Gamers Can Recreate Their Birthmarks For The First Time On Animal Crossing
With life the way it is at the moment, many of us are escaping into the expansive world of gaming; where we can play, interact and explore vast, unrestricted terrain.
There is perhaps no better game for this difficult time than Animal Crossing; a charming social simulation game which allows players to roam around an idyllic rural village filled with anthropomorphic animals.
It’s a gentle yet addictive game filled with peaceful activities such as fishing, fossil hunting and bug collecting. There’s also plenty of opportunities to craft and shape the world around you to fit your own personal ideal of what a haven should be.
The latest offering in the series, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, transports players to a deserted island, where they can enjoy peaceful beach-side walks and pole vaulting across rivers.
Fans of the beloved series have fallen in love with this latest game, which allows for a greater variety of customisation options than ever before.
Perhaps best of all, Animal Crossing: New Horizons players can now create their very own customised patterns which can then be applied to clothing, furniture, and indeed, their face.
Many players with birthmarks have been using this tool to recreate their own birthmarks, with many expressing delight that such an option is finally available.
UNILAD spoke with Jo Hindle, an Animal Crossing player who is passionate about spreading positive messages about facial differences and representation.
Jo, who himself has a port wine stain birthmark, has previously found that facial avatars in games offer rather limited options for facial differences.
The closest marker Jo could get for his own birthmark was a pink love heart on the cheek, and he had often wished for a customisation feature which would allow him to simply draw a pattern which could then be applied to the face.
Jo told UNILAD:
This feature in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is honestly exactly what I, and others with I’ve met with similar facial differences, have wanted.
I’ve never felt like I was making myself before, it just never felt right without my birthmark, it’s a part of me, and means so much to me.
It represents my personal growth, I used to cover it when I was much younger due to taunts and bullying. I always loved it, but I felt that I shouldn’t, it took time but eventually I gained confidence and learned to love every part of myself with no shame.
Making characters that are supposed to be me, but with no birthmark gave me that same feeling of how I did when I hid it, so being able to create my birthmark and show it makes me happy, I can be myself in game now.
Birthmarks are areas of pigmented or raised skin which are present at the time of, or shortly after, birth. Most are harmless, and they are not uncommon.
According to Healthline, over 10% of babies have some kind of birthmark, with some types being rarer than others.
For example, vascular birthmarks – such as hemangiomas – are found on the skin of approximately 5 to 10% of newborn babies, whilst port-wine stains occur with just 0.3% of newborns.
You yourself, or somebody you know, may well have a birthmark. However, as is the case with many types of facial differences, such marks are rarely seen in fashion shoots, on movie sets or indeed on the faces of heroic video game characters.
Jo told UNILAD how he hopes this new development will help younger people with birthmarks embrace and celebrate their differences:
I know many use online avatars to create their ideal self, for some that may be without their differences. However, I’d hope by giving the option to show your facial differences could help spread some positivity, normalise them, and normalise proudly displaying them, even online.
Especially for younger people how may be going through that period of uncertainty and becoming more aware they look different to others around them.
A few years ago, I made a post on Tumblr that gained quite a bit of traction. Just talking about my own experience with my birthmark, my struggle, my acceptance, and my pride.
The amount of responses and messages I got from others with similar differences blew me away, telling me how seeing others happy with who they are helped them feel happier with themselves also.
Having this feature means a lot to me, I want to show myself, and be myself, and hopefully others will feel the same.
I know this is just a little game feature, likely intended for just adding face paint or cute designs, but it means much more to me, it’s what I’ve always wanted in a game and I would love to see it in more games going forward.
According to a 2018 article in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, school children with port wine stains report increased bullying, teasing, and social isolation, and their self-esteem left gravely impacted.
Teenagers and young adults (aged 13 to 31 years) with port wine stains score lower for both mental health and self-perceived health, whilst a study of 71 patients over the of age of 15 found over half were ’embarrassed, anxious or depressed’ on account of their port wine stains.
UNILAD also spoke with Daniel, a 30-year-old freelance artist from Colwyn Bay, North Wales who has also expressed his appreciation for this new feature.
Daniel, who has a birthmark on his right cheek, told UNILAD how liking his birthmark ‘comes and goes’:
A lot of people on first glance ask me if it’s a black eye or burn, which is somewhat understandable and I can appreciate that it’s not a common thing and people are often curious enough to ask about it.
But for the most part I just catch people staring and sharply turning away when I look up to acknowledge them.
I’ve been self conscious of it in the past or in my weaker moments, but I’ve been told by friends that once they’ve seen me a few times it becomes less of a noticeable factor and just a part of who I am.
Speaking about the new feature, Daniel said:
I’m not entirely sure it was designed as a birthmark feature, but in Animal Crossing: New Horizons a player can design an emblem or pattern and apply it to clothes, walls, and even their face.
So immediately after seeing this I thought of adding my birthmark to my character and it ended up looking pretty great.
A lot of games I’ve played in the past have character creation tools and while I generally don’t head toward self-indulgence by putting myself into the game (whether it be out of a need for escapism or just self-consciousness) whenever I have tried to create a likeness to myself it’s always fallen short.
I don’t ascribe any importance to placing myself in the world in which I’m playing generally. I think gaming is more about escapism and playing a role, generally.
But to those who do put themselves into their games I think this is a great thing. Being able to see the identifying factors that make you you in a world that you choose to inhabit for leisure or thrill can be a fantastic confidence boost for those that need it.
When I was younger I definitely would have loved to do this and I think it really would have helped me come to terms with my birthmark more swiftly.
Being able to not hide behind a character but display your uniqueness with pride, as a badge of honour on the face of your character for the world to see. It’s definitely a good thing and whether or not it was designed with that in mind, I have to commend the creators for that.
Although it may seem like a small thing, seeing your face – with all its unique differences – depicted in something as everyday as a video game can have a profound effect for a person’s self esteem.
Whether or not this feature was intended to empower people with facial differences, other game designers should take absolutely note at the excited, and sometimes emotional, reaction to this tool.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.