The fervor around Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Raymond is so potent that for some people enjoying the game, the whole thing has evolved past mere enthusiasm and shifted into something darker. For content creator PokéNinja, watching people give out hundreds of Nook Miles tickets, or forking over real money just to have a smug cat in their village, felt deeply wrong.
“When you’re a father and you see certain things happening,” PokéNinja told Polygon in a private Twitter message, “It hits a little differently sometimes.”
While New Horizons has broken into the mainstream, it also holds a unique appeal to children, who love its cast of bright and quirky animal friends. And with a growing economy where virtual items are being sold for actual tender, the temptation to buy whatever you covet is a constant one — especially when the alternative is spending dozens of hours grinding Mystery Island visits for a tiny chance of getting the villager you want.
“I kind of envision these kids begging their parents for the most popular villager in the game, and I know there are many parents (especially now) that simply can’t afford to do that,” PokéNinja mused.
And so the content creator hatched a plan. Using a save editor running a hacked version of the game, PokéNinja decided to just ... materialize as many Raymonds as he could. While it’s not possible to import the feline via the use of amiibo, there are no such restrictions in a save editor, which allows you to generate anything that’s in the game. He then put out a call on social media, letting people know that if they wanted Raymond, they could have him.
How I stand when I'm waiting for dozens of people to come get the villager of their dreams pic.twitter.com/qmjzw1SRh8— PokéNinja (@iPokeNinja) May 18, 2020
No catch. No need to follow or share the message announcing the giveaway. No bells or Nook Miles Ticket required. If you expressed interest and had an empty lot for him, Raymond could be yours.
Within a span of about 12 hours, PokéNinja estimates that about 50 people responded to his post. The group spanned players who had spent ages trying to find Raymond to no avail, to even one player who wanted to surprise his girlfriend with her biggest dreamie.
Over the course of about six hours, PokéNinja filled his island over and over again with requested villagers — Raymond was the primary target, but there were other asks, too, like Marshall, Sherb, and Judy. Folks would come over, find their requested villager in boxes, and persuade them to move to their town. Then, after the players left, PokéNinja would load the save file again for a new crop of visitors. He estimates that over the course of the day, he gave away around 30 Raymonds across the world.
Players tried to say thanks in the form of bells and items, but for PokéNinja, that wasn’t the point of the exercise.
“The goal was to give and not demand like all the other scalpers right now,” he said.
In the face of an ecosystem that spans millions of players, giving away a couple dozen digital villagers may seem like a tiny gesture. Still, it’s a meaningful one. The popular narrative around the game has become one of greed, thanks to customs like charging for entry to islands or the hyper-visibility of the Stalk Market.
But the fandom is more than just a microcosm of capitalism. Less flashy but just as important are the parts of Animal Crossing culture where generosity rules the land. You’re more likely to find players running cataloging parties and DIY swap meets than you are to find fans who won’t get out of bed for less than a Nook Miles ticket. It turns out that, in the right hands, Raymond can be a part of that gentler culture, too.
“I’d like to say I made a small difference,” PokéNinja said. He knows that the frenzy around Raymond won’t die out anytime soon, but he hopes that with the increased activity around hacking, more folks like him will endeavor to do good. He’s already thinking about doing all of this again.
“It was time well spent,” he remarked.
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