animal Crossing has become a bit of a phenomenon. So I'm showing an image that I've just kind of pasted together of different headlines that have hit the airwaves, the internet, the whatever device you happen to have, or news source you happen to have. It's the second biggest selling Game of the Year, with 26 million copies sold. There are something like 11 million players. It was the number one talked about game on Twitter for like a month, maybe two with 30 million tweets in one month. And it's actually sent Nintendo kind of earnings into the stratosphere. So it really is kind of a phenomenon that that has that really found its moment earlier this year. So next slide. But just like Jeremy was talking about, what does this really mean for museums? There are lots of different aspects of our culture that that come up and have a moment but museums don't feel the need to really engage with those. And I think we've all heard these these arguments against why we should take gaming, especially video games really seriously. There's a perception that it's only for a certain demographic that there's this prototypical gamer and and that person is not really part of the museum audience, maybe that games reference In only escapism, a way to get away and actually escape reality and not really interact, that they're not around for long, like we've been talking about Animal Crossing, having a moment, and maybe that moment has passed. So how is the museum going to join, engage really fundamentally with with something that may be considered a fad, or you know, something that's not going to be long term. And then, of course, there's the idea that you have to design your own game. But I don't think that that really is fundamentally what we're asking museums to consider. It's really engaging with a gaming community, and games that are already there. So that we're part of a back and forth. And on this on this slide. And some other slides in my presentation, I'm showing an image of the front of the museum in Animal Crossing, these images were shared on Reddit, another platform course. And those, these images are all just just user sharing how they're individualizing, the front of their Museum, like Sam mentioned, the museum is a very restrictive place inside but outside user can do anything they want. So next slide. So I would like to argue that if we want to engage more with the general communities in which museums are embedded that we really need to start taking games seriously. They're part of their own culture, but they're also massively influential in the general culture of our time. gaming culture is part of the digital revolution, which is moving forward ever rapidly. They're international and reach. They have a kind of a consolidating hegemonic whole nail. So there are specific games, gaming franchises, gaming consoles, platforms like Twitch, there's, I mean, you can use, you know, a whole range of cultural products that have to do specifically with gaming. And it's increasing

Unknown Speaker 32:18
to involve more and more people kind of across demographics. So I mean, as one game designer, Eric Zimmerman kind of coined, we're in a ludic century, if you think about it, the gaming culture is no longer an insulated, small group, it's actually moved across our society. So next slide. So this is a process that has been kind of described as gamification. So this is a really interesting kind of concept to think about, and it is controversial. So some people like it, some people don't. But it is a kind of a great exercise to think about how your day to day life may be affected by kind of the modes and methods of video gaming. So some people might be thinking about this right now, health assessments for your insurance, your health insurance that comes through your work, you may have to actually score points by the end of the year to get this special insurance set up with a special rates. Social media is highly influenced by gaming modes, especially based on kind of an achievement, which is seen through likes and followers. brand loyalty programs, so like smart shoppers will unlock discounts once they get so many points by shopping it wherever. And another one fitness trackers actually some fitness trackers, you know, the wears a watch or whatever, have an app connected, where you can actually compete with friends, and actually see who can be more fit. And it's very much a gaming experience. And this process is really, you know, positive or negative, depending on how you look at it. But I do think it is real, and we can see it in our everyday lives. So next slide. Okay, we've established that video games are culturally significant. So what now? Well, I think that actually if we understand a little bit more about how game culture is affecting the larger culture, or has maybe become just a facet of our current culture, we can understand a little bit more about how museums can really interact with that in in a really positive way. So you know, thinking is an academic And I think that the discipline of the social sciences can really help us to think through that, and especially the concept of the social imaginary. Because Personally, I was just fascinated by how

