This week, we are publishing the work of all the winners and runners-up in the high school and middle school categories of our Seventh Annual Student Editorial Contest. You can find them all in this column.
“How Animal Crossing Will Save Gen Z”
By Ananya Udaygiri, age 15, Shadow Creek High School, Pearland, Tex.
Generation Z was born in the aftermath of 9/11, molded by the economic recession of 2008, and polished off by the coronavirus, the worst pandemic in a century. And that doesn’t even include the mounting crisis of climate change. Or the growing nationalism. Or the gun violence epidemic. Gen Z’s childhood is rooted in issues that would be unrecognizable only a decade prior. We are no strangers to a fight. So what drew us to a Japanese video game about living in a village with anthropomorphic animal neighbors? Like moths to a flame, or perhaps more appropriately, like children to their first love, Animal Crossing has captured the young teenage heart.
Animal Crossing is a video game made by Nintendo in the early 2000s. The game’s iterations and evolutions have mirrored our developments throughout grade school, and now, when the curtains of our childhood begin to close, Animal Crossing’s masterpiece has taken the stage. Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the latest version of the game, is now a staple of Generation Z’s culture. The characters in the game connected with my generation at a level never seen before. Yet in Animal Crossing, the characters live virtually unrecognizable lives.
The basic premise of Animal Crossing is small-town living. Your character, a human villager, performs basic, everyday functions. You fish. You catch bugs. You grow a tree. Common themes are relaxation and simplicity. Even the soundtrack is purposely designed as a calm lullaby, which harks back to simpler times today’s teens have only dreamed of. It’s a stark contrast to the chaos of our lives. In a New York Times article focusing on Animal Crossing in the age of coronavirus, the author described how Animal Crossing was a “miniature escape” for those isolated by the pandemic. He labeled it as a “balm” for the “rushing tonnage of real-world news.” While that is certainly true, for Generation Z it encompasses all that and more. The characters in the game don’t have to worry about school shootings, arbitrary college admissions or the rapidly deteriorating environment. They simply… live. For a generation that has been denied safety, a voice, and now, as the final blow, the coming-of-age traditions of prom and graduation, Animal Crossing represents a Gen Z vision for better times.
There are those who seek to diminish my generation’s concerns. They cite the suffering of others and admonish us for our presumptuousness. But sadness is never relative to others. Our generation’s troubles are valid and growing. Buzzfeed News so aptly describes it as a “generation free fall.” So pick up your video game console. Load in Animal Crossing. Play the game. For Generation Z, Animal Crossing is hope, and it will save us all.
Brodeur, Michael Andor. “The Animal Crossing Soundtrack Is an Unlikely Lullaby for a Nervous World.” The Washington Post, 21 April 2020.
Brooks, Ryan. “The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Put Gen Z And Young Millennials’ Lives On Hold.” Buzzfeed News, 20 April 2020.
Buchanan, Kyle. “Animal Crossing Is the Perfect Way to Spend Quarantine.” The New York Times, 31 March 2020.