PETA recently published a TikTok revolving around Nintendo’s smash hit Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The new Animal Crossing has become a cultural phenomenon, uplifting player spirits since its release in March. Most viral videos regarding the game have been humorous, meme-worthy and wholesome.
However, in my opinion PETA’s message misses the mark, and begs the question of why the activist organization can’t mind their own business and let us have fun?
In an attempt to jump on a bandwagon many of us have been on since March 22, PETA’s TikTok depicts a group of protesters raiding a “friend’s” island. Setting up camp in front of Blathers’ museum, the PETA members lay signs reading: “Empty the Tanks” and “Fish Belong in the Ocean”. Afterwards, the group enter the museum. They begin spamming those same messages to a distraught Blathers, who by all accounts is merely waiting patiently for a fish, bug, or fossil donation.
— PETA (@peta) May 19, 2020
This video is ultimately harmless in the grand scheme of things. Though, PETA’s verbal attack on sweet Blathers really irked me. The messaging comes across as tone-deaf, and is directed at the wrong audience. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a tranquil game with no means to subjugate any animals or living creatures. The mundane tasks the game pulls you through have no violent consequences, and the game has become a beacon of community building throughout the past few months.
PETA was seemingly trying to get in on the zeitgeist. However, the video itself was quite ironic to the activists’ overall messaging. With seven members of the organization dressed up in custom PETA attire, those players have already purchased the game. By purchasing a copy, PETA has supported the development team who created the mechanic of catching fish and bugs for selling or donating.
PETA later followed the video with an article dubbed ‘PETA’s Vegan Guide to ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’. The article examines the mechanics of the game and compares them to the real world. One of the closing statements of the article reads: “The premise of Animal Crossing: New Horizons should send the important message that other animals are individuals with whom we share the world—not objects for us to exploit. We are all animals—and we all deserve respect.”
PETA must have tripped on their own shoelaces when they produced the TikTok video. The group of seven activists decided to travel to someone’s island only to disrespect Blathers in the sanctity of his own museum. PETA’s statement of “we all deserve respect” may only factor in when it serves their own agenda.
If PETA wished to protest against certain mechanics of the game, a much more serviceable and impressive method exists. Blathers is only introduced to the game after the player donates a certain number of fish and bugs to Tom Nook in the early phases of the game. Animal Crossing: New Horizons also keeps track of how many days a player has logged on.
PETA could have attempted to send a message to the Animal Crossing community through a silent protest. The organization could have shown how long they have been playing without Blathers’ setting up his museum in-game. This could have been a more compelling way to get their message across.
Of course, this method would then block those players from advancing further in the game. I’m sure those seven activists wouldn’t have got their money’s worth that way.
This isn’t PETA’s first attempt to disrupt the gaming community to fuel their cause. The organization has taken shots at Minecraft, Pokémon, and countless other games. However, the organization’s efforts are typically farcical and are usually brushed off by the masses. Perhaps PETA is better off spending their bells to create content regarding real-world cases and leave us alone to have fun in our virtual worlds.