INTERVIEW: THE CROSSING BOARD

Animal Crossing sold more than 13 million copies in the first six weeks of its release in 2020, making it the fastest selling Nintendo Switch game ever, so it’s no surprise that the fan magazine The Crossing board was launched. We caught up with its founder, Jemima, to find out more...

Before we get to the magazine, when did your love of Animal Crossing begin? My first encounter with the game was when my friend showed me Wild World on her brand new DS (those were the days). I was in awe at the beautiful sounds and every time she let me play it, all I did was walk around on the different surfaces – definitely not using the game to its fullest advantage! That was until I got my very own 3DS and with that, New Leaf. I’ll admit, I still had a tendency to just stroll around listening to the relaxing music. But this time, I was able to really become immersed in the gameplay.

We all have our favourite characters. Who are yours and why? Without a doubt, Ellie. I’m a sucker for the dialogue that comes with villagers who are categorised as ‘normal’ (which, honestly, I think is more like ‘sweet’). On top of that, she has a house that can only be described as “Grandma’s place”; a vintage icon. Plus, let’s face it, she looks downright adorable.

If we’re talking non-playable characters, I’d have to be basic and go with Isabelle. Her positive energy makes opening the game 10x more enjoyable. You’ve also got to love the strong, female boss characteristic – she’s killing it.

[Isabelle’s] positive energy makes opening the game 10x more enjoyable. You’ve also got to love the strong, female boss characteristic – she’s killing it

So the magazine is fantastic. In fact it looks like more than just a ‘hobby fanzine’. When did you decide to create it and why? Thank you, I’m so glad you like it! It’s a credit to the people on board. Everyone is incredibly talented, I feel very lucky to be working alongside them. 

One of the main things that encouraged me to start a project like this was my ‘work experience’ module at university. The entire class had been struggling to find a placement because most openings required you to have experience in order to get experience – crazy, right? So I thought, if I can’t find it, I’m going to make it.

I’d been playing New Horizons since spring and had made a social media account to get advice and be more involved in the community, but I ended up noticing that there was an opportunity to try and create this project. I hadn’t even totally finalised the idea when I tweeted out, “I have an exciting ACNH project in the works” back in June, 2020. Everything totally snowballed from there because of the amount of people who responded and were then involved in its creation. It still feels like it’s snowballing today!

What is your own backstory when it comes to design and journalism? Is it something you do in your day-to-day, or is it just a hobby? I’ve been putting together makeshift magazines since I was a child, it was one of my favourite pastimes. Funnily enough, I used to include a lot of the same elements that you see in The Crossing Board fanzine today. But I didn’t have this love of creating magazines at the forefront of my mind when I announced my secret project idea on Twitter. In fact, when I gathered all these brilliant people with varying skill sets, I told them that this physical news source was a distant goal, perhaps something to consider well into 2021. How wrong I was! The enthusiasm within the team and the reception from the Animal Crossing community was beyond anything I had expected.

Aside from childhood hobbies, I’m currently finishing up my degree in Advertising which has tied in really well with this project. I have a love for digital communications and project management, so as you can imagine, I’m absolutely in my element! I really hope we can continue with this well into the future as not only are we having fun creating it, but it’s wonderful seeing the joy it brings others in the community.

How do you come up with concepts for each new issue? Do you like to look ahead in the Animal Crossing New Horizons timeline to see what’s happening?The very first thing we do is try to predict what will happen in the month ahead. It’s actually quite a difficult task because of the time it takes to print and ship the fanzines; we have to fully complete the issue before the month has even started! In order to do that, we consider our knowledge from previous games, observe speculation on community sites and social media, and most importantly, look into any hints given by Nintendo themselves. We try our best to only include content that we are certain will occur in the next month and it seems to have worked so far!

Has the current pandemic situation caused any difficulties for the production of an issue? Unfortunately, it has. Whilst we complete everything on our end as swiftly as possible by sending our fanzine to print on time and packaging them the day we get them, we then have to pass over responsibility to a third party. We want to give our readers the best experience possible and have our fanzine at their door quicker than you can say “Tom Nook”, but it’s stressful knowing that we’re powerless to external factors like the current worldwide delays. Thankfully, though, we’ve had a lot of reassurance from readers that they understand our situation and that our fanzines are worth the wait!

We want to give our readers the best experience possible and have our fanzine at their door quicker than you can say “Tom Nook”, but it’s stressful knowing that we’re powerless to external factors like the current worldwide delays

What has been your personal favourite issue so far? Although I love them all, I’d have to say November’s issue! The monochrome, autumnal cover makes me want to cosy up with a hot chocolate. I also particularly loved some of the articles in that one, like ‘detective Maple’s little discoveries’ which went through a lot of small details in the game that we might have missed. I found the origami mush stool tutorial really fun too! It’s always nice to include something crafty, I think it fits the theme of Animal Crossing really well.

Obviously with a lot of fan content there is a shelf life. Is this something that will end once Nintendo stop making updates to the game, or are you hoping to carry on longer? We don’t 100% rely on updates so even if Nintendo stopped adding to New Horizons, we’d definitely have other stuff to cover! I mean, there’s a whole franchise of games and such a huge community of players so I can’t see us running out of things to talk about anytime soon.

Phew! The success of the magazine must have surprised you! How has it been to receive photos of people with the magazine and positive feedback? It really has! When people tweet us with pictures or tag us in posts on Instagram, it makes the whole thing seem so much more real. It’s the moment when something that starts as a small team meeting, becomes something tangible and is travelling across the world. The thing I think we all love most is seeing the things our readers have created after following our tutorials. It shows us how much people are enjoying the content and it’s so fun to see everyone’s different takes on, for example, our recipes. So, if any of our subscribers are reading this, please carry on sending your thoughts and photos!

Can you tell us anything about the next issue or any plans for the future? Well, our next fanzine will be February and like this month, there’s a celebration to be had with the upcoming ‘Festivale’! What I’m really excited for, though, is our ultimate Animal Crossing personality quiz. Think Harry Potter house-sorting but a little less witchcraft and wizardry. Once you take this test, you’ll be able to show all your followers and friends exactly what kind of player you are!

Aside from our upcoming issue, we’ve recently made a huge announcement… We’re moving to a brand new subscription platform! The one we’ve been using so far is no longer able to handle the amount of subscribers we’ve gained, which is so crazy to think about. We can’t wait to get everyone moved over because it will come with so many perks like a loyalty scheme to say thank you to our dearest readers! We hope everyone enjoys it as much as we know we’re going to.

Interview by AJ | Photography by The Crossing Board

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