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Inside Animal Crossing’s talk show phenomenon, and more from this week on Speedrun

We explored the many ways players are using Animal Crossing: New Horizons as a platform

Graphic featuring screen shots from various video games and a portrait of Speedrun host Jimmy Mondal Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon

Sometimes art imitates life. Other times, life imitates art. And sometimes, art imitates life imitating art pretending to be life.

So it went on today’s episode of Speedrun, in which we visited the set of Animal Talking, a livestream talk show created in Animal Crossing: New Horizons by Rogue One writer Gary Whitta. Styled after the iconic late night shows of American television, Animal Talking has already hosted guests such as Elijah Wood, T-Pain, and Danny Trejo. It’s even attracted the attention of one Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Our chat with Whitta — who’s as charming a host as they come, by the way — touched on the show’s logistical challenges, but also on the impact of Animal Crossing as a social platform. In the last few weeks, the game has played host to Ramadan celebrations, commencement ceremonies, and even first dates. It’s become a stand-in for proximity itself. All that’s missing are pheromones and eye contact.

Earlier in the week, Speedrun recounted the rise of Saints Row — how it began as a Grand Theft Auto clone and slowly developed a garish identity of its own. Upon revisiting the series with the remastered Saints Row: The Third, we were reminded just how fun, and how often annoyingly “edgy,” it could be. In his review, Dave Tach put it nicely: “it’s great as long as I don’t think too much about what I’m doing.”

We also championed The Wonderful 101: Remastered, a game reincarnated through crowdfunding after it debuted on the Wii U, where some of the decade’s most creative games went to die. And before we leave the topic of hidden gems, I have to say: It’s heartening to see the Mafia series in the spotlight again. What those games lack in open-world substance, they make up for in style and verve.

Now, a quick look ahead before I go: Speedrun has a Memorial Day episode planned, and it’s somewhat of a special edition. We pitted Polygon editor-in-chief Chris Plante against senior video producer Simone de Rochefort to debate the best year ever for video game releases. Simone chose the correct year (it’s 2007), but both brought compelling arguments to the table.

It’s a fun episode, and we had a blast making it happen. Until then, enjoy your weekend.