Tom Nook Is Not Evil! A defense of Animal Crossing’s bad businessman

Animal Crossing isn’t your typical video game. There are no bosses to defeat, there isn’t even any violence to be had beyond being a jerk that attempts to hit other people with a shovel or net. However, Nintendo’s whimsical life simulator does have a villain in the eyes of many players:  Tom Nook. The cute raccoon doesn’t look particularly devious, but players have grown to hate him over the years due to his perception as a loan shark. While that reaction is understandable, these players aren’t seeing the whole picture — the reality is, Tom Nook is basically a saint.

Nook is a mainstay of the popular series and is one of the first characters that players meet in each game. In every entry, Nook sells the player a house without a down payment and runs a convenience store that sells plenty of goods. It is then up to the player to earn money in order to pay him back, be it by collecting fruit, playing the stalk market, or collecting fossils. However, once the player pays off Nook, he then offers to upgrade their house at a greater expense. This starts a loop of debt in Animal Crossing, where this admittedly smug-looking raccoon is always wanting repayment.

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Being in debt is not enjoyable, even in a virtual world, and Nook has taken an evil presence online due to his chosen career path. There are plenty of memes that depict him as a heartless businessman that threatens violence and will do anything he needs to get his money back. Other times, he’s painted as a workaholic that blows all of his money on drugs.

Tom Nook is aware of the hate and is happy to carry that burden

The underrated and oft-ignored Happy Home Designer spin-off gave some important background information to the character. We learn that the raccoon wasn’t born into money and actually has humble beginnings. He originally lived in a stump that he eventually sold for twice the price he had paid for it. This started his entrepreneurial lifestyle that eventually led to him helping out new villagers and running a business.

animal crossing tom nook

He also is shown to be quite the philanthropist, at least if you take what he says at face value. “I’ve personally donated over 90 percent of my earned bells to an orphanage,” he claims during one of his conversations. Of course, there’s no way to verify this as he specifies that it is located “three towns over,” but why would he be lying? He also tells players to keep that between them as he has a “reputation to uphold.”

See, Nook knows that he is seen as a villain by the animal residents. He’s the greedy landlord who expects to be paid back and doesn’t care for his tenants. However, he isn’t quite the animal version of Hannibal Buress, as he is well-aware of his reputation. “I can see the value of having a boogeyman everyone can unite against,” admits Nook upon reflecting on people thinking he’s a ruthless and heartless businessman. “But paying one’s debts is important! If I must be villainized in my pursuit of teaching, then so be it!”

So, when you really think about it, Nook is just here to impart life lessons on the youth and to pay it forward. He’s a swell guy that is willing to suffer personally in order to make the village a better place overall. It’s not unlike Batman taking on the vigilante role and being chased by the police. With these interest-free loans, Tom Nook is practically a superhero.

You won’t ever get a better mortgage loan than what Tom Nook offers

Despite all the hate he gets online, Nook has received defense from Nintendo employees in the past. “He’s actually quite nice,” said Nintendo Treehouse’s Rich Amtower in an interview with 1Up in 2012. “He’s like that first boss you ever had when you worked your first job in high school or wherever … He’s all about business, first and foremost, and if he doesn’t always spare the time for pleasantries, that doesn’t mean he’s a bad person. He’s just got a lot on his plate. Remember, he’s hiring you, a fresh face in town without even a résumé. He’s taking a big risk, and this alone should tell you a lot about his generous nature.”

While it might not be the most popular stance to take online, I have a hard time disagreeing with Amtower. After all, anyone with experience actually owning a house will tell you how expensive it can be. The fact that Nook gives players a small, yet entirely legit, living space for free and only asks to be paid back over time without any due dates is a generous offer. There’s no interest that gets compounded or loan sharks that want to take advantage of the player, he just wants to be repaid and will then repeat the situation again if the player wants an even larger space. This is the type of deal that working adults would kill for in real life even if it’s a source of never-ending debt in Animal Crossing.

So, while Tom Nook is definitely a bit greedy (there’s no such thing as a morally righteous billionaire after all) and is probably over-inflating how much he gives to orphans, he isn’t as terrible as the internet paints him out to be. Compared to the real-life predators at financial institutions, he’s a pretty swell guy. Plus, raccoons are far cuter than a debt collector knocking at your door after a late loan payment. Once Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes out, it will be time for players to be appreciative towards the little guy rather than hating on him for his kindness.