Animal Crossing's Tom Nook: "Pleasant" Landlord or Anarcho-Capitalist?

New details were revealed about 'Animal Crossing: New Horizons' that put the motivations of everyone's favorite raccoon-dog landlord into question.
February 21, 2020, 8:39pm
Tom Nook, a racoon dog from the Animal Crossing series of video games, is leaning menacingly over a desk as he pounds his fist on it.
Screenshot courtesy of Nintendo

We have a few Animal Crossing fans on the Waypoint Radio crew, so of course we had to immediately talk about this week's Animal Crossing Direct. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has you setting up shop on a deserted island where you can collect resources to build furniture, clothing, a home, and eventually an entire town. This is all made available by the series' longtime landlord, Tom Nook. This time around, instead of saddling you with a loan for a small home without your consent, he sets you up with a tent, with a loan in the form of his own company currency. After completing certain tasks (such as collecting wood, catching fish) you are rewarded with "Nook Miles," which you use to pay back the initial loan and eventually purchase other goods and services from him.


This got us thinking: Has Tom Nook been an anarcho-capitalist all along? Was each town in the Animal Crossing series just a new venture for him to extract natural resources for his monetary gain, and this is just the first time we're in on the ground floor? We discuss the various implications of the direct and also what we're looking forward to in Animal Crossing: New Horizons on this episode of Waypoint Radio. You can listen to the full episode or read an excerpt below.

Austin: [There is a] third fantasy I just want to shout out really quick that seems to be underlying some of this. I recall conversations as I was watching [the Animal Crossing Direct], just how often in 2020 do you have a conversation with a friend, after some shitty climate news hits, where you're like "we should just fucking move to Montana and start a farm. We should just leave, we should figure out how to live off the grid." And obviously there is the shitty prepper version of this, like I said before, the version of this that's not left anarchism.

Gita: The anarcho-primitivists stuff where they pointedly won't answer the question of what happens when my glasses break.

Austin: What happens when my glasses break, what happens when there is a sexual assault here?

Gita: Yeah, what if I can't get my medications?

Austin: Exactly, totally Exactly. How do we deal with–

Gita: What happens when someone becomes physically disabled temporarily or permanently?


Austin: Or permanently? Yeah, what is your plan for actual accessibility? Is there going to be some sort of group funded blah, blah, blah. But there is, underlying that, still this feeling of "we don't need this shit. We could be happy on the coffee farm we start, and make coffee and hang out." That dream is real, and I think that this that this game definitely strikes that chord more than previous Animal Crossing games, because there isn't a town right there, right?

Cado: The part that breaks that for me is the fact that Nook is selling you on this thing, which to me it keeps reminding me of that thing that was going around about Bhutan, and how many "untapped" resources were in that country.

Gita: "Untapped."

Cado: Yeah, this idea of like, "here's this beautiful wilderness that we need to use or change in some way." Something about the fact that you're building everything from the ground up, versus the old style, where you're coming to a place that's already established and things aren't being built anymore. You're just kind of finding your space within [this town]. [In New Horizons] you're the first wave.

Austin: And then get on this plane and go from island to island and get your resources. Don't worry, they're all going to be there forever, right? And you're right. It is the other way, which is you get that fantasy of going to the the untapped resource market and taking all those resources and turning them into–


Cado: Into "civilization."

Austin: We're bringing civilization.

Cado: We've got to take all of these things that are living on this island and put them in a museum.

Gita: Yeah. I did think it was very interesting that they phrase the building a house as optional, but you know everybody is going to be building a house!

Cado: That's the whole point! Everyone's going to build a house!

Austin: Everyone's gonna get a house!

Gita: I'm gonna build a house immediately!

Cado: Same!

Austin: So in some ways is this just revealing something that was always there in Animal Crossing underlying as a pretext.

Cado: I think a little bit.

Gita: I still think that the general niceness of Animal Crossing defeats these like more cynical readings.

Austin: Well, it's not even a cynical reading because again, I know I'm going to have a good time with this game.

Gita: Yeah, exactly!

Cado: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Austin: I'm gonna play this game and be like, "look at my cool shirt."

Discussed: Politics 3:04, Wide Ocean Big Jacket 13:24, Corruption 2029 24:14, Animal Crossing Direct 42:13, Covet Fashion 1:22:11, Destiny 1:24:25, No Man's Sky 1:25:17

This transcript was edited for clarity and length.

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