Unknown Speaker 35:14
Animal Crossing just, I felt like just blue onto the scene and just lit up. And so I was trying to figure out kind of, in my own mind, how I could understand that that wild enthusiasm, and I think it has to do with this social imaginary concept, which is a place as Taylor explained, of common understanding, that makes passive, you know, possible practices and widely shared sense of legitimacy. So it's kind of a web of understanding, that underlies both the real and the Unreal, which has to do with games, specifically, because, you know, the gaming world itself is an unreal place, but the player who activates the experience is spending real time real effort on that gaming world and interacting and having that gaming experience. And, you know, you can't really, it's both real and unreal, and you can't really like, ask Amazon to send you a package of social imaginary or cultural understanding. But the fact that you probably thought about the internet, really, retailer, Amazon, and not the river, when I mentioned that does show you kind of the effect of the social imaginary, that you knew where I was going. And so that is, is kind of the the spot that I think Animal Crossing really activated was that social imaginary. And the interesting place, the interesting thing about that is that it's a generative play. So how Sam was talking about you can create in the Animal Crossing space in the way that interests you most, the social imaginary really supports that. And is actually one of the ways that they created or reasons that social scientists created this, this concept was to deal with the fact that change to a society comes from within the society. And so there was kind of a disconnect between how within such a rigid system, you could make change. And so the idea of this web of social imaginary that goes through our society was created. And so that's it's also a place for major cultural shifts, which I think makes it very interesting for museums. Next slide. Okay, so we've got Animal Crossing is a really, really compelling instance of this social imaginary concept. So why, you know, what was it doing? And I think this is where we really get into the meat and potatoes is that during this this way of of COVID-19, shutdowns, it offered players a place to find and fulfill needs that they couldn't longer do when they're kind of regular lives. So you could have a sense of personal safety while also having personal interaction. You could have increased agency at a time when you were no longer really allowed to do the things that may have brought you the most joy. And you know, even though, as Jeremy mentioned that it's not really a life simulator, it allows players to progress in their kind of way and their time, there's really no end goal. No, no big timers, even though there are like, milestones, I would say in the game. It's very relaxing. So people found it a way to reimagine their lives in a way that was more fulfilling than than the current moment. So,

Unknown Speaker 38:51
next slide.

Unknown Speaker 38:54
Alright, so we're back to our original question. You know, Animal Crossing is compelling. It works in this social imaginary area that's really important to society. And also, you know, it's part of gaming society or culture, which is important to our culture. This is all great. But what does it mean for museums? Well, I think that engaging with games like Animal Crossing that really work in this social imaginary, will allow us, like Jeremy said, to to access a younger demographic, an audience that maybe is underserved, and one that we can really have a deep, engaging experience in, in a video game world, whereas they may not connect in other ways. So thinking of Sam's presentation, as well, when you're thinking of neuro diverse audiences, this is really a great way to meet people where they are. And also it can increase a feeling of agency and empathy between museums because we're engaging with a culture that's important to our community. Right. So we're showing that that we're able to take ourselves back from that really authoritative place, and maybe engage in a different way. And I think also, you could make the case that museums really function in this social imaginary space as well, there's a lot of times that museums ask visitors to examine their biases to rethink really, maybe long held beliefs and to imagine a world that that works or functions in a different way. And you do that in a in a space where people gather together. So you're not just isolated as an individual that this is happening in that community aspect. So I think that we could learn from the success of things like Animal Crossing, to kind of inform our own processes in in the galleries, as they would say, so perfect. So I think that these possibilities are really exciting. Not to geek out too much. But I think that, you know, increasing our understanding of how games and game cultures function in our society is really meaningful. Because we should always be trying to understand our own time, and our own communities. And this can actually help us with that. I think that finding new avenues to interact with people is always important, and especially those areas where we may feel uncomfortable, shows us that we know less than we should, and we should engage in those areas, so that we can learn more. And I think that that, you know, that uncomfortable area shows that you're pushing yourself and your institution further. And I think that, you know, the gamification of museums, as it were has some real great possibilities, I could see a future where instead of just a book club, about, you know, an exhibition, maybe at our art museum, we could have a game club, where we would actually play, and then come back and have a discussion just like a book club, or where young people could come and instead of having a drawing class, you could have a game class. And you could learn about constructing our plane through an area, or then move into another space, where maybe you're designing a game, I think these are all things that are possible. And I think it's an exciting new avenue for museums. So So I just wanted to leave you with, weirdly, a piece that I have on my wall behind me have an ancient quote, frankly, that's just been reworked and kind of a game of fine way. So Who Dares Wins? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So really, I noticed a time of scarcity for museums. But I feel like this is a space that we can move into and make a real, a real difference. So thank you.

