It is with great sadness that I think of those among you who have not yet heard of Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector. I, myself, was once like you—lost, wandering, my days unfulfilled and empty. I still clearly remember that night almost a whole week ago when I lay exhausted on the couch, thinking about all the work I had yet to do. And then a stranger came unto me on Tumblr, speaking to their followers thusly in a text post:
“SOMEONE IN NEKO ATSUME REACHED 23 CATS! TEACH ME YOUR WAYS.”
Intrigued—nay, summoned—by this mystic message, I opened the Google Play app (and then closed it and opened it again about six times until it decided to actually work), and downloaded this mysterious game.
“Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector is as easy as one, two … and that’s it!” the game’s download page declared. “Step 1: Place playthings and snacks in your yard. Step 2: Wait for cats to visit.” Surely nothing in this world could be that simple and pure? I had to find out. I filled the virtual bowl with cat food, left a rubber ball on the rug, closed the app … and then reopened it.
My weariness vanished. My woes and cares became meaningless and were forgotten. There was a cat! In my virtual yard! Playing with a rubber ball! Everything was now good and pure and perfect in my world!
I’ve only been playing this game for a week or so, but I already feel it is my civic duty to share its existence with as many people as possible. I’ve gotten at least three of my friends hooked, as well as my boss. (“The cats!” she exclaimed when I showed it to her. “I keep seeing people with the cats! Now I know what the cats are!”) There is no failure in Neko Atsume, no pressure, no stress—only cats who will snuggle on your furniture and eat your cat food and leave you thank you fish, which you can spend to buy cozier furniture and fancier cat food.
For those of you who take comfort in providing simple joys for others, or for those of you who compulsively check your phone every time you have ten seconds to spare, this game is perfect. There’s little to do while actually in-game beyond admiring your visitors and checking whether you’ve saved up enough fish to buy any new goodies.
The fun of the game—and the joy of it—is in coming back after you’ve been away for a time to see how things are going. Are there any new cats in your yard? Who’s wedged themselves proudly into the cardboard box on the pedestal? It’s so immensely comforting to come back and find a cat contentedly snuggling in the blanket you left out for it, invisible except for its butt and tail. Regardless of whatever else is going on in your life right now, you’ve still made this one virtual cat very happy. That’s got to mean your day was worthwhile.
As the subtitle Kitty Collector suggests, there is a collecting element to the game, though it’s certainly not a requirement. The game comes complete with a “catbook” and