Last week I downloaded a game I thought I’d never download: Neko Atsume. I downloaded it out of sheer curiosity. I had heard so many people talk about the game on Twitter, podcasts, and websites, that I just needed to know what it was all about. All I knew about the game going in was that your goal was to attract cats to your yard. Turns out, I was right. You leave goodies to attract cats, close the app, and come back later to see if you attracted any. Very little time is spent with the game actually open. It’s bare bones, it’s directionless, and I can’t stop playing it.
When you first download Neko Atsume, you’re presented with a tutorial that teaches you the basics of the game. It shows you your yard, how to purchase goodies in the shop, and then how to place those goodies in your yard. It then tells you to close the game and come back later to see if you’ve attracted any cats. That’s it. No more tutorial. From then on, you decide what you want to get out of the game. Want to save up and get a large cardboard box? Go for it. How about treating your cats to some sashimi? Be my guest. If there is any goal in this game, it would be to see every cat in the game. Certain cats only come into the yard if you have certain goodies placed in it. Outside of filling up your cat book, you’re on your own.
You might be wondering why even play a game if there’s zero direction and you don’t spend more than a minute or so at a time with it even open. Well, the short answer is: cats. I found myself checking my phone more and more often to see which cats were currently in my yard, and more importantly, which ones had been to my yard to leave fish. The currency of the game is fish, both silver and gold. As you collect these fish, you can buy nicer goodies to place in your yard. These higher end goodies will attract certain cats that leave more fish. It’d be easy to stop right here and just say that the only reason I come back to Neko Atsume is for more and more loot, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Collecting more and more fish is fun, but if loot was my only goal, there are a ton of other games I could turn to with better graphics and big plots. No, the reason I’ve been enjoying Neko Atsume so much lately is because it encourages me to do something no other game I’ve played lately has; to stop playing and do something else. Cats don’t show up in your yard when the game’s open. You don’t get any fish while you’re looking through the game. The only way to progress in the game is to not play it. I’m not saying that this is the best format for a game, but after having very recently put close to 100 hours into Witcher 3 and roamed the wastelands of Fallout 4, I’m ready for a game that requires some alone time. Neko Atsume is itself the cat of games. It wants to do its own thing and be left alone for the most part. Refill the food, adjust a few goodies, and then back off. It doesn’t seem to like me very much, and I’m totally happy with that.
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