Unknown Speaker 43:05
All right, let's get this going. Okay, so I'm going to be the one that puts the damper into things, because I'm going to talk about how Animal Crossing. Next slide please. How Animal Crossing perpetuates certain ideas. So first of all, we have the museum itself, the facade is a neoclassical building. It's in its functioning. It's very similar to a cabinet of curiosities or a 19th century museum. Those museums now, Kevin, go come before, the way bladder operates is very similar to this. Okay. So, bladder sense bladders, if you don't know, it's the owl, that is the curator of the museum. And he functions in the forum as sir Hans Sloane, the founder of the British Museum, the museum itself, it's a biology Art Museum. So the closest thing we have to that would be a universal Museum, these kind of museums that have a variety of collections, different departments that handle different parts of it. And in a way, this could be like this Smithsonian, if you take the whole thing into one. The way that animals creatures and art is collected is very similar to collection practices back in the 18th and 19th centuries, where it's this individual, mostly us who is going through the world and it's taking and it's taking and it's taking, and then we send it to the museum it the one thing that's different is that we keep the animals alive, thankfully. But in terms of the the fossils, it's in a very particular way, like Unwins and all the solder, a palaeontologist in the beginning where they would go into place to start digging take out of the ground and send it to museums often without context which really hurts the the supplement. So What am I getting through this is that l. The, the museum and Animal Crossing perpetuates these very outdated notions in a way so well, it's sure it's very fun, we also have to keep in mind that it is perpetuating the classicist idea of museums. On the other hand, it has very interesting exhibition design, although it's not interactive, except for a little part. Next slide, please. So as you can see here, this is the entrance. And if you can see, there's like little like colored lines, these are taxonomic taxonomies of the animals. So you can see like, a form of evolution of the creatures, I haven't had the chance to fact check them, but I do know there's mistakes. Next one, please. So this is more this is where you see the evolution of the actual villagers in Animal Crossing. So you have the elephant amendments. Then if you go up, you will see a picture of the silhouette of an animal crossing person. So now in this case, you have some proto humanoid, and then you have yourself and you can post yourself there and it will actually illuminate so that's the one particular interactive it that I wanted to touch on. Next one, please. Then we have a more traditional gallery setting where it is an art gallery. What is interesting, and is that it's not creating the traditional divide between periods are art styles, or even regions where we have this idea that the there's this hierarchy and oddball in Dr. Gore, where you have Western art at the top, then you have Asian, specifically Japan and China. And then you start having like, all the other arts and then usually with the Americas. So again, that's one of the good things that Animal Crossing is doing. Next one, please. How long do I have? Okay, so, that's talking about the museum, but we also have to talk about Red. Red is the art trader. He is he is an art dealer with access to some of the most sought after art world artworks in the world. lathers does not ask questions how these things got, like found because we know like the Mona Lisa's and Lou, but it's also in our island, right? So who has the original one? He also seems very shifty. He sells at a loss. He Well, he tells you that he sells a loss and considering what a grand piano in the game costs, yes, he is selling at a loss. He will tell you that painting is 4 million barrels and then he decides to give you a costing discount. So this is very similar to how a

Unknown Speaker 47:43
bank backroom deals with stolen artworks you never sell you always say on pennies on sell on pennies on the dollar. So that's been one of the interesting things about this. It also is reminiscent of the Swiss, anonymous Swiss collector, which is a way that art dealers find, like stolen work, they they tend to say, well, this has been in the family of an anonymous Swiss Swiss collector and he just decided to sell it. Again, he provides a little provenance and he also sells you fakes which sometimes are very, very hilarious and actually sounds as I prepare them to the actual ones. Next one, please. Okay, so what what where does this leaves us? So we have a museum that promotes interest in art and science. However, it is starting from an outdated conception of the museum. We do have interesting facts However, some of them can be erroneous like the fish we'll we'll see. In a little bit like a goldfish we'll see in a little bit more. Then we have collection minigames buck bug, catching fossil hunting, fishing, in these may prompt people to start like exploring the the outside world, eventually, obviously not right now. But at the same time, it's a little bit of irresponsible collection. Because Are you taking this rare insect out of its concert context, just because you saw that it's done in Animal Crossing? Will you put it in a little box where it doesn't have what it needs to eat what it needs to? To live in, right? So it's always this balancing it. And then finally, it teaches you about specific artworks, true labels, and the real and fakes minigame.

