Ever-Lockdown: Waiting through Times of Playbour and Pandemic in Animal Crossing
Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ (Nintendo 2020) huge popularity has previously been attributed to escapism prompted by the singularity of lockdown life (Frushtick 2020; Zhu 2020), resonating with analyses which have been quick to frame lockdown as a radical historical caesura in experiences of work and leisure (Harari 2020; Krastev 2020). However, Adam Chmielewski and Fernanda Bruno argue that lockdown can be seen in relation to continuities in neoliberalism’s alienation, isolation and hyperconnected domestic digital labour (2020; 2020) - a condition of prolonged and displaced anxiety I term ‘ever-lockdown’ - necessitating a more nuanced account of Animal Crossing’s ambivalent mix of busywork and relaxation. Rather than escapist utopia, consumerist dystopia (Chang 2019), or softened capitalism (Bogost 2020), I will consider Animal-Crossing as providing absorbing boredom in which intense interactivity can be interpassively (Pfaller, 2017) withheld in a time of demanding and destabilising crises, facilitating a subtle, affective sense of place amidst the ‘ever-lockdown.’
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