In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, just like in past games in the series, players are indebted to a raccoon named Tom Nook. In order to get ahead in the game and expand your house, you’ll need to pay off ever-increasing loans, which can skyrocket to huge sums. This premise has earned Nook something of a reputation as being greedy and focused only on money. There are countless memes and wiki posts to this effect. But the creators behind the latest game in the series think the business-minded raccoon is actually misunderstood. “We think Tom Nook is a very caring, really great guy,” New Horizons producer Hisashi Nogami tells The Verge.
For Nogami, Nook isn’t necessarily greedy. Instead, he believes the character’s money-centric nature is a sign of responsibility. “He’s an adult,” he says, “so he’s very careful with money.” More important, according to Nogami, is that Nook’s existence is the backbone of the entire Animal Crossing experience. If players didn’t have those huge loans to pay off, they wouldn’t spend so much time fishing, catching bugs, and doing other things to earn cash. “It’s one of the biggest motivations that users have to continue playing Animal Crossing, and Tom Nook is the man behind that motivation,” he explains.
While many Animal Crossing players have a negative perception of Nook — there’s probably a reason why Isabelle has become the series’s mascot — New Horizons director Aya Kyogoku believes players should probably be more understanding of the character. “Even if we borrow money from him and it takes time to pay him back, he never gets angry, he never gets mad,” she says. “So if we could all try to be a little more responsible and pay him back, it might make him a little happier.”
Animal Crossing: New Horizons launches on March 20th on the Nintendo Switch. Stay tuned for more from our interview with Kyogoku and Nogami later this week.