The museum fiasco in New Horizons created a shared experience so unique to Animal Crossing it hurts

Me and the crew waiting to get into the museum (Image credit: Nintendo)

For a new generation of Animal Crossing players, Blathers will be remembered as public enemy number one. As the NPC that ruined the launch weekend, stopping players from expanding their new horizons and causing them to needlessly clutter up their islands. "Damn you, Blathers" you'll think years from now, at even the mere mention of the game. You can only make one first impression, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons makes a fascinating one for new and old players alike, particularly to a world that is more connected than ever before.

It's an interesting shift, given that Tom Nook and his clan have held the villain delineation ever since Population Growing landed on North American shores back in Autumn 2002. I don't know about you, but as the launch weekend of Animal Crossing: New Horizons drew to a close, I found myself longing for the option to complete construction of the Museum myself (I've become pretty handy with DIY these past 72 hours), and for the ability to cast Blathers out to sea on a hastily assembled raft.

I never thought it would be this way. Blathers has been a regular and beloved fixture in the Animal Crossing series, arriving as director of the Museum back in Dōbutsu no Mori+ and appearing in every iteration since. He's a nocturnal nerd, sleeping during the day and eager to deliver scientific facts on all of your finds no matter the time. Blathers loves discussing and collecting all manner of creatures, but not critters. He hates bugs. Hates them, and still you shove them under his beak for analysis. Deep down, Blathers resents you for bringing bugs into his museum. That's why he caused so much disruption. He did it to spite us all.

Unhappy Home Academy

While I forgot to take a photo of my own messy house before clearing it up, there were (unsurprisingly) no shortage of examples from my colleagues here at GamesRadar+. 

While I forgot to take a photo of my own messy house before clearing it up, there were (unsurprisingly) no shortage of examples from my colleagues here at GamesRadar+.  (Image credit: Nintendo)

As a brief recap, to get the Animal Crossing New Horizons museum on your island you have to jump through a number of hoops that are fairly standard for Animal Crossing. You need to hit your boy Nook with five examples of local fauna, find a nice spot for Blathers' to live, and then wait a full calendar day for him to arrive. Once Blathers is set up on your island, you need to hand him 15 more exhibits, and then sit back and watch in dismay as he stops accepting new donations and then shuts up shop entirely. What follows are two of the longest calendar days a game has ever asked a player to endure while you wait for the Museum to be constructed and open up its doors. This slow-progression is standard practice for Animal Crossing, and absolutely agonizing at a time where I have nothing to do but play New Horizons. 

Thanks to Blather's rude leave of absence, my island abode has been a mess of unidentified fossils and dinosaur bones all weekend, and don't get me started on the assortment of  bugs and fish I have inhumanely caged in various crates and terrariums scattered all over the place. The Happy Home Academy already sent me a letter and an initial rating, and they are not impressed with the supreme disregard for Feng Shui I'm exhibiting in these early days of island life. 

If you've been playing New Horizons, you probably have a similar story. And if you've played an Animal Crossing game in the past, you were probably anticipating this type of roadblock in the first place. It can't all be K.K. Slider gigs and gentrification from minute one, after all. There's work to be done and bills to be paid. Here's the thing though, my social media feeds were packed with similar stories. Screenshots of islands being ravaged by caged curiosities were more prevalent than anything else in the game. I even received a few messages from friends who were making their maiden voyage into Animal Crossing, wondering just what they were supposed to do once the first progression gate in the game had been reached. The first three days of the New Horizons story became defined by players attempting to wrap their heads around the reality of the real-time system, presented in perhaps the frankest form imaginable. 

It's funny, really. Animal Crossing has always been a game defined by its ability to gate progression. There is only a finite number of things that you can feasibly do in your home away from home in any given day. It's a game of patience, that asks little more from you than to invest a few hours here and there, and then log off for the day. We have nothing but time now, what with New Horizons launching amidst a global pandemic. Curiously, social media is far more ubiquitous than it was in 2012 when New Leaf launched too, so rather than merely dumping the crates and spending hours fishing in the interim, players flocked to Twitter, Reddit, and its ilk to ask questions of progression, not to mention bad mouthing Blathers' decision to hire the slowest contractors known to man. 

"As we all settle into a life of self-isolation, New Horizons feels like a much needed breath of fresh air"

As we all settle into a life of self-isolation, New Horizons feels like a much needed breath of fresh air. Animal Crossing is a remedy for a world suffering with shared anxiety, and it's interesting to see how that's already been reflected in the game and the way we've already started talking about it online. For the entirety of the launch weekend, every player was stuck waiting for the Museum to open. There's nothing we could or can do to change that, it takes as long for it to open as it does. It was an incredible shared experience that travelled far further than the borders of our islands and its inhabitants.

Our wait for Blathers to get the Museum up and running is a moment so unique to Animal Crossing that it hurts. We were trapped together. And we shared our disdain of an anthropomorphic owl online together too. For an entire generation of Animal Crossing, particularly those who are coming in new to the series, this will be what they remember of New Horizons. For them, Blathers will be the villain, not Tom Nook, whose request for a tonne of core resources to get the Nook's Cranny up and running seems perfectly reasonable in comparison to having to wait three entire days for something to be delivered. 

This morning, I got up early, made a coffee, and switched on New Horizons. The Museum was finally built, and so I gathered my horde of collected items and trekked them over. I was half expecting Blathers to make a pithy comment, and for me to put the game down in protest. But he was so excited to see me. He had so much knowledge to share on each of the fish I had procured, and twitched with each and every insect I presented. And when it was all said and done I had a little cry in the Butterfly Room, such is the beauty of the Museum space this time around. Worth the wait? Absolutely. But you made me wait and work for it, Blathers; I'll never forgive you for that, none of us will. 

Looking for more on Animal Crossing: New Horizons? We've got a huge amount of walkthroughs, tips, and more to help you settle into your new adventure over at our Animal Crossing: New Horizons guide hub. 

Josh West
Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar+. He has over 15 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.