The Monterey Bay Aquarium closed its doors to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic — but it’s still able to inform people about aquatic wildlife thanks to Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
The organization hasn’t hosted any visitors since March 12, as only essential staff is currently allowed inside the Californian aquarium to care for its creatures. Creative thinking from social media specialist Emily Simpson enables the company to continue giving tours, however, albeit virtual ones. Simpson teamed up with content creator Patrick Webster to stream Twitch sessions of the recently released Nintendo Switch exclusive Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which let’s players catch fish and house them in an expansive aquarium.
“One of Animal Crossing’s core game mechanics is cataloging the animals and fossils on your island for your island’s museum curator, Blathers — making the game, as we play it, a Natural History Museum Simulator,” Simpson and Webster told Polygon. “With these institutions closed because of COVID-19, the game can become a virtual escape to do what is, at its core, what the aquarium and other museums do every day. We show you the amazing life you share your planet with, and tell you fun things about it! When we’re playing Animal Crossing, it feels a little bit like we’re back in our exhibit hall, rejoicing in discovering new things and sharing that with the world.”
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has done four live streams so far, which can be found on Twitch. The organization is also taking steps to expand upon its field of expertise by having guests on, such as fossil expert Emily Graslie of the Field Museum. The aquarium’s April 13 stream went on for two hours and went through both the fossil and aquatic sections of Animal Crossing‘s museum.
Animal Crossing even hosts a fish that has deep ties to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Its scientists researched the barreleye fish in 2009, and the team was able to solve the mystery of how its tubular eyes and transparent head works. Previously thought only to provide a limited view of what was above its head, researches found that the deep-sea fish can rotate its strange eyes to look up at prey or look forward.
As the Monterey Bay Aquarium doesn’t have any incoming ticket revenue from visitors during the pandemic, it’s asking for donations that will help cover costs for animal care and aquarium maintenance. The organization is a nonprofit that hopes to inspire ocean conservation.
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