You may have seen a story going around claiming that a new Animal Crossing game for Switch has just been leaked. Unfortunately, it’s a lie. Rumors often spread after some random person on Twitter claims to have inside information and the story gets picked up by news sites, but this false rumor was actually started directly by gaming entertainment website Dorkly.
The article, written by Dorkly Managing Editor Tristan Cooper, ran with the headline “LEAK: Photos of the Unannounced Animal Crossing for Nintendo Switch.” In the opening paragraph, Cooper claims that he has checked with Dorkly’s independent sources and has verified the images as being real, and warns that Nintendo will likely force Dorkly to remove the images soon via a cease and desist order. However, once you scroll down and look at the images themselves, it becomes clear that none of this is real. Several of the images contain warnings about not trusting leaks, as Photoshop can be deceiving…much like a headline that is blatantly and knowingly false.
This fake news has understandably frustrated a few Animal Crossing fans. In response, Cooper tweeted that he didn’t think people would get mad, that it was just meant as a silly joke, and that perhaps he shouldn’t have been so “cruel.” Personally, I think knowingly publishing a dishonest headline in an article that is presented as news (and that generates revenue from advertisements) is a bigger issue than toying with Animal Crossing fans’ emotions. This same series of Photoshops would be hilarious as a Twitter post, but when used to dupe fans into generating ad revenue, it becomes a bit of an ethical issue. I stated as much to Cooper personally, but he dismissed my criticism on the grounds that it’s funny.
There are definitely people in Cooper’s camp calling it a “good troll” (although Cooper himself says he wasn’t trying to troll anyone), but the general reaction has been confusion, sadness, and anger. The online community has expressed their frustrations through a mixture of text and memes, as is the internet custom. You can peruse some of the reactions in the gallery below.
As a final note, in any situation where people on the internet get angry, there are bound to be threats of real violence. I experienced plenty of that myself when Gamnesia was the first to report the delay of Final Fantasy XV. No matter how angry you are or how much the offending party “deserves” it in your mind, this is never acceptable behavior. As a general rule, allowing your anger to flame up out of control is never a positive course of action. There’s a difference between using criticism to hold someone accountable and just being toxic, and everyone should strive not to cross that line.