The moment you step off the train platform in 2001’s Animal Crossing, you are greeted by Tom Nook, who identifies himself as the town store owner and then immediately proceeds to mock you for being homeless. So far as neighborhood welcome wagons go, this little fellow ranks slightly below closed blinds, awkward stares, and hushed whispers.
But you see, Nook isn’t the welcome wagon, and he’s certainly not a simple shopkeep. He’s the town’s mafioso. He mocks you for not having a home because, in a few minutes, he’s going to make you an offer for a “cozy” slumlord special that you can’t refuse.
We mean that in the literal sense. You need to buy a home from Tom Nook in order to proceed with the rest of the game, and Tom is going to charge you a fee that you can’t afford. Never fear, however, as he has graciously agreed to a payment installment plan. You can even earn a little money by working in his shop. He knows you’re good for the cash even though he doesn’t really know you at all.
It’s a pretty ballsy business move. Then again, what would you expect from a character based on the mythical form of the Japanese Tanuki: a legendary raccoon dog classically portrayed as having an abnormally large scrotum.
The moment you enter into an agreement with Tom Nook, your life now belongs to him. You may fish, collect bugs, dig up hidden items, and interact with the villagers all you want and Tom will never hassle you. But eventually, you’re going to need to visit his monopolistic store. You’re going to want to upgrade your house. In those instances, you’ll need to fork your hard-earned cash – cheerfully referred to in Animal Crossing as “Bells” – over to Mr. Nook.