Like Orwell, except with more furniture

Conducting real-world agitprop in Animal Crossing: Wild World

Soon after I started playing Animal Crossing: Wild World on the Nintendo DS, I realized that, through the game's various clever network-based ways to spread information among its players, one could carry on a small-scale agitprop campaign. Using only in-game tools and techniques, one can spread real-world political messages, and do so in a way that is fun for both the activist and the audience.

Below, I detail a few methods I have come up with, in decreasing approximate order of political relevance. Please forgive me for the cock-eyed quality of these images; for lack of a better solution, I created the screenshots by aiming a digital camera at my DS screen. If you know of a better method for creating DS screenshots, I'd love to hear about it.

Bottling your message

Perhaps the most effective, neighborly, and fun way to spread your message involves the use of messages in a bottle. These bottles are (as far as I know) always available from Tom Nook's shop at a cost of ★200 each. When you create a bottled message and throw it into your town's ocean, it will eventually find its way to another Animal Crossing player through either WiFi or Tag Mode.

You have no control over who gets these messages, and will have no way of knowing what fate befell your bottle once it floats off your screen; it is a completely random activity, which in my opinion adds to its beauty. Note that the message may very well end up going to someone who lives outside of your country, or otherwise not in geographical range of your political concern. But even in those cases, you're still being a good virtual-world citizen by your act of random kindness; everyone likes getting unexpected gifts.

Step One: write your message.

Once you are carrying a bottle, open your inventory, tap the bottle's icon, and write your message. You have only four short lines to use, so you'll have to use some clever word economy. I strongly recommend the inclusion of an appropriate URL, as an entire website devoted to the topic you wish to disseminate can certainly say more than a single Animal Crossing bottle-note.

As you can see, there isn't any sort of smart word-wrap with this text editor. I choose not to worry about this.

Step Two: attach a gift.

I feel that it is important to attach a little token of some sort to the message. Without it, the receiver of your message is likely to take your bottle as a pointless rant, and quickly dispose of and forget it. By enclosing a small gift, however, you'll bring a smile (if, often, a bemused smile) to your unknown recipient, making the note more memorable to them.

To stuff a gift in the bottle, drag an item from your iventory onto the bottle icon. It will change to show a tiny gift-wrapped present lying next to it, as shown here.

I advocate including a piece of your town's native fruit or (if you can spare it) an item of furniture, since there's a good chance the note's recipent will use it for planting or decoration, rather than immediately selling it off. Thereafter, every time your unknown friend sees that tree or walks through their room, they'll have a reminder of that unexpected gift that washed onto their shore one day, and the strange message that was attached.

Step Three: release into the world.

Having prepared your bottle, simply run down to your town's southern shore. While standing on the beach or a cliff (as pictured here), go into your inventory once again, tap the bottle-with-present icon on the right, and then tap "Release" from the sub-menu that appears.

On the DS's top screen, you'll see your character toss the bottle into the waves, which carry it off to destinations unknown. (To the best of my knowledge, if you're not online when you do this, the game will invisibly queue the bottle until you next connect through either WiFi or Tag Mode, at which point it actually does fly over the network to some other person.)

Well done! You have just helped to spread your ideals to a new person, and through your random act of generosity have also shown yourself to be a good citizen of the Animal Crossing universe. Doesn't it feel good? Repeat this as often as you'd like!

Memetic Warfare

Occasionally, your animal neighbors give you the opportunity to teach them new catchphrases, nicknames, and other expressions. They will, in fact, overtly approach you, asking you to type in something new for them to say. Why not take this opportunity to teach them a simple, punchy political message?

Pictured here is our man jmac!! speaking with his neighbor Coco the brown bunny. (Those blurs are ears; she is the twitchy sort.) He taught her a catchy chant a few days ago, and as you can see she's been happily repeating it ever since.

It may seem foolish to put trite political slogans into the mouths of pretend animals, and, erm, you'd be right. But nonetheless, consider: animals will sometimes spread knowledge of these expressions to one another, and to my understanding, should one of them visit another town, it will continue to carry the meme and possibly spread it to the new town's residents -- as well as that town's human inhabitants.

All that being said, I don't currently have much of a handle on what sort of phrases the game decides to spread beyond the first animal you teach. The only phrase of mine that has seen any such success is "Fartnose". Oh, do my furry little friends just love saying that. Fartnose, Fartnose, day in and day out.


Drop by the Able Sisters' shop sometime and design a pithy 32x32 political statement. Mabel will charge you ★350 for each pattern you create there, but once it's made you can apply it in a variety of ways at no further cost. You can see here in my inventory a design I whipped up, based on some stickers popular 'mongst the kids in Harvard Square a couple of years back.

Once you've created this design, you can apply it in all the ways the game allows. You can make it available as a shirt pattern at Able Sisters, or turn it into a doormat for your house, or fly it from the town flagpole. Note the stylish umbrella I've made from it, in the latter two images.

As with my sloganeering advice, the low bandwidth afforded to these tiny pictures means that they can't hold any more information than a tiny bumper sticker, so I don't find them nearly as fulfilling as the bottle messages. However, they are a lot of fun to play with.

Don't be Evil

As with any good hack, Animal Crossing agitprop should be perpetrated in good fun, no matter how serious you may feel about the message you're referencing. Don't act with intent to annoy or intimidate; humor and generosity are far more in-character and effective in this particular virtual world.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my ideas. If you're an Animal Crossing player yourself and have further suggestions in this vein, I'd love to hear about them. And, er, if you have some Exotic furniture you'd like to get rid of, I'd also be interested in talking to you...

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This particular page was last modified: Sun Jan 29 03:40:02 2006