Animal Crossing Becomes the Workplace for Japanese Company During the COVID-19 Lockdown

Tokyo Entertainment Coronavirus 2020.04.30
Working remotely, but still working together, this Japanese company is skipping Zoom and heading straight to Animal Crossing.

Making the Most of Animal Crossing

The coronavirus outbreak and following state of emergency lockdown means that many companies in Japan have begun to move to remote work systems, with many employees working from home. Of course, working from home means taking advantage of communication technologies of all kinds, and most companies have been relying on programs like Zoom, Skype, and any and all text-messaging chat apps.

Over at the small 3-person editorial department of Japanese company Inside, however, they decided to look into a communication method that most companies haven't even considered:

Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

After spending some time with the unique platform, the three employees shared their experiences with Animal Crossing (called Doubutsu no Mori or 動物の森 in Japan), and the pros & cons they found, with the internet. 

The plan started with Editor-in-Chief Suenaga, who was already playing the game, and thought "couldn't we just have meetings on the island?" The other members of the editorial team responded with enthusiasm, suggesting they get to work, but instead Suenaga told them "I'll make a meeting room on my island. Give me 3 days."

Finally arriving at the designated Animal Crossing island meeting day, the editors entered the Dodo Code into their own Switch consoles, and headed to their work meeting.
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    The final design included this glorious red carpet to welcome the team in.
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    And the island included not just one meeting area...
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    ...But three total meeting areas. So finally, the team got started with their actual meeting. This wasn't just a joke, they actually needed to discuss some things for work!
It's not surprising that things didn't quite go as smoothly as they might have hoped. As they started discussing editorial content, last month's sales figures, and how to increase traffic for their articles, some complaints also entered the conversation. Here you can see a team member going by the Animal Crossing nickname Nenne commenting "we can only type 16 characters," and they later noted how the chat system doesn't allow users to send pictures.
In an attempt to get the creative juices flowing and brainstorm some plans, the team decided to go fishing together. Unfortunately, they soon realized that they were having so much fun fishing that they'd forgotten all about the meeting. They had no choice but to blame this lack of focus on the bountiful island itself.

The Merits and Demerits of Animal Crossing

So, what kind of pros and cons are there to working remotely via Animal Crossing?

The Good:

・Animal Crossing's chat tool is more fun than other options. It's no surprise, they commented, that Animal Crossing offers a little more excitement than Skype, Slack, or Discord.

・Animal Crossing's atmosphere offers a real change of pace. The deserted islands of Animal Crossing: New Horizons are a totally different kind of environment than the office. The team thought that getting away from stuffy meeting rooms and chatting within the game actually let them communicate more easily, in some ways.

The Bad:

Animal Crossing doesn't allow you to share files. Even starting this experiment knowing that was the case, they were still frustrated that they couldn't just say "you'll see in the file I just sent that..." In the image above, Nenne is again saying "please look on your computer."

・You and your team members get caught up in playing Animal Crossing. It's hard to focus when the game is all around you!

・You can't discuss confidential matters. Animal Crossing doesn't make the same promises about keeping chats private as you might find on more serious chat platforms. It's just best not to share any confidential information.

・Team members might not respect your island. As silly as it might seem, if you love the game, having your island ravaged by visitors makes it less fun.

・Animal Crossing nicknames can get confusing. Their 3-member team was mostly okay, but they could imagine a larger group getting pretty chaotic.

・You can't use the usual excuses! There's no blaming a train delay when all you have to do to get to work is turn on your Switch.

・You might just get so distracted by creating meeting areas that you never get to the meeting. Don't go putting the cart before the horse.

The Team's Conclusion?

In the end, while there were clearly issues with using Animal Crossing as a serious platform for daily work meetings, the editorial department at Inside finished their experience with a positive outlook. It had certainly been a fun experience, despite the problems they had getting things done. And considering how grim many things in society are right now, with people worried about the COVID-19 outbreak and the economic downturn it's causing, taking some time during the workday to "hop on a plane" and visit a friend's island in Animal Crossing might be just the moment of lighthearted fun we need.

Have you been using Animal Crossing for any social distancing get-togethers lately? Or do you have any questions about Inside's interesting experiment? Let us know on the Japankuru twitter, instagram, and facebook!

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