Neko Atsume- My New Amewsement

imageJust in case you didn’t get it, “Mew” as in a cat goes “Mew Mew Mew”. 😉

Just a sneak peek at my current favorite game: Neko Astume (Kitty Collector).

“So it’s basically an awesome game where you buy goodies and put them in your yard, cats would come play with them, and bring you gifts. You can buy pink balls and yellow balls and baseballs and stress relief balls and watermelon balls…” As I explained my new favourite game app to my roommate, I couldn’t help but notice that I myself was laughing at my childish enthusiam.

Really, Mia? I asked myself, and looked at myself in the mirror- brushing my teeth and giggling, my toothpaste foams almost dripping onto my school sweater. A “kitty collector” game? Seriously?

But yes, this seemingly-silly game is addictive. And at the risk of sounding like a cheesy professional video game reviewer, I’d still like to say that this game is SO MUCH MORE than having cats play in your yard.

This cute game, available in both Japanese and English, works like this- you have golden fish and silver fish, the cat currency, and you put cat food (there’s a wide selection even just for cat cuisine- tuna cans, sardine cans, Bonito Bitz or even sashimi) in your yard to attract cats. The best part, however, is the “goodies” you put out there for cats to play with. You can purchase tents, futons, snow sleds and all sorts of fancy stuff. Every one of your cat visitors is different and you have a “catbook” and an album to keep track of them.

My anime-crazy friend downloaded this game onto my phone, and thus began my kitty-collecting adventure. Apparently a lot of anime fans and just-generally-Japananese-stuff fans at my school have this app on their phones, and they are PROs. When these fellow players come talk to me about how they bought a chestnut-shaped cushion, or a luxurious hammock, or an Art Deco cat tree, and still have 1500 silver fish and 100 golden fish left, all I can do as a newbie cat collector is to cover my ears and pretend to cry.  My friend loves piquing me by showing me her yard expansion, which allows the player to double the area of their yard and attract more cats, and which I cannot afford.

But as inexperienced and impoverished as I am in the game,  I’m already having a lot of fun. As I take out my phone to “check on my cats” at lunch, during the precious 5 minutes before choir, before bed, when I brush my teeth… I can’t help but wonder, what indeed is the charm of this little game?

It certainly appeals to me because it fills the void of cats in my life, and allows me to the ideal way of living with cats. I LONG TO HAVE A CAT, but my dad, who loves plants yet not animals, always tells me (with a smile finer than the curve of a cat’s mouth), “You can have one when you have your own home, hon.” So although a “blogger” is supposed to have had tons of maverick experiences- having been a backpacker, watched one movie from every country of the world, wrote a Hollywood screenplay… but I, unfortunately, haven’t even owned a cat. Neko Atsume ingeniously solves this problem. I too, can become a person popular among cats, as long as I buy the kitties plenty of grubs and things to keep warm or to play with. Maybe I’ll soon grow tired of this game and delete it, but for now, I’m super contented just opening the app to see new cats playing in my yard, not even looking up but I know they’ll bring me gifts later, or even opening the app to see that no cat is there, so I refill the food and quietly quit the game with my heart full of hope like cats hiding under a blanket.

However, I do think that there is something more to the game. You see, still, I’m not keeping any cats, but instead they just visit my yard for food and a fun time, and they bring me gifts in return. It is almost like a very smart mechanism, a perfect model of human-animal coexistence. The developers of this game seem to be very smart people. They are fully aware that every player would know these cats aren’t real, and they know how to take advantage of this. They created a virtual platform where you don’t hold on to anything, but instead merely trade with them and watch them come and go. No player gets “hooked onto” this game, and probably like me, all players appreciate this. We appreciate how polite this game is,- it provides you with joy, but meanwhile gives you space.

That said, I shall look forward to the day when I have enough golden fishes to afford a yard expansion for my cats.

 

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