What makes an Animal Crossing villager popular? by Xindeling Pan

For many of us (these co-authors included), the release of “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” in March 2020 provided a welcome escape from the early months of COVID-19. You could spend your days in lockdown on a tropical island, fishing, gardening, and chatting with neighbors. As relaxing as that sounds, there is one stressful dilemma everyone encounters: Which animal villagers should we invite to our islands? Animal Crossing fans take villager recruitment very seriously. Some villagers have massive cult followings, and there are whole internet forums dedicated to trading both in-game and real currency for the chance to collect a specific villager. This led us to wonder… what makes some Animal Crossing villagers more popular than others?

We made some hypotheses about what makes a villager popular and collected the data from the Animal Crossing community. Then we used R and D3 to analyze and validate our hypotheses. At the same time, we sketched out how we might want to tell the story before we coded everything. We went through several design iterations on how we wanted to present our findings and tell the story, and we recruited our friends and colleagues as testers before publishing the site.