Unknown Speaker 49:32
Again, we

Unknown Speaker 49:33
need fact check in but it's really interesting because it promotes observing not just looking at artworks, which is something that we've seen in museums with 27 minutes no 27 seconds being DeAndre, which does their studies about this. The average time spent looking at an artwork is 27 seconds. So this mini game actually encourages people to look at things you No, like not just, oh, I was where the Mona Lisa is, which is what's happening now like we just take a selfie and move on, we mediate our experiences for art through a second screen. So, in a way, this is really refreshing because now you have people who know who is or who made. The Mona Lisa, who made the lady with the are mine, who did a variety of things, right. Next one, please. So this this one, I couldn't get it because I already had a goldfish. So and I couldn't find one because it's out of season. So he tells you that the size of the goldfish tends to depend on the size on the tank it's in and that is factually wrong. It's a myth. goldfish will continue growing and they will outgrow their tanks. And then most people just flush them down the toilet. So it perpetuates these kinds of things. Okay, next week. Okay, thank you. However, it's not all doom and gloom. Let's talk about opportunities, things that we can do, how we can leverage Animal Crossing. So first of all, some opportunities are very obvious. The sharing of the collections, artworks through the custom design systems, the Met already does this, right. Got it. First of the collection, even if you don't have these artworks in the museum, you have experts who right now cannot talk to anybody. So maybe just take them out and have them. You know, well, this is a Vermeer, this is a hokusai. This is a nasty cat, which is also something it didn't mention, I find it really refreshing that there's no distinction between the wing victory of Samurai dress and the olmec head stone head, because it's usually that the the olmec head is in an anthropology museum where the winged victory is in an art museum. And that's been one of those things that we don't think about it. And in fact, sometimes it's ridiculous. Because you see, like, in my particular context, Latin American artworks that are from the renaissance in anthropology exhibitions. Well, you go to across to the other Museum, and it's in an art exhibition. You can see this in the British Museum and VNA, for example. Then we have Ghana Tuesday, I already mentioned that recreation of artworks within the game world, artists have already been doing this with Spiral Jetty, the dark rooms by the obliteration rooms, and all these sorts of things. I'll show some examples laters later, you can also invite users to share their own artwork, either through the custom designed system, which lets you create things within a grid. But by exploiting the grids, you can create way bigger artworks and display them on the floor, display them in groups. Then you can also curate exhibitions through the custom designs, you can do your own artworks and display them in the outside and invite others to create or recreate or curate exhibitions, right. And then trade contest contest contests and competitions around these ideas. Next one, please.

