filed April 18, 2020
Illusgaytion by Jennifer Xiao
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to enforce a home-based lifestyle The InQueery’s Games and Recreation Department has been hard at work analyzing what titles the queer video game community is flocking to. Based on streams of popular Twitch channels and comments left on the r/gaymers subreddit, a staggering 94% of the population reported seeking comfort in Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH), released this March for the Nintendo Switch.
We spoke with Brooklyn-based art director Ty Clampton, who said of his time in isolation before discovering ACNH, “It got to the point where I’d forgotten how to ‘yaaaaas!’” Clampton spent the first days of quarantine sipping Aperol spritzes and sewing face masks out of last year’s Halloween lamé, but was desperately missing his “Judies.” “What I found in playing ACNH was a familiar feeling: the ability to choose my family, be they a hot-pink rhino or a frog wearing Haus Laboratories’ latest lip liner.”
In ACNH, gamers take on the role of a human villager who moves to a deserted island with the help of Tom Nook, a raccoon real estate mogul (more on him later). Nook asks that you persuade villagers to join your island community and commit to improving the overall quality of life. Apart from recruiting new neighbors, one catches butterflies, builds a museum’s collection, decorates a house, cultivates rare flowers, and embarks to DIY everything: all of the interests typically provoked by one week in Provincetown or Key West.
While some denizens of your budding queer utopia will delight—Merry the Cat talking about her favorite lesbian comic book or Antonio the Antearer assessing and complimenting your muscles—there are bound to be characters whose personalities may leave you button-mashing for the distress reaction. We’ve taken a look at several of these prominent characters and their…quirks.
Tom Nook, The Gay Mafia Boss – As head of Resident Services on your island, Tom Nook promises alarmingly swift house upgrades in exchange for labor. This only lasts for so long, as he starts to demand large sums of bells (the animal world’s currency), or Nook Miles (a quantified achievement currency) before any new construction project can break ground. Although he offers you constant encouragement and gifts like a “free” smartphone (with closely monitored GPS), Nook’s nice-guy talk always ends with a coda that basically translates to, “Where’s my goddamn money!” And there’s no question of who runs the real estate cabal. Whichever far-flug island you may travel to, villagers all seem to know this racoon tycoon. The question is, when they hear his name, do they shudder in fear or in fawn in adoration?
Gulliver, The Messy Hookup – We first meet this busted bird when he washes ashore with nothing but a sailor’s outfit and a broken phone. Think Castaway meets Fleet Week. Once awakened, Gulliver groggily asks for help finding the missing parts for his phone. Upon returning the lost pieces, he appears to get right on The Apps™, sending his location to an undisclosed party…typical!
Wilbur and Orville, The Cloying Instagay Couple – As heads of the efficient “Dodo Airlines,” Orville runs the front desk with the help of his headset and early-aughts gay haircut. His partner, Wilbur, is an enviably cool pilot for their fleet of seaplanes. Business aside, these two have a palpable connection, exemplified by their seemingly endless supply of pet names for one another (“Bell Bottom synth-pop, this is stovetop kaleidoscope, do you require assistance? Over.”) At first, it’s cute, but by your fifth flight, it’s like we GET IT, you’re together, now just take us to tarantula island!
Celeste, The Drag Mother – Celeste, a starry-eyed, pink-plumaged owl is ACNH’s answer to the contemporary witchcraft zeitgeist. Chani Nicholas, you have company. Aside from sharing her love of the cosmos, Celeste teases you with a recipe for a item Cher Horowitz would die for: a star-topped wand that gives you the ability to turn out eight different #lewks with a flick of the wrist. Thing is, making one of these sartorial scepters requires that you wish upon a star, which couldn’t sound dreamier but is actually a real bitch.
Flick, The Obsessed Artist – Flick is a pierced, leather-clad chameleon wielding a studded net who appears on your island in search of the perfect “soul bug” and its “appendages” to inspire his art. Consider the rough-hewn look of Lisbeth Salander in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but with the approach of an art school dilettante. From the get-go we learn that Flick has ample bells to spare in exchange for any bugs you catch. But this begs the question: is there a high price tag for commissioned beetle busts, or is 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘰𝘯𝘦 dipping into their trust fund a little early?
C.J., The Queer Baiter – Tackle isn’t the only bait C.J., the social media and fish-loving beaver, is serving. As if the requirements for his fishing tournament weren’t annoying enough, his use of the word “partner” when referring to Flick, has the exhausting punch of two seasons’ worth of “just fuck already!” on Killing Eve.
Saharah, The Shady Lady – A worldly textile merchant, Saharah the camel visits the island at random to hawk her rugs and wallpapers. This butch icon sports an embroided teal vest, luxuriously long lashes, and feathered bangs that would send Angel Olsen packing. Though she has style, she’s scant on substance: no matter what rug you buy, it’s always her “favorite.” Her “buy blind” business model isn’t the most ethical, but label something “mysterious” and queers can’t help themselves!
Wisp, The Baby Gay – Whether you’re out late at night prowling for fireflies or stumbling home from a fête, you’re bound to cross paths with this easily-spooked specter. It isn’t his fault his name lisps for you! He’s a sensitive ghost, capable of literally losing himself in the presence of others (we’ve all been there). Retrieve his phantasmal parts and Wisp will pay you for your troubles by offering something new or something “expensive.” We think Wisp’s sugar daddy is the one to thank.
K.K. Slider, The Pandering Pop Star – Meet the Sheryl Crow of the animal world: a chill-vibes-only dog with no discernible clothes and the thickest brows in the biz. Upon completion of the first leg of the game, Slider will visit your island to perform a special acoustic guitar set. Fusing the sounds of the Indigo Girls, K.D. Lang, and the aliens from Toy Story, this dog’s trick is giving queer audiences exactly what they came for.
Our Conclusion: It wouldn’t be a chosen family if some members didn’t drive you to wield an axe against a tree every once in a while.
Queer Rating: C.J. Craig falling into a pool on The West Wing.