LGBTQ Help Group Marks Suicide Prevention Month With Fashion Via 'Animal Crossing'

Millions of people who play the phenomenally popular video game “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” will get a chance to dress their little avatars in clothing created by a group that provides crisis intervention for LGBTQ youth.

The Trevor Project designed the outfits, mostly in the organization’s signature orange color, and with pride rainbow accents. They’ll be available to players through the month of September, which is designated as National Suicide Prevention month. 

As Jonathan Silberman, the organization’s senior designer and website lead, points out, it’s probably a perfect place to be. Nielsen research says LGBTQ people make up 10% of all gamers who are 18 and over. 

“And anecdotally, I would guess  the percentage of LGBTQ people who play ‘Animal Crossing’ is even higher,” Silberman tells Marketing Daily.



For young people who can be troubled by how they fit into society, “Animal Crossing” can be a nice place to visit. Players create their own world, and live on their own islands, Silberman says by way of explanation.

In fact, he notes, the game doesn’t ask players to choose a sex for their avatars. Instead, “Animal Crossing” asks a player to pick a “style.”

“It’s a welcoming environment. The game lets you feel at peace when the world does not feel at peace,” Silbeman says. While players are on the site, they can message each other and spread the word on Trevor ’s outreach efforts. 

The Trevor Project outfits -- labeled TRVR -- join a group of other brands using the gentle video game to identify with players.

Those include Cottonelle toilet tissue, which created wallpaper players can use in their game’s home. Gillette’s Venus razor brand has created avatars that better represent the myriad skin tones and features that exist in real life, to promote its “My Skin, My Way” campaign. 

Signs touting the Biden-Harris presidential  campaign have also been made available to players. And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has made “house calls” to players’ in-game island homes.

Silberman designed the Trevor Project wardrobes, a first for him. But other designers including Valentino and Marc Jacob have also offered up “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” clothing. 

Nintendo, which makes “Animal Crossing,” has produced other iterations of it, going all the way back to 2001. 

But the “New Horizons” version seems to have been the right game for the moment gone wrong, as the world struggles with the pandemic and civil unrest. It sold 13 million copies in March, the month it debuted -- coincidentally, when the reality of the coronavirus seemed to sink in.  Explanations for sustained popularity, particularly with millennials, have even engendered scholarly analysis. 

Silberman says calls to the group’s hotline have picked up substantially this year because of the fretful times.

The Trevor Project social media sites have 1.5 million followers and its hotlines helped 150,000 LGBTQ crisis contacts (calls/online chats/texts) last year.

Silberman had never played the game “until about a month after the COVID-19 crisis began. Maryland, where I am, had some pretty severe rules in place. I had seen a lot of my friends playing it, so I had some FOMO.” The game, he found, has a “meditative aspect. It lets the stress of the world fall away.”

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