Virtual tree, real impact: how simulated worlds associate with the perception of limited resources

Humanit Soc Sci Commun. 2022;9(1):213. doi: 10.1057/s41599-022-01225-1. Epub 2022 Jun 24.


Video games have long been considered an effective educational tool. Environmental education studies have found that games positively affect the feeling of nature connectedness, producing pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors. With growing urbanization, video games also provide chances to interact with nature. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Nintendo's Animal Crossing: New Horizon (ACNH) became a household name, with millions of copies sold worldwide. The article used the Bayesian multilevel model to analyze 640 survey responses of ACNH game players from various online communities. The correlations between the perception of limited resources and virtual planting and exploiting behaviors with the varying effect among ethnicities were explored. The findings suggested positive correlations between the perception and in-game actions among all ethnicities, regardless of whether the actions are planting or exploiting. While further evidence is needed, the findings suggest the restraints of game mechanics. To foster a pro-environmental culture, stakeholders can consider video games a novel technological aid to environmental education.

Keywords: Cultural and media studies; Environmental studies; Science, technology and society.