I admit it. Lately, I haven’t been playing that many games. Oh, I still dabble in Clash of Clans or Super Mario Maker once in a while, but life – and work – keeps getting in the way, and I was never any good at gaming anyway. I do play enough that some Facebook quiz, trying to guess my gender, age, and income level via the apps on my phone, seems to think I’m a 32-year-old married man with a $52,000 per year salary. In reality, I’m a middle-aged single mom trying to eke out a living as a freelance writer, working from my laptop at home, baking Alton Brown recipes for fun.
In other words, I’m a perfect candidate for Future Crazy Cat Lady. Enter Neko Atsume.
Preparing me for my upcoming feline-friendly career, Neko Atsume is a cat-collecting game. You must have seen it. It’s a non-game kind of game, which is pretty much perfect for the amount of brain cells I have alive in my head by the time I’m ready to do anything fun.
My son, through the kids at his school, introduced me to this free mobile game. But it doesn’t matter. I would have found it some other way. For one thing, my college alumnae pet group (I went to a women’s college) is obsessed with Neko Atsume, and I’m always getting on to Facebook to find my feed littered with advice on how to get certain cats, or just people posting screen captures of the cats in their yard. I played this game for two months, off and on, before I actually got interested in it.
I don’t get it. There is no reason this game should occupy me the way it does. I mean, you buy stuff. You put it out in your yard. Cats show up. They go away, leaving gifts behind that you can use to buy more stuff. That’s literally it. Nothing else happens.
Yet there’s something very Zen about Neko Atsume. The stakes are low. If you leave, there are no consequences. No one attacks you while you’re gone. There’s no action whatsoever. There are cute kitties, sometimes with bags on their heads (isn’t that adorable?). Because they are drawn to different objects, it’s almost like they have personalities. You make them happy by providing items they like. It’s like virtual love, with the minimum amount of energy expended.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. Heck, I’m late to the party. Plenty of people have spent time pondering this simple game’s popularity, and many others have jumped on the bandwagon. Academics and comedians have weighed in. Blog posts have been written. Buzzfeed has done a list (because of course they have). There’s a Tumblr (duh). There’s a sub-Reddit. The cats have been ranked. Recipes have been created. Heck, I learned to capture screenshots on my Android phone just so I could share pictures of my collected cats. I don’t even share pictures of my REAL cats (much).
For those of us aspiring future multiple-cat-owners-about-to-be-raided by-the-humane-society, Neko Atsume is perfect. These cats don’t pee where they’re not supposed to, or need to go to the vet to have their teeth cleaned, or shed fur all over all my black yoga pants (I’m looking at you, Beasley), or steal tuna off the counter (I’m looking at you, Elsie).
I think I like being a virtual cat lady. It’s at least a touch less pathetic than being a real one. Right? Right?