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Animal Crossing etiquette guide: The dos and don’ts of online multiplayer

(The Washington Post illustration; Nintendo)

With many of us observing social distancing and stay-at-home orders in place around the world, Animal Crossing: New Horizons provides a virtual getaway with friends. Visiting a friend’s island allows you to hang out without leaving your home. But just as in the real world, it’s important to mind your manners if you’re hosting or visiting friends.

Building an island village is a lot of work, after all, with some players pouring hours upon hours into customizing their towns. While visiting, your actions can have lasting ramifications. If you’re new to Animal Crossing, or if you haven’t checked out its online portion in earlier games, here are some helpful guidelines to consider for respectfully playing online.

Keep in mind that these are suggestions. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game with immense flexibility, and no one should tell you how to play. But respect and listening to others (and what their preferences are) can go a long way.


Trample on flowers

Gardening plays a big role in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It’s a way for you to decorate your town or encourage certain insects to spawn. It’s also a way to increase your island’s star rating, which in turn unlocks other features such as terraforming.

Running, unfortunately, can lead to you inadvertently stomping on flowers. Doing so can ruin the host’s flowers for days; even with the help of watering, they’ll have to wait for them to blossom again. This can slow their overall progress and dampen the aesthetic of their town, which can be frustrating.

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Take fruit or resources without permission

Like flowers, it can take fruit a while to grow back on trees. Resources can become scarce if visitors grab too many at once. As such, it’s best to ask before picking fruit. The same holds true for star fragments (a rarer resource that appears on beaches after a player wishes on a shooting star), DIY crafting recipes and minerals found in rocks.

Smash rocks, cut down trees and dig holes

Making layout changes without consulting the host can be an aggravating move, especially if someone has spent hours fine-tuning the aesthetic of their town. Don’t dig holes everywhere, or hit rocks and cut up wood, drying up an island’s resources.

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Additionally, be careful when consuming fruit. New Horizons comes with a new feature: fruit gives you more energy, letting you demolish rocks or uproot fully grown trees. Hitting rocks with a shovel on an empty stomach can yield crafting materials and bells. But after eating fruit, one tap with a shovel or ax will demolish a stone completely. Rocks will eventually respawn around the island, but this can still be an inconvenience.

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Buy limited edition wares from Nook’s Cranny

Every day, a new rotation of items becomes available at Nook’s Cranny. Near the back of the store, some are displayed on an elevated platform: These are limited edition wares that can only be bought once per day. If you’re a visitor on an island, it’s best not to buy items in limited supply. Other items, like clothes in Able Sisters and other items in Nook’s Cranny, don’t have those restrictions, so feel free to go on a shopping spree.

Share Dodo Codes without consent

Not everyone wants to open up their space to strangers. This is where Dodo Codes come in: Only those given a randomly generated code can visit. This is your golden ticket, so don’t share that with others without consulting the host.

Leave and return multiple times in short succession

Every time someone arrives or exits, it forces all visitors (and the host) to watch a short cutscene. Sometimes this can’t be helped. Especially with large groups, the server can get overcrowded and people may have trouble coming to an island. However, if you can help it, don’t leave and return multiple times. When you’re exploring an island, it can be frustrating to be interrupted constantly. I love seeing who’s arriving and what their customized title is, but having to stop what I’m doing can get annoying. It’s best to keep this in mind when you have a large group.


Decide carefully on best friend lists

To curb griefing (when players intentionally disrupt or ruin another player’s in-game efforts) Nintendo made a specialized in-game friends list called “Best Friends.” Once someone visits your island, you can send them a request to be on your list, granting them special privileges on your island (i.e. using tools like a shovel and axe). You’ll also be able to message them and see when they’re online. Only trusted friends should be added to this list, otherwise you may inadvertently give someone free rein to wreak havoc on your island.

Lay out ground rules

Before a visit, it might be best to give friends a heads up on certain behaviors you don’t want on your island, or let them know how much fruit or resources they’re allowed to take. Communication can keep everything on an even keel and in control. You can also outline rules by putting them on your bulletin board. To that end …

Leave a message on the bulletin board

I think of a bulletin board in New Horizons like I do a guest book in a hotel or at a wedding: This is a place where you can express your thoughts or write a goofy message for your friends to view later.

Use emotes

In New Horizons, emotes are called “reactions,” and they bring an added layer to nonverbal interaction. Chatting by text can be cumbersome in New Horizons (though a USB keyboard with a docked Switch, or the Nintendo Online App that lets you use your phone keyboard can help alleviate those problems). Still, not everyone will opt to use these methods, and many prefer to express themselves almost exclusively with reactions. It’s a fun and easy way to display how you feel about layout choices, house decor and more.

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Send a letter or gift

Sending letters has been a staple mechanic in the Animal Crossing series, letting you exchange written mail with NPC villagers. But now you can send mail straight to a friend’s mailbox on their respective island. You can attach a gift to each letter, too, and I’ve enjoyed doing this (or sending a joke gift) to my friends after they come for a visit.

Sell whatever you like

When visiting a friend, you shouldn’t hold back from selling wares. Sell whatever you like, especially your native fruit, as these can be sold for a higher price at islands that have a different local fruit.

Ask friends for turnip prices

Speaking of selling, take full take advantage of the “stalk market,” which is the fictional stock market within Animal Crossing specifically tailored for investing in turnips. You can ask friends how much turnips are selling for at their islands, and then you can hop on over if their Nook’s Cranny is offering a higher value.

Take photos together

A fun way to preserve memories in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is by using the in-game camera on your Nook Phone. By selecting this function, you can use a variety of filters, change the camera angle slightly and add a special touch with a frame. I’ve enjoyed group photo ops around the island, especially in the museum where certain areas automatically pull back the camera to make for the perfect shot.

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