Business lessons I learned from playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons

There's much more to Animal Crossing than chopping wood, selling turnips, and making DIY projects. Here are 8 IRL nuggets.


Image: Nintendo

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of the most popular video games on the planet this year, with Nintendo reporting 22.4 million copies sold from its March release until June 30. There's something about those animal villagers that are irresistible, along with the ability to design and redesign the island and its layout. 

But there's more to the game than just the villagers, the admittedly cool furniture, wallpaper and flooring and harvesting of resources. I bought the game in mid-July, played it once or twice on my son's Nintendo Switch, but wasn't immediately addicted. But then, one weekend in early August, I spent a few hours with the game and found myself suddenly captivated by the charming villagers who populated my island and how easy it was to make bells by catching a few fish or insects. Little did I know how soon I'd tire of the dreaded sea bass. 

There are real life lessons to be culled from the game as well. Here are eight of the key points that I found apply both in the game and in the business world.

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Even if you start late, you can catch up

Much like in real life, you can still do well even if you don't start when everyone else does. I didn't buy the game in March or April, when the coronavirus pandemic began and everyone hunkered down and started playing Animal Crossing nonstop. But I was able to easily catch up. With your career, you can do the same. If you don't start college immediately after high school, you can still get your degree and have a successful career in your 30s or 40s or beyond. You can also switch fields midcareer and find a way to thrive in a new field. Tech and IT is a popular career choice for people looking for a change.

Seek references from others before adding to your team

Networking and seeking references is crucial, even in Animal Crossing. When it's time to add a villager to your island, it's common to go onto Facebook and find out what people think of one of the hundreds of animal characters that can be added to your in-game community. Do the same in your own career. Keep in touch with those you've worked with in the past, and when it's time to hire someone new for your team, reach out for recommendations. It can help you find the best candidates for your own company, and if you're looking for a job, they can help you score the best position, too.

Even difficult relationships can be improved

In Animal Crossing, the villagers on your island can get grumpy and offended on occasion. But even the worst relationship can be improved with good communication. Sound familiar? Of course. Working with your team at the office (when we return) and finding a way through the toughest situations can improve difficult relationships with humans as well. 

Being friendly to everyone goes a long way

Points are scored in Animal Crossing when you give gifts to villagers. This is considered being friendly and, eventually, you become best friends with your villagers. While you wouldn't give gifts to your colleagues, you can be friendly with your team members and others in your office. Just because someone isn't someone you work with daily doesn't mean you can't say hello at the coffee machine or in the communal kitchen. 

Waking up early helps you accomplish a lot


Image: Nintendo

There are certain fish and bugs that you can catch in Animal Crossing that only appear before 8 am. So waking up early means that you can accomplish things that aren't possible later in the day. The same goes for the workplace. While not everyone is a morning person, it is easier for some to get more done if they start earlier in the day. 

Creating a great home office is essential

It's more important than ever to have a well-organized home office with remote work the norm. Animal Crossing also encourages residents to have a well-furnished home with extra points given for additional furniture in their home. There is a range of desk types and chairs available, and even cute stacked documents and fax machines for that retro look. 

Keep everything tidy 

A messy office or home makes it hard to keep track of things, both in real life and in Animal Crossing. Points are taken off and you'll never score the oh-so-desired five-star rating in the game if you keep clutter around the island and your home. Take a lesson from the game and pick up after yourself and keep your workplace in order. 

Share with others and you'll reap rewards

The single most important lesson I've learned from Animal Crossing is to share with others. Two groups that that encourage such behavior are on Facebook: Animal Crossing: New Horizons Mega Catalog Islands and Motunui Goddess of ACNH: Catalog Island. Both of these groups allow users to catalog the thousands of items from the game at absolutely no charge. Cataloging means that you can pick up an item and then drop it, and it is stored in your inventory to purchase later. If an item isn't inventoried, you can't ever purchase it. So categorizing items is crucial. 

Sharing in real life with your colleagues and with others is important, too. Being generous cannot be overrated. Be generous with your time, with your compliments, and with your knowledge. 

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By Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a former Associate Managing Editor at TechRepublic. She oversees TechRepublic's news team and TechRepublic Premium. She focuses on tech and business and how the two worlds intersect. Teena's lifelong journalism career has included wri...