Virtual meetings in Animal Crossing are so last month. Behold the virtual computer museum

Social simulation in an era of social distancing


News reaches Vulture Central of more retro computing goodness courtesy of the hit game Animal Crossing and an enterprising member of staff at the currently shuttered Centre for Computing History.

Sadly for those hoping to alleviate the grind of building up their Nook-based empire in the most recent Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch, the team have taken the retro approach of going with 2013's Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the 3DS.

It seems appropriate – running the latest and greatest on the newest and shiniest hardware seems to be a little at odds with the museum's goals. And, as those currently enduring the Switch edition will attest, the new game does not yet have all the toys of its predecessors.

Katrina Bowen, the design and communications officer for the museum, has painstakingly recreated the building with the help of other players; it takes a while to acquire the items thanks to the game mechanics. One particularly generous contributor has spent approximately five years playing the social simulation.

Those familiar with the game will recognise the museum and its resident owl-like creature. Lurking within are rooms where visitors will recognise familiar gear from the institution, including bits of the 1970s office, retro computing artefacts and arcade machines. There are also QR Codes for virtual T-shirts for those who fancy a bit of geek chic for their avatar.

Bowen, who has turned her attention to New Horizons and spotted a computer desk and server rack so far, told The Register that the recreation was part of an effort "to produce extra content to entertain and educate from home" while the museum's doors were closed.

Paying a virtual visit might be a little tricky as Nintendo tends to frown on 3DS friend codes being thrown around willy-nilly. However, we're sure the odd donation wouldn't go amiss, just like in the real thing.

The popularity of Nintendo's Animal Crossing game has led to some wonderfully barking mad ideas for alternatives to Google Meet or Zoom-based virtual events. We received an invitation to a DevOps event planned for New Horizons in which the cute avatars will discuss such child-friendly topics as "building and operating serverless computing harmoniously."

We're sure its just the thing that island dictator, Tom Nook, had in mind. Hopefully the swag will involve fruit not available on our island rather than the usual USB stick or gaudy socks.

Fan site Nintendo Enthusiast noted some companies had tried to use the platform for meeting digitally.

However, while undoubtedly a heck of a lot more fun to set up than the leaping through flaming hoops required for Microsoft Teams, the inability to chat privately, send files and, er, actually get work done when there are bugs to catch proved a bit of a downside.

One Vulture (who will remain nameless) muttered: "It's a recipe for griefers. I was tempted to go and plant a very phallic forest. Or write [insert tech company name here] sucks in turnips."

We fear Tom Nook would not approve. ®


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