The wildly popular Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing: New Horizons allows for a wide degree of customization which players can take advantage of to shape their individual simulated towns. This includes a full-fledged museum — though at launch, it did not feature artwork the way museums in past installments of the series did. An imminent update will fix this, adding an art gallery to the museum, as well as a new event in May called International Museum Day, which sounds delightful and coincides with the actual celebration, which falls on May 18. In the meantime, players have been more than making up for the lack of in-game art by creating their own museums, galleries, and installations. And a variety of tools both inside and outside the game are facilitating such creativity.
The Animal Crossing series has always included a pattern creation feature that lets players make whatever designs they can imagine, which can then be put on clothing, flags, prints for the ground, mannequins, and yes, on hanging or freestanding portrait canvases. This feature has grown more complex with each new game, with more recent titles allowing players to share the images they create via the internet. A whole host of proprietary websites have cropped up to help people spread their creations, from dedicated forums such as Reddit to sites that let you turn any picture you want into a ready-made pattern. Recently, the Getty Institute has gotten in on the fun by making it easy to turn the works in its collection into Animal Crossing patterns.
The Getty’s Animal Crossing Art Generator lets you pick any piece in the collection and then turn it into a usable pattern, complete with a QR code. You can scan the code using the Nintendo Switch app, and then upload patterns from the app to your game. The process is super quick and intuitive; the biggest obstacle is your own knowledge of what the Getty does and doesn’t have in its collection. (The web page helpfully provides a list of favorites from curators, featuring some of the more popular and/or AC-friendly works.) You can also select items from other institutions through the generator, as long as they’re part of the International Image Interoperability Framework.
Since the Animal Crossing pattern tool works with a simple 32×32 square grid, it obviously can’t quite capture most works in all their fine details. You might be surprised, however, by how good they can still look when displayed in the game. Playing around with the Getty’s generator, I thought that there was no way Degas’s “Waiting” would look like anything more than a smudge of pixels, but it translated beautifully once it was put up. Also, the generator allows you to crop each art however you wish, and you can get more faithful recreations by selecting smaller portions of the original, as I did with Monet’s “Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning.” (The obvious tradeoff is that your in-game portrait will show less of the work, but still!)
If you want to feature art that isn’t in any of these collections, any basic image-to-pattern converter can work well for you, though you may have to toy with the quality of the original, or even break it up into smaller pictures which you can then display together, in order to reproduce the details more faithfully. And the wider Animal Crossing community is also a good source of “knockoff” works, such as my off-brand Keith Haring:
Some players have gone beyond mere pattern work. Artist Shing Yin Khor recreated several famous installations within their town earlier this month, including Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty,” Christo and Jeanne Claude’s “Umbrellas,” Chris Burden’s “Urban Light,” and most delightfully, Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist is Present.” They pulled off the latter by not only recreating the work’s gallery space but also inviting other players to visit their island and sit across from them at a table, just as Abramovic did.
The simultaneous flourishing of social networking and game sophistication has allowed for some truly impressive tinkering. (Just look at all the incredible stuff people have built in Minecraft.) If you have a copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, then get to it! If you’d like to utilize any of the works featured in this article, I’ve provided all the QR codes for them below.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is now available for the Nintendo Switch. Reach out to Dan if you want to visit Wife City. He’s planning to move the art gallery from his house to a lovely outdoor space.