The Biden campaign recently came under fire for overtly politicizing a video game, which was intended to remain non-political. In an attempt to encourage young voters to head to the polls, the campaign created a political island within Nintendo’s hit game Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
The video game has been a massive success, becoming the Nintendo Switch’s second-best selling game within its first year of release. The premise of the game is that players create customizable islands. The game’s popularity inspired the Biden campaign to design its own island, based on former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign messages. The island is named “Biden HQ” and includes avatars of Biden and Senator Kamala Harris (D., California). According to The Verge, the island features a campaign headquarters, along with a train room dedicated to “Biden’s favorite mode of transportation.” In addition, the island includes Biden signs with standard logos for “Team Joe” and “Biden Harris,” along with a Biden pride sign and an aviator sunglasses sign. The island also includes a large advertisement for the Democratic Party’s “I Will Vote” website, which is dedicated to voter mobilization.
After months of silence on the topic, Nintendo recently came forth and condemned the Biden campaign’s use of the game in new guidelines, created specifically for businesses and organizations using the game. In addition to other guidelines, Nintendo now asks players to “refrain from bringing politics into the Game.” While it does not appear that Nintendo has removed the Biden campaign’s island from New Horizons, the new guidelines strictly forbid the campaign’s use of the game for political purposes.
Nintendo’s guidelines follow a torrent of mockery for Biden’s use of the game. The Hill’s Krystal Bell quipped that “[i]nstead of Medicare for All and Green New Deal, how about Animal Crossing yard signs? That’ll excite the youths!” Zach Parkinson, the Trump campaign’s deputy communications director, taunted that “Joe Biden’s campaign…spent more time in an alternate reality than they [did] in Wisconsin.” The Biden campaign’s use of the game has also been compared to Hillary Clinton’s “Pokémon Go to the Polls,” which was part of her 2016 campaign in which she encouraged voting during the height of Pokémon Go’s success. POLITICO’s Tina Nguyen lamented that “[it was] the 2020 version of Pokémon Go To The Polls.”
Chad Berkich is a Senior Editor for the Chicago Thinker. As a senior at the University of Chicago, he is majoring in mathematics. He is a Christian and conservative, and his other interests include superheroes and science fiction, video games, and rock music. He was the president of the University of Chicago's chapter of College Republicans for the 2022-2023 school year.