Animal Crossing by Kelsey Lewin
Before the world of Animal Crossing became a pandemic lifeline for millions, the “social sim” communication game Dо̄butsu no Mori, or “Animal Forest,” debuted in 2001 on Nintendo 64 in Japan, then once again in 2002 on GameCube to critical and commercial success all over the world.
An open-ended casual game ahead of its time, Animal Crossing set the stage for the series’s many incarnations to come with its focus on building community and friendship, its in-game currency of Bells, and its village of Animalese-speaking friends like Tom Nook, K.K. Slider, and the mean Mr. Resetti. You could visit the villages of your friends and give them gifts—all without being connected to the internet.
Video game preservationist and historian Kelsey Lewin tells the story of how a mundane-sounding game full of bug-catching, letter-writing, and furniture-collecting became one of Nintendo’s best-loved franchises, with Animal Crossing: New Horizons eclipsing Super Mario Bros. for all-time sales in Japan, unlocking gaming’s massive potential to tap into our desire to plant trees, find friends, and make the world a better place. Pre-order on Kickstarter.
Kelsey Lewin is a writer, podcaster, and video game historian, with a particular interest in the intersection between video games and real world application. She's the co-director of The Video Game History Foundation, and co-owner of retro game stores Pink Gorilla Games in Seattle, Washington. When she's not talking to her Animal Crossing neighbors, you can find her evangelizing about the Wonderswan or hanging out with her bird.