By now, you’ve probably all seen some version of a mysterious cat game that has been circulating on the Internet within the past year. Pictures of cats sleeping on cushions, sticking out of donut tunnels and playing with balls shaped like watermelons have made their way to our iPhones and Androids. So what exactly is this mysterious game that has millions of people from the across the globe so hooked?
Neko Atsume (“cat collection” in Japanese) is a simple, nondescript game where players have only one objective: to collect cats. There are no flashy features or complicated software to navigate; all you have to do is simply go into the “shop” section of the game, buy food, toys, and/or other miscellaneous items, set them in a living space and wait for the cats to arrive. No joke.
When my friend first explained the basics of this game to me, I was incredibly confused. “So what, you just buy random stuff for the cats and they just arrive?” I asked her. Yeah, that’s it. The only real “caretaking” you have to do in the game is to make sure that you refill the food trays periodically so that the cats come back. When the cats finally do come, you have access to their names, breeds, personalities and even most-used “goodies.” However, as fast as they come, the cats are gone as quickly as they appear, no questions asked.
You may be wondering to yourself, why is this game so addictive? What is it about a game where literally all you do is watch cats that have everyone so hooked? As creator Yutaka Takazaki puts it, "The game is designed in such a way that players do not have to take too much time or energy (to play it), nor be a hardcore gamer." In other words, the addiction comes from its simplicity. In a world where everyone and everything are on the go and people barely have enough time to catch their breath, "Neko Atsume" provides a user-friendly virtual reality where you can have your cake and eat it, too. There’s no need for constant maintenance or an elaborate plotline to keep up with - just the comfort and joy of watching digital, miniature cats doing what they do best, be cats.Is there something concerning about how invested I am in these cats? Absolutely. The fact that I care more about whether the cats have been fed or if Joe DiMeowgio (I’m not making this up, this is an actual cat in the game) has visited within the past hour of me being offline than remembering to buy eggs at the supermarket is something that raises all kinds of red flags. But the fact of the matter is that in a world where so many terrible things happen on an everyday basis, it’s nice to know that I can have this one tiny pleasure to entertain me throughout my day.