Animal Crossing meets Fjord Trends 2021

What Animal Crossing Taught Me About Data and Interaction Design

Hidden in Nintendo’s utterly charming digital diorama are great decisions around humanising data!

Viraj Joshi
Jan 6 · 8 min read

How do we end up suspending our disbelief despite the deliberately cartoonish aesthetic, and fairly simple interactions with the animals?

What design decisions did they make in handling their data, and in building interactions around it?

1. Commitment to Metaphors

Example 1: Airports and Airplanes

What Animal Crossing taught me about Data and Interaction Design?
What Animal Crossing taught me about Data and Interaction Design?
My friend Audrey “arrives” on my island through the airport.

Example 2: Dreams

What Animal Crossing taught me about Data and Interaction Design?
What Animal Crossing taught me about Data and Interaction Design?
Luna, a psychic ant-eater, guides me in visiting others’ islands in a dream.
Commitment to metaphors and it’s own make-believe in all the interactions is what makes Animal Crossing so convincing.

2. Data Minimalism and Purposeful Extrapolation

Example 1: Birthdays

What Animal Crossing taught me about Data and Interaction Design?
What Animal Crossing taught me about Data and Interaction Design?
The animals you like the most (interact the most with) will be present at your birthday party.

Example 2: Gifts to your animal friends

Canberra the koala keeps the insect and the flower that I gifted her in her house.
The Friendship Progression for each villager is subject to their programmed personality. Octavian is very snarky naturally, and Audie is very friendly — but there’s nothing stopping you from reaching out to Octavian the most. (Not an exhaustive list of interactions)

3. New rituals and likeness to real world elements

Example 1: Remembering Friends

What Animal Crossing taught me about Data and Interaction Design?
What Animal Crossing taught me about Data and Interaction Design?
Canberra the koala asks about Audrey and her island “Totoro”.

Example 2: Spreading the Word

Two examples of secondary interactions between the AI Villagers which are indirectly triggered by the player. I influence the behaviour of only one villager, and it’s a mystery who picks the colloquialisms from whom thereafter. However, it’s hilarious to come back to your island to find a penguin going “Neigh”.
Fjord Chicago’s Dylan Shaw has a Fjord Studio going in Animal Crossing.
Do AI horses dream of electric sheep?

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Viraj Joshi

Written by

Designer & Inventor: bit.ly/airwire • SciFi filmmaker: bit.ly/UtopiaCompass • Currently: Fjord Stockholm • MA Royal College of Art • MSc Imperial College London

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