To mark National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, nonprofit The Trevor Project is launching its first-ever digital clothing collection available for download from Thursday on the wildly popular Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Designed via NookPhone (the little mobile phone within the game) by Jonathan Silberman, The Trevor Project's senior designer and web lead, the collection includes bright and colourful t-shirts, hats, and other pieces for your island-dwelling character. The digital clothes have been designed in solidarity with LGBTQ players, to show them support and love within the game.
But the collection has been specifically designed with an aim to raise awareness for suicide prevention best practices, the core aim of The Trevor Project as a nonprofit organisation focused on suicide prevention among LGBTQ young people. In a survey of over 40,000 LGBTQ youth, The Trevor Project found that 40 percent of LGBTQ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year — that’s four times more likely than their peers. In addition, more than half of transgender and non-binary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year.
SEE ALSO: 21 reasons to keep living when you feel suicidal
The report also found that trans and non-binary youth who reported having their pronouns respected by all or most of the people in their lives attempted suicided at half the rate of those whose pronouns weren’t respected, and that one in three LGBTQ youth reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed due to their LGBTQ identity.
Animal Crossing came along at a time for increased social isolation for young people across the board during the coronavirus pandemic — a recent report by UK publisher OutLife found almost four in five LGBTQ+ people said that their mental health had been negatively impacted by the coronavirus lockdown.
In a press release for the clothing collection's launch, the Trevor Project noted the power of the game to help LGBTQ players form positive social connections and generate feelings of belonging and community in the game and across social media during a time of social-distancing and isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"ACNH has a very loyal and engaged fanbase. It also serves as a safe and supportive space for young people to curate their world and connect with their friends," Silberman told Mashable.
"Our research has found that LGBTQ young people who have a space where they feel affirmed in their identity are significantly less likely to attempt suicide. All of these factors contributed to our decision to design these items. We envision that young people will wear these clothes to show support for their friends, start conversations, or just feel even more affirmed in their own digital space."
The project could have quite the impact, considering the audience offered up by one of the most popular games of the year. Released on March 20, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is Nintendo’s second-best-selling game of the year, just shy of top seller Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, selling 22.4 million copies since its release. Truly benefiting from timing, the comforting simulation game became the Switch’s fastest-selling title ever, selling a record 13.4 million units in its first six weeks — and a recent Nintendo report noted that "of all systems in the Nintendo Switch family that were played for the first time during this period, over half were used to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the first day." That is a large and invested audience, and one that could truly support its LGBTQ peers within the game and out of it.
In addition, the LGBTQ community is a highly important and powerful part of the gaming world. A recent Nielsen survey about gaming found that 10 percent of all gamers over the age of 18 identify as LGBTQ. Plus, the study found LGBTQ gamers spend 8 percent more money a month on games than their straight peers.
So, next time you're playing Animal Crossing, stop by the Abel Sisters' clothing shop, where you can access the clothing collection by using the creator code MA-7248-1702-1536, or search the Custom Design Portal inside the store for the item title (e.g. "TRVR overalls").
Silberman's designs have a core orange hue, with details like rainbows incorporated into them. The overalls are especially excellent — and not something you can find in the game already. "The Animal Crossing creators are such a prolific and creative bunch of people that I took a lot of inspiration from their designs," he told Mashable. "Once I had a solid idea of the offerings and options that were available, I made a pixel grid in Adobe Illustrator that matched the in-game designer app. This helped me map the designs from my computer over to the game.
"There are a lot of limitations built into the design portion of the game, but I’ve found problem-solving around limitations are what creates the most interesting solutions. Take the overalls for instance; there is no analogous clothing base inside the game, so the design is actually just painted on a dress form — an ingenious idea I got from the creators already working in the space."
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