Five Things We Can Learn From Animal Crossing New Horizons (includes island tour)

May 2020



I haven’t enjoyed a game this much since childhood! If it weren’t for the pandemic, Animal Crossing wouldn’t have appealed to me because I’d have been too conscious of work-related activities I could be doing instead. But in these unusual times, it has helped with my anxiety. 


I hadn’t heard of New Leaf or any of the previous versions, so I took New Horizons as I found it. My island isn’t finished but I’m sharing some of what I’ve done so far in this article. I’ve been playing for seven weeks and I’m currently on 4 stars (without time travel.) 


I think success in Animal Crossing can motivate us to succeed in the real world. Here are five examples.


  • From the ground up

In Animal Crossing: At the start of the game, you’re in a tent. You can’t access parts of the island because there’s no way to cross the rivers or climb cliffs. You’ve only got the clothes on your back (which might be hideous) and you don’t know anyone.



Over time, strangers become friends. You upgrade to a house. You build bridges and staircases (after pole-vaulting over rivers and scaling the cliffs with a ladder for a while.) You get clothes via online shopping and as gifts from your fellow islanders. Later a tailor shop opens.


In real life: Sometimes we lose motivation when we don’t achieve our goals quickly. We might see other people’s success and feel deflated (like when we tour 5-star islands.) 


With our careers, we have to remember we essentially started in a tent. Be proud of how far you’ve come, and accept that it takes time to go further.

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The Woods

  • Check in every day

In Animal Crossing: You’re awarded Nook miles for playing every day. These miles can be exchanged for products, DIY recipes, and airport tickets. Fossils and fruit spawn afresh each day, meaning you can progress quicker by selling these for bells (money) or donating fossils to the museum. Some tasks can’t be accessed till previous tasks are complete. The sooner you start, the sooner it’s done.


In real life: Like our islands, our careers need to be nurtured. Days off are important for mental health, but long or unnecessary breaks will slow our progress. The more you put in, the more you get out. 

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The Park & Beardo's House

  • Working with Tom Nook, rather than against him

In Animal Crossing: Most avid players probably get frustrated with Tom at some point! He’s problematic from Day One, charging us for a trip Timmy and Tommy (Nook’s minions) described as "all expenses paid."


He also tells us to collect firewood or something while he examines the "peach-like objects" in the trees. Upon realising they are indeed peaches, he asks us to go and pick the fruit. Couldn’t have done that yourself, huh Tom? 


He later charges us to create plots for new villagers, even though he will be their landlord. I mean, what’s it got to do with us?


Ultimately however, we all want the same thing – for the island to thrive. Although Tom can be annoying, it’s only through co-operating with him that we’re able to get the tools we need to improve our islands.


Plus, he’s not all bad. I don’t think he cares if you never pay your mortgage, and he sometimes organises treats free of charge (I loved the May Day maze.)


Side note: There’s a conspiracy he’s a man in a racoon suit. I find that thought so creepy! 

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In real life: Sometimes we have to put up with difficult people or situations for the benefit of the project as a whole. Most musicians experience problematic collaborations at some point. In most cases, we grit our teeth until the project is complete for the sake of the music and any other people in the group. 


I think unless the situation is so unpleasant or you feel so passionately that it’s worth taking a stand, it’s best to be positive and try to make the most of it. 


Streaming is a good real life example. Streaming platforms are infamous for how little they pay artists (read How Music Streaming Services Actually Work.) Unless you’re going to withhold your music from these platforms entirely, there are advantages to working with rather than against them. That’s not to say you can’t get creative…

Some Animal Crossing players time travel to get around Tom’s restrictions. In the real world, Taylor Swift and Cimorelli released albums early to fans that bought the album. This is great because it increases income and rewards loyal listeners, without alienating those that aren’t going to buy and want to listen through their streaming subscriptions.

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Bamboo Cafe & Renee's House

  • Get creative with what you have (instead of worrying about what you don’t have)

In Animal Crossing: You can buy furniture online and in-store, but supplies are limited and change daily. There isn’t a mammoth catalogue anywhere. This means we have to furnish our homes to the best of our ability with what we have. 


We find furniture in trees, our neighbours give us gifts, and we craft items at DIY stations. This isn’t always easy, but most of us are able to create beautiful homes. 

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In real life: If you don’t have a big marketing budget, promoting or even creating your work can be tough, especially when starting out. Instead of giving up, we get creative with what we have.


Kickstarter and Patreon can be useful for fundraising. Canva is brilliant for creating DIY social media graphics. I created my website myself because at this stage, a designer isn’t my biggest priority. MailChimp is amazing for email marketing (free up to 2000 subscribers.)

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  • Chat to your neighbours

In Animal Crossing: We’re rewarded with Nook miles and gifts for making friends and talking to our fellow islanders. Who are your favourites? Mine are Ava, Axel, and Beardo. Axel grew on me. At first I found him annoying because, as someone put it on Twitter, he’s my "jock islander who goes on about his abs when he doesn’t have any." Now he is my character’s best friend. 


Who’s on your wish list? I wanted a fox and I found Freya. I thought she couldn’t get any better until she started wandering round the island in a Christmas jumper – in May! I'm now on the hunt for a cat.

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Beach Walk/Lighthouse & Orange Grove (oranges aren't my native fruit so they're worth 500 bells each)


In real life: Keeping in touch with our clients, caring about their work, and generally getting to know people on a one-to-one basis is important. Not only can we make lifelong friends, but this also helps us sustain our careers. 


Show people you appreciate their support. Whether you send them a gift or a simple email, it doesn’t go unnoticed.

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Tourist Area & Outdoor Gallery (waiting for Flick to visit so I can order more bug models)


That’s all for this post. Please subscribe to this blog to be notified when new posts are published. I usually post about making money in music. 


Read the previous post in this series:

Five Ways We Can Learn From The Sims FreePlay

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