Gaming

The Left Has No Choice But To Disavow Tom Nook From ‘Animal Crossing’

Tom Nook is a capitalistic oligarch. The time has come for his deposition.

Tom Nook from Animal Crossing

In the last few years, those who benefit most from capitalism have slowly realised how bad it is for them to be associated with it. And so the rich have rushed to their Twitter accounts to endorse Bernie Sanders; to call themselves socialists; to proudly announce to the world that they’ve seen and loved anti-wealth gap satire Parasite.

It’s not hard to see why. Capitalism as we know it is in its death throes. That’s partially thanks to the increased popularity of socialism. But it’s mostly thanks to climate change.

After all, Marxist philosopher Terry Eagleton once called global warming the “biggest market collapse in world history.” A heated world doesn’t just devastate environments. It devastates markets.

Worried by the end of their easy grift, landlords, politicians, and CEOs have tried to dress up their regressive politics in a thin veneer of forward-thinking quasi-leftist slogans.

Kim Kardashian publicly rails against the prison system while paying a private firefighting team to save her house from bushfires, and refusing to redistribute her wealth. Actors like Kyle Maclachlan and Jessica Chastain court love from their left-leaning fanbases for championing social issues while also endorsing one-time Republican oligarch Mike Bloomberg for President.

And Tom Nook, the landlord from the Animal Crossing videogames, presents himself as a genteel, jolly racoon, while also being a heinous, fascistic landlord.

Tom Nook Represents Growth For Growth’s Sake

Tom Nook was first introduced to the world through Dōbutsu no Mori, or Animal Crossing as its GameCube port was titled for the American market.

In those early games, Nook was more harmless than he would eventually become — an affable shop owner, he maintained something of a monopoly over the town’s resources, but his greed was not yet wholly apparent.

And there was a place for him, then. After all, the end of capitalism doesn’t have to mean the end of markets. Market socialism, wherein commodities could be traded and evaluated by a collective with control over the means of production, has been on the table for leftists since the ’60s.

In a market socialist economy, the Tom Nook of those early games could still serve as a shop owner while contributing to the collective, and assisting with the easy flow of the markets.

But as the game series developed, Nook moved further and further away from his egalitarian-adjacent roots. By the release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Nook was a landlord, presenting the player with their own house while forcing them to work in financial servitude in order to ‘pay it off’.

In that way, he is an old-school land baron, his wealth maintained for him by an army of serfs. In the past, we used to call these people kings and queens. Now we call them ‘CEOs’ and landlords. But there is no difference between them. Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Tom Nook — these resource-hoarding traitors resemble divinely-appointed rulers of the past.

Well, with one main difference. Now, our leaders feed us the promise of class promotion to keep us quiet. Americans don’t want entrepreneurs like Musk to be taxed at a higher rate because they have been fed the fib that they too will one day become wealthy.

And we love Tom Nook because we imagine that we will one day have what he has — a nice, multi-storied house, and an empire to leave our shithead nephews.

The myth is just that, of course: a myth. In real life, we have no chance of real progression. In the world of Animal Crossing, Nook’s house is not for sale. The classes are separated by complex, invisible boundaries that cannot be breached. That Nook wants us to believe we can become like him is just the lie he tells us so we keep providing him with bells.

The False Idol Of The Bell

Indeed, Nook offers the human right of shelter only in return for a veritable shit-tonne of bells, the currency of Animal Crossing, that he needs to hoard for — well, for what reason, exactly?

There is no starvation in the world of the game; no dearth of resources.

And what the fuck is he gonna do with bells, anyway? They are mere trinkets of his wealth, stripped of their purpose — hollow, neutered stand-ins for his power.

After all, Thorstein Veblen noted in the 19th century that the true method of exhibiting power is to amass an excess of resources that serve no necessary purpose. Conjure up the image of the servant, peeling the grape for the reclining emperor. Or Nook, armed with massive mountain of bells.

That’s the real problem with Nook. Like all power-obsessed oligarchs, he hoards for the sake of hoarding.

Capitalism relies on infinite growth, and in the world of Animal Crossing, Nook alone represents that baseless wanting. Nothing amasses in the game except his stockpile — his treasure trove of bells that will never ring out; never make music. Because they have been designed to be bought, and nothing else.

I Am Afraid We Must Brutally Overthrow The Regime of Nook

Nook’s villainy is well-established by this point: IGN, 1UP and UGO have all noted his status as an antagonist. But his sway has not diminished. He is front and centre of the marketing campaign for the new Animal Crossing game, and members of the Nintendo company have even openly defended him.

Rich Amtower of Treehouse, a product development wing of the multi-national Nintendo company, even went so far as to paint him in a heroic light. “Despite him being all business and not always having the time for pleasantries, Nook isn’t a bad person,” Amtower said, citing Nook’s decision to “hire someone new to town.”

Of course, there’s nothing truly egalitarian about Nook’s business practices. Capitalism always pretends that its rampant commodification of the working class is somehow a force for good — a process of empowerment. Actually, all it represents is wanton greed; a reducing of every human being on the planet to their earning potential.

But we should not be so surprised that those in power defend Nook. This is how it always goes — class protects class. Nook and Amtower might be wildly different from one another — one a human game developer, the other an animated raccoon — but they are both resistant to change in the same way.

No, Nook will not be deposed by mere words. This article, like all of the articles against the nepotistic landlord, will achieve nothing on its own. Capitalism gives the wealthy no reason to give up their wealth — or, y’know, bells. It is we who must seize the means of production, and we must depose Tom Nook to do it.

As Maximillien Robespierre, hero of the French revolution once wrote, “To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is cruelty.”

We would do well to follow that lead.


Joseph Earp is a staff writer at Junkee who has been in social isolation for three days now. He tweets @Joseph_O_Earp.