Unknown Speaker 53:17
Okay, so now we have some training samples. These are things that already happening. So we have the idea of the method lets you own a van Gogh then. And that one's really interesting. You just go to the collection, you find what you like, just tell it turned it into an Amazon thing and an Amazon into a Animal Crossing thing. You scan the code boom, Yona vango, super easy, super interesting. It took them less than three days to implement. Then we have something like Shinya Qian core. He is an artist that decided to create his own artworks because he was frustrated that there was no museum that well no way of editing or curating the museum. So he was like, screw this, I'm going to do my own museum. And then he just took and that's the Spiral Jetty. You can find more of their work, his work online. Then we have Steven hungers exhibition, which is literally he created artwork in Animal Crossing, and displayed it in his own house and invited people to watch the exhibition, which is really interesting, right? Then on the other one we have, this is just literally what is in the game literature leaning to people. But again, as I mentioned, there have been tours where people go like we're the curator goes and talks about all these things. And finally, recreation of a recreation of artworks. This is very, very famous, you know, the Artist is Present Marina Abramovich. He actually did it in a way. Well, she actually did it in a way where she just stood there and waited and waited for people to come in. After he gave them they gave she gave them the coats. I'm sorry, I'm not clear who it was this. But anyway, so that's how it works. Now, an excellent Next slide, please. So finally, it doesn't have to stop an animal crossing For example, blockwork is a company that does cultural heritage in Minecraft. What you're looking at is the Reporters Without Borders a library and they created this world. And literally, it's an effort to circumvent censorship. You can put any amount of information, hold it with an animal within Minecraft, and just let people go through this because most like suppressive regimes don't control Minecraft, for example. And because it's a server, you can host it anywhere. Oh, they can access it here. Let's move it to another one of the connectors. Okay, let's move it to another one. It takes no time. But they also done recreation of cities recreations of events. They have a very interesting, it's a company based in the UK.

Unknown Speaker 55:59
And we have for example, the VNA game jams, this is the winner. M is a small competition where you have one day to design and create a playable game video game. So this is an example of something that you can easily do like people come in game designers, amateur game designers, game design, students come to the museum, they create something, it is art, it's displayed in the gallery, it makes a connection with the with the with the people, and it also makes people come into the museum people that you would not usually get in. Right. other institutions like fact, Liverpool includes video games as part of their collection now. Well, it's their foundation of art and creative technologies. So they do this, they have all these things. Anyway. So that's me. Thank you for listening to everything I

Unknown Speaker 56:44
have to say. Awesome. Um, so we have four minutes. So let's let's divide that up into two minute to two minute chunks. Because there's two threads in the chat. I thought really, one is the one that Renee is going to talk about, that Meredith is talking about. The first thing I want to talk about is real quick is capitalism Animal Crossing, no cousin, you can you know, people posting things for real money to buy stuff, or in game or in game currency. And stock market, which is basically just a stock market in the game built on turnips, I'm not going to just type out words. game game critics have said about both of these things that they you know, games model The, the, you know, their games, the way people play is indicative of their time. So it's not shocking that these things exist, um, and that a lot of people have kind of ruined their experience of the game. This is like a lot of people got into the stock market really early on in Animal Crossing, and wrote about how I made them stop playing Animal Crossing, because I started viewing it as this transactional money experience rather than this like place of respite. And so I just wanted to say that in general, like, this is something Nintendo does not think is the way people should play the game doesn't really matter what Nintendo things, but nonetheless, is very clearly not intentional by the designer that people go really crazy. But the capitalism aspect of this, I don't really think it's in the text, either, if I'm my interpretation of the text, but anyways, there's that and then we're gonna talk about the other thing.

Unknown Speaker 58:09
Oh, yeah. So I don't think that we can separate gameplay from actual art. That's actually my main field, which is interactivity, media art. We have to stop thinking of new media art, or art as as this very static thing, that that's a very platonic interpretation of things, which already we know like they they consider the census particularly touched to be debasing so that that idea has to go away. I think that we have artworks are playable, we have our works are interactive, and we have artworks about game like games can be art. So I think that that divide tends to be exaggerated by museums, mostly because most newseum experts and curators are not gamers. But that's going to change where in 2020, my generation, I'm 37, we're starting to get into a place where we actually are the curators, we are the people that have the power to talk. So that's pretty much what I have time to talk now. But if anyone wants to contact me, I put up my contact information there. All right,

Unknown Speaker 59:17
with the last minute I just all of us, we just want to say thank you to MC n. It has been a great conference, closing remarks or after this. I really, really just want to thank everybody who my co panelists for working with me on this is really great to get to know all of y'all. And you know, I hope that Sorry, I'm getting emotional for no reason. I hope that next year, things will be better. Never stop trying to make things better. Never give up, never back down. Never give in the world is ours to make it better if we really just put the timeout and we exist in a long line of people who have tried to make the world better. And that is enough for me sometimes. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 59:55
Thank you. Yeah, thank you to Jeremy