In March 2021, my husband sent me an email with a link to an article by the National Videogame Museum that immediately grabbed my attention. The Museum had received a grant from The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund to create an archive and exhibition to explore and document people’s experiences of playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a videogame played on the Nintendo Switch, during the Covid-19 pandemic. I instantly felt a need to contribute, as playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons had been such an important part of my first year of living with M.E. Thinking about what I’d like to see in an exhibition myself, I decided I’d like to have a go at making a film (even though I had no previous experience in film making whatsoever!).
I contacted the National Videogame Museum to ask if there was a deadline for submissions and I was told “The first round of the Open Call closes tomorrow”. So not much time for me to make a film then! Luckily for me, that deadline was just for entries to be included in the exhibition. The submission deadline for the archive was going to be open for a good while longer. Slightly disappointed at having missed the chance to be included in the exhibition, I sent the museum a copy of my script, so they could get an idea of what my film was about – while I set to work capturing the relevant game play and editing it all together for inclusion in the archive.
In April 2021, my work was done and I submitted my film to The National Videogame Museum. It was strange to wonder if, one day, someone would go through the archive and watch it; learning something about Animal Crossing New Horizons, the Covid-19 Pandemic and life with a chronic illness…
Then, at the end of last week, an exciting email arrived in my Inbox. It was an invite to the launch of the Animal Crossing Diaries exhibition. I was stunned and then overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude when I realised that my film had been included! Apparently the whole team curating the exhibition had watched my film and agreed it should be a part of the showcase. How amazing is that?! I think the exhibition looks fantastic and it’s fascinating to see all the different experiences people have had of playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons during the pandemic.
I’ve continued to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons every day, without fail, since the game was released. Recently, I’ve been having the most fantastic time making new friends from the M.E. Community, who also play the game and have become my Island-hopping buddies! Playing with friends has added a new social element to the game, which I had not experienced at the time I made my film and it’s made the game even more fun to play.
A key aim for me in making the film was to try to raise awareness of M.E. whilst celebrating the simple joy of playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I wanted to do something to help to show what it’s like living with a chronic illness; especially in the light of the Covid-19 lockdowns. Falling ill in October 2019, I’d felt like my life in lockdown had started six months early when, in March 2020, everyone else joined me in staying at home and missing out on all the freedoms of normal life. The poignant thing for me was realising that, for most people, the lockdown was only ever going to be temporary, but, for me, and the millions of other people around the world who have M.E., it could well be permanent. There are many people with M.E. who are a lot less fortunate in their experience of the illness than me, as they are housebound and even bedbound. They live in a permanent state of lockdown due to their ill health and are often referred to as ‘The Millions Missing’. I wanted my film to shine a light on this experience – to raise awareness and help to promote understanding and empathy. For this reason, I am especially pleased to see that my film has also been highlighted at the end of the Animal Crossing Diaries Timeline:
…for many with chronic illness and disabilities, the game reflects the hope for more accessibility in attending events and interacting with others. This entry reminds us not to forget the power of virtual alternatives as they recount their experiences with M.E combined with their experiences of the pandemic.National Videogame Museum
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team at the National Videogame Museum for putting the Animal Crossing Diaries together and for including my short film, M.E. And My Island, in the exhibition.