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Here's the surprisingly sweet origin story behind New Horizons' sea bass gag

Anyone who's played Animal Crossing: New Horizons will be familiar with that Sea Bass gag, but they might not know the surprisingly sweet origin story behind the diabolical dad joke.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

May 11, 2020

2 Min Read

Anyone who's played Animal Crossing: New Horizons will be familiar with that sea bass gag. 

The cumbersome fish has hounded players since day one, luring them in with a rotund shadow that promises riches only the hefty blue marlin or tuna could provide, before annihilating their hopes and dreams by delivering those fatal words: "I caught a sea bass! No, wait - it's at least a C+!"

It's a joke that becomes synonymous with despair, and one that starts to wear thin pretty fast. But it's also a jape that helped catapult the humble sea bass to internet stardom, turning the fiendish fish into prime meme material. 

Long before we got our hands on the game, however, those working on New Horizons suspected certain small details such as the sea bass joke wouldn't go unnoticed, and now a member of the localization team has revealed that the gag was actually rewritten at the last minute to imbue it with a greater sense of positivity. 

Explaining how the joke was finalized in a Twitter thread, New Horizons' dev Rob Heiret explained the entire localization team knew it would start to drive players mad, and as such decided to reframe the gag in a more positive light by making one small adjustment.

"If you've played the game, you're tired of the sea bass joke. I get it. *I'M* tired of the sea bass joke, and I wrote it. But here's a secret about the sea bass joke: It was originally 'I caught a sea bass! Well...maybe a C- bass...,'" wrote Heiret.

"When we were workshopping the fish jokes, someone pointed out that, as a joke people were going to see many, many times, generally along with disappointment they didn't catch something better, maybe it would be better to spin it positive. Make it a C+ instead.

"From a comedy-mechanics perspective, it's the same joke, relying on the homophones "sea" and "C" to change how you perceive the description of the animal (and, let's be honest, it would work better as a verbal joke than it does in print, but that fish has sailed).

"Anyway, my point is, we were doing our very best, down to details you might not have considered, to make this the most positive, comforting, funny game we could. And I know the dev team was doing the same."

That tiny glimpse behind the curtain shows how much thought and attention goes into refining even the smallest of details, and highlights the impact those tweaks can have when those seemingly minute flourishes take on a life on their own. 

You can hear more thoughts from Heiret, including some interesting musings on the game's impact and widespread appeal, by checking out their full Twitter thread

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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