International Museum Day is a triumph… at least during normal years. That’s when museums across the globe put on seminars, exhibits, and other creative events in line with a theme decided by the venerable International Council of Museums. Last year more than 50,000 institutions participated (theme: “Museums as Cultural Hubs”). Of course, 2020 is no normal year. The covid-19 pandemic has brought daily life screeching to a halt, and many museums around the world have temporarily closed their doors. So we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got – and what we’ve got is Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Yes, Nintendo’s disturbingly cute gardening simulator is celebrating International Museum Day with an in-game event. On paper, that may sound exciting. After all, New Horizons events have been consistently interesting – or, at the very least, entertaining – and the idea of celebrating a day of such cultural significance in a video game is an easy sell.
I’m sad to report that, in its actual execution, this event is the video game equivalent of receiving one pair of socks for your birthday.
Animal Crossing’s International Museum Day event is about as straightforward as it gets. In each wing of the museum – fossils, fish, or bugs – you’ll find three stamping machines. Walking up to a machine and interacting with it will earn you a stamp for that respective wing’s stamp card. (The art wing, if you’ve opened it up, doesn’t appear to be part of the stamp-collection event.) There’s no progress gate, either, so long as you’ve opened the museum up. I’ve yet to donate a single fish to Blathers, the curator, owing to a matter of principle that we won’t discuss here. Even so, I was still able to collect all of the fish wing’s stamps.
Once you get all three stamps for a wing, you can return to Blathers, who will then stamp your card with a mark of completion.
Blathers will also give you a prize for every stamp card you fill out: a fossil plaque, a fish plaque, or a bug plaque. You’ll recognise these as the golden insignias that mark the entrances to each wing, except – and this may just be a result of poor lighting in my humble New Horizons house – notably less shiny. From a décor perspective, these “prizes” are little more than tacky facsimiles. Displaying one in your home would be like buying a giclée print of Starry Night from a museum gift shop, hanging it (sans frame) in your living room, and bragging to guests that you own a Van Gogh.
Even more disgraceful, you won’t get a bonus prize for filling out all three stamp cards and each plaque fetches a mere 300 bells should you try to sell them. You could earn the same amount more quickly just by shaking the fruit off just one of your island’s native trees and selling it to the Nooks.
I tried time-travelling (sorry, it was for work!) and, even though you can repeat this event every day, you’ll get the same prizes each run. The only true difference is that the stamping machines warp to different locations throughout each wing with every changing day. If you’re familiar with the museum, this won’t trip you up at all. (Your stamp card tells you the precise location of each stamp machine.) However, if the museum is a maze to you, this might add about 90 seconds of aimless wandering to your daily search.
All in all, the International Museum Day event is somewhat of a letdown. Previous events – even the small ones – have introduced something unique or interesting to New Horizons. Sure, Bunny Day may have featured a truly nightmare-inducing mascot, but at least it introduced a catalogue of new craftables. May Day offered up a genuinely puzzling maze that, if navigated correctly, netted players 27,000 bells. And Earth Day gave us Leif, the game’s only authentically kind character. Today’s event holds no water by comparison.
It’s not even worth grinding for bells. Let’s do the maths. Running the process – explore, stamp, earn “prizes,” sell “prizes” – will take you five or ten minutes and earn you 900 bells. Doing that every day, like a pastel-coloured Edge of Tomorrow character, for the next 13 days will still only earn you 11,700 bells in total. If you’re fast, that’s an hour and five minutes of chores for less than 12,000 bells. How long would it take you to shake four money trees? How fast could you earn that in the stalk market?
International Museum Day may indeed be a triumph, one that culture aficionados look forward to annually. Animal Crossing’s take on it will be forgotten before the event wraps up on May 31.