Animal Crossing: Who Put The Net Around Your Island?

When staring out from the north beach of Animal Crossing: New Horizonsisland, the horizon shows the endless blue of the ocean. Once the player dons a wetsuit and takes to the water for some diving, however, swimming a short distance from the shore reveals the island is surrounded by lines of netting, a barrier of unknown origin. The in-game function of ACNH's net barrier is simple enough, preventing the player from straying too far out to sea, but it's unclear who's keeping them from leaving.

Beginning a new island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons has the player sign up for the Deserted Island Getaway Package from Nook Inc. The island's apparent ownership under Tom Nook may make him appear to be the most likely source of the net - a simple safety measure to prevent any villagers from swimming too far out or being carried away by the tides. Tom Nook is not the only one to consider, however, as Animal Crossing's Wilbur the dodo is just as suspect and might have a less altruistic motive.

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Dodo Airlines provides flights to and from the player’s island in New Horizons. Perhaps the netting was placed to prevent ships from approaching the island, ensuring Dodo Airlines has a complete monopoly on travel. It is unclear whether the netting would actually stop a boat, however. Both the sailor gull Gulliver and the pirate gull Gullivarrr routinely wake up on the shore of the island, claiming they fell off of their respective ships. After the player helps them out, the gulls say their boat will pick them up. This can't be witnessed in game, leaving how the boats pass through the net without damaging it a mystery.

Quotes from certain lazy Animal Crossing animal villagers, like Papi the horse or Erik the deer, suggest a deeper level of meaning to the net barrier around the island. Papi and others sometimes shift from their normal, laid-back demeanors, where they enjoy snacks and rolling around with bugs, to diving deep into a possibly imagined conspiracy. This usually follows a night spent binging too many bags of chips, but the overindulgence-inspired paranoia could provide insight into the most likely origin of ACNH's net.

During these moments of epiphany, the lazy villagers conclude nothing makes sense on the island. They say they've heard a rumor that "the island is just a game. And everything we say? Or do? It’s just to amuse someone else!" The normally lazy villagers will diligently unpack evidence supporting the theory, noting that fruit grows abnormally fast, trees are formed of multiple types of wood, and the Animal Crossing soundtrack plays "pretty music everywhere," which is "great, but it’s weird."

Animal Crossing: New Horizons leaves many questions unanswered, like what Tom Nook does with the money paid to him, but the conspiracy-minded lazy villagers call the whole economics system of the game into question. They parody Nook’s practices, saying, "Yeah, I’ll buy your seashells so you can give me back my own money to pay off a house I’m selling you!" This leads them to conclude that, "It’s all so obvious! Our lives are fake! We all shoulda saw it a loooong time ago!"

Related: Animal Crossing: New Horizons' Cutest Villager House Interiors

With the neurotic lazy villagers' words in mind, the net surrounding the island seems more sinister. If the island is canonically in a game within ACNH's own universe - a facsimile of the bucolic island life for the entertainment of an unknown observer - the net could be a means of control. It keeps villagers from escaping by sea and ensures their only recourse is Dodo Airlines, which would also have to be in on the plan, ensuring they only visit islands that are similarly corralled.

This leaves the questions of who the architect of the game is and who the distant observers are. Games like The Stanley Parable have analyzed the nature of agency and freedom in video games, and others like Star Ocean: Till The End Of Time have included in-fiction elements such as 4D lifeforms who maintained universes as interactive games. This is clearly not the focus of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but the origin of the net barrier prompts similar musings.

Tom Nook's storied company, Nook Inc., seems unlikely. The identical net barriers placed around every island the player can visit seem beyond the scope of the company and are presumably not part of the Deserted Island Getaway Package, unless these are all sites prepared for future customers. Dodo Airlines' monopoly could be responsible, but the boats of Gulliver and Gullivarr evidently can pass freely, marring that theory. Instead, the best answer is the fourth-wall-breaking one, aligning with the lazy villagers' Truman Show-style conspiracy theories.

In real life, the island is part of a game, played by the player, and the same is apparently true in Animal Crossing's universe. Just as Nintendo is responsible for Animal Crossing updates, it put the nets around the islands. This allows for more focused gameplay, as Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a life simulator about building a community, not an open-world game about exploring untamed wilds. The net barrier may restrict the game world, but it also encourages the player to focus on building their own island city-state and getting to know the villagers who live there.

Next: Official Animal Crossing Anime Movie Showcases The Two Types Of Players

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