Epilepsy charity urges ‘Animal Crossing’ developers to address feature they say could cause seizures

The poster for Animal Crossing: Happy Home Paradise.
The latest ‘Animal Crossing’ feature reportedly contains a sequence with strobe lighting. Nintendo
  • A new “Animal Crossing” DLC pack reportedly includes a flashing light sequence.
  • An epilepsy charity said such footage has the potential to trigger a seizure for some people.
  • They are urging developers to make the game “safer for everyone.”

A British epilepsy charity is urging developers to update a new “Animal Crossing” feature after social media users reported it contains flashing lights that they speculate has the potential to trigger symptoms for people with certain medical conditions like epilepsy. 

The “Happy Home Paradise” downloadable content (DLC) pack was released earlier this month for players of the social simulation game “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” which was originally released on the Nintendo Switch in spring 2020. DLCs offer additional content created for an already-released video game. 

According to a gameplay video posted to YouTube on Saturday, the new “Animal Crossing” DLC features a concert sequence including an assortment of flashing lights.

The concern stems from the fact that when faced with flashing lights, some people might have a “photoparoxysmal response,” meaning the electrical activity in some people’s brain shows a “characteristic change,” according to Dr. Johannes Pulst-Korenberg, an assistant professor of clinical neurology at the University of Southern California. In a statement to Insider, he added that in epilepsy patients, this can progress to seizures. 

Research published in “The Journal of Headache and Pain” suggests that this response, which is also known as photosensitivity, may be linked to other medical issues like migraines. 

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes people to have seizures, which the World Health Organization defines as “brief episodes of involuntary movement.” While it is rare, epilepsy and seizures can be fatal, according to the nationwide US charity the Epilepsy Foundation. 

Chantal Spittles, a spokesperson for British charity Epilepsy Action told Insider they were “alarmed” by reports that the new “Animal Crossing” DLC contains a strobe light scene. “We urge the developers to consider ways to update the game as soon as possible, to make it safer for everyone,” she said.

Insider found no reports of people with epilepsy experiencing seizures as a result of the “Animal Crossing” DLC, however, Spittles believes there is a potential risk.

“These features are unsafe and should have been avoided to make the game more accessible. With huge demand and excitement around these games, they can pose a very real and serious risk,” she added.

Twitter user Liz Moore said they have postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS), a circulatory condition which can lead to migraines due to light sensitivity, according to research published in the “Journal of Arrhythmia.”

In a series of tweets on November 15, Moore warned other players about the reported lights sequence, and in a direct tweet to Nintendo, asked whether they could include a warning about the lights sequence or give players the option to skip. 

“It’s frustrating that gamers are having to help each other figure out how to avoid things like seizures or headaches when Nintendo could have prevented the issue with some kind of warning or skipping the strobe lights entirely,” Moore told Insider.

Nicola Swanborough is head of external communications at the Epilepsy Society, a UK-based epilepsy charity unaffiliated with the US charity of the same name.

In response to concerns raised about the “Animal Crossing” DLC, she told Insider that game developers should conduct the Harding Test, which involves using software to flag and analyze specific sequences and images in a game that could trigger epilepsy. 

Nintendo did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. 

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