It’s not news that Millennials have grown accustomed to their post-wake-up routine of scrolling through standard social networking platforms. But an addicting app has its users seemingly refreshing it just as much as they do Instagram. Say hello to Neko Atsume, your newest addiction.
Neko Atsume, or “Kitty Collector” in Japanese, has one ultimate goal for its players: to attract every one of the in-app cats and gather them. The app — which made its debut in Japan last year and has since made its way to the U.S. and beyond — has 49 cartoonishly depicted cats complete with names and personality descriptions, 17 of which are considered rare finds.
To assemble the kitties, the game prompts the user to buy food and toys and scatter them throughout with little strategy needed. If a cat likes the treat left out or finds entertainment in a toy, he’ll visit and leave fish currency in return. It takes hours for a pet to come crawling in, so the app must be constantly revisited for progress checks, adding to its addicting nature. If they stay patient, the user will eventually have their cat book completed with adorable pictures of the little guys.
But that’s that. The game has no real action to it. A button is tapped, food is left out, the app is closed for a few hours and then reopened for a minute or two to see if a kitten awaits. Similar to Schrodinger’s Cat, what looms — or doesn’t loom — is a mystery. So why is the sight of a virtual cat so satisfying?
“It’s more of a lifestyle,” Ben Brandwein, a junior majoring in English, said. “It’s a connection you make with virtual pets. I think what made other games such as Pokemon and Tamogatchi so attractive and magnetic and made people so obsessive is they offer this real, virtual companionship.”
Neko Atsume appeals to a large audience — from stressed college kids to busy mothers who need a quick escape from reality. Many of the game’s reviews highlight its seemingly magical ability to dissipate stress or anxiety. Along with its supporters, however, come its haters. For them, the app’s lack of action just won’t cut it.
“I don’t like games that reward you for not playing,” Vincent Longobardi, a junior majoring in biology, said. “If I’m going to sit down and play a video game, I want to be playing that game. I don’t want to wait for something to happen. That’s not fun.”
Longobardi added that interactive features, like mini games or a two-player mode, could enhance the app. He also referred to the short attention span of Generation Y kids as a possible reason why this game is deemed enjoyable.
But despite these people, the app is rising in popularity. For most, like Brandwein, it offers a delightful moment in an otherwise Neko-less life. Neko Atsume merchandise is also on the horizon, and the game’s players are investing in real-life plush toys, school supplies and even sweatshirts to show off to their kitty-collecting colleagues. Fans better buy them quick — the Amazon plushies are already on back order.
For those who play, Neko Atsume provides a charming fantasy land. Between Billy the Kitten, Chairman Meow and Joe DeMeowgio, it’s undeniable that the Nekos add the comfort of a cat to players’ lives without the mess of a dirty litter box.