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This country has banned Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Poor Isabelle is in trouble. Believe it or not, it looks like China is banning the cutest game of 2020 from sale. Reuters is reporting that retailers in China are officially refusing to carry Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch

The issue stems from Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong using the game popularity and Twitter following as a platform to protest the Chinese government's rule of Hong Kong. According to Wong, the current COVID-19 outbreak has led to pretty much everyone staying indoors. Consequently, people have been unable to protest publicly as they normally would, which has led to people finding alternative methods. To that end, Wong has posted screenshots of his character surrounded by protest banners and shouting slogans like "Free Hong Kong," which is basically the quickest way to draw the ire of the Chinese government.

As explained by Wong, he's relatively new to the game. However, he quickly realized that the level of customization afforded to him by the game made it a unique way of spreading his message. Wong tweeted, "I play the game, I just bought it a few days ago. For lots of people around the world who play this game, they have to put their ideal life into the game, and for HKers, we have to put our protest movement and our protest sites inside the game."

As pointed out by Reuters, "It is not clear whether the pulling of the game is a directive from China's content regulator or a voluntary act by politically sensitive e-commerce platforms." In other words, it doesn't appear as though the Chinese government has made any specific statements regarding the banning of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. However, it's highly likely that such a statement will be forthcoming.

This is not at all an unprecedented move for China. In fact, it's worth remembering that sales and manufacturing of video game consoles were outlawed in China entirely until just a few years ago. As explained by The Verge, "Game consoles were first banned in 2000 due to fears that the devices ... had a negative effect on the mental and physical development of children."

In 2014, China began allowing production again, albeit in a small and very restricted area. Since then, the laws surrounding video games have become incrementally more relaxed. Though games aren't being released in the kinds of numbers that they are in other parts of the world, China's regulatory arm has gotten better about approving different titles' releases in the country. China's fears concerning gaming addiction still persist, however. This has led to the country placing heavier restrictions on gaming habits in general. Young gamers are allowed up to 90 minutes of gaming a day, with a cut-off time of 10 P.M. This is meant to help encourage children to keep up with their studies and preserve their eyesight. 

Still, even with this kind of government oversight, the gaming industry in China is in a much better spot than it was just a few years ago. At least now, gamers aren't having to be sneaky with their purchases of new titles. Well, for the most part.

Apparently, according to Reuters, some resellers are trying to direct customers to sites that are moving unsold copies of New Horizons without listing its name. The game is still available through these channels for the time being, so it's likely that fans who are worried they'll miss out on the game will be buying it up before an official word from the government. Sadly, any Chinese gamers who hope to partake in Animal Crossing: New Horizons will have to do so just slightly outside of the law.

Vice has reported that Wong's protests quickly caught on with other Chinese players. Many other people have taken to Twitter to show off their islands and how they've decorated their in-game homes so that they can protest online. Others have taken to outright criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping with their in-game creations.

As Vice points out, only three Nintendo Switch games have been officially approved for mass sale by the Chinese government since the console was released in China. Basically, Chinese gamers have gotten pretty used to trying to import their games from other sources. This might not end up entirely impacting the game's visibility in China, even if it's now seen as something of a taboo item.

For Joshua Wong's part, he only feels more confident in ever in the ability of his fellow activists in China and across the globe. He recently tweeted that he has "a lot of hope in youth activism and transnational social engagement."