Student Reflection-Environmental Justice in Animal Crossing New Horizons (12.1)

By Mica Meader, Iowa State University

This project taught me so much about the recording and editing process of making a video. I’m honestly quite surprised at how many times these skills have come in handy in the past year. I have made multiple video projects for school, and I have made videos for fun.

I am an English major. This realm of study, the study of popular culture, is often seen as a waste of time, or as ‘less academic’ than, say, a Shakespeare class. But learning about pop culture, and learning to critique it, and take it seriously, is a valuable avenue of study. It teaches about power and communication; it teaches about people. After all, Shakespeare was once popular culture, (it could be argued that it is still pop culture, but that’s an entirely different conversation).

As this was my first video project, I was rather nervous about my editing and recording abilities. I shared my qualms about recording with my brother, who had made YouTube videos about videogames before. He let me borrow his recording equipment and he recommended me the free editing software he used, Shotcut. When it came time to record, and then edit, it took me one weekend, Friday through Sunday. I was so excited about this project, I just couldn’t stop working on it. I edited long into the night, having a blast.

One of the things I struggled with while writing the script was finding a good starting ‘bit’ for the video. I wanted something to introduce to the audience what game I was covering, Animal Crossing New Horizons, and to set up consideration of the natural world in it. I had many ideas, one of which was an experiment to demonstrate the flaws of the ranking system that ended up being way too time consuming. I decided on a mock island tour that would go over several aspects of trees in New Horizons. The tour would then be humorously cut short by an onslaught of wasps from a nest that fell out of a tree I shook. I thought this was all the introduction I would need. I never dreamed that the video would be published, as I didn’t even intend to upload it to YouTube other than as an unlisted video, so I assumed that the viewers, my classmates, would know both the game and the context for the video. When I got feedback from my classmates, however, many of them said they didn’t know anything about the Animal Crossing games and could therefore offer little feedback. I wasn’t sure how to fix this, as the due date was imminent and my (brother’s) recording equipment was at my parents’ house, an hour and a half away. If I had had more time, I might have redone the entire intro to more thoroughly explain Animal Crossing New Horizons. However, I think the Jump+ editors who recommended revisions had a much better idea. They advised me to write an introduction to the game, rather than record one. This way, those who had played the game could skim it or skip straight to the video, and those who had not played it could get a big picture explanation, and go into the video more informed.

Another revision suggested by Jump+ was the inclusion of outside research. They wanted to know how other people had approached the issue of Environmental Justice in videogames. I was hesitant to do hardcore research that I would for an academic paper, because the original assignment I made this video for did not require me to do that kind of research. However, I decided to include at least some light research. If nothing else, it would help place my project in a wider conversation and give it a frame, background, and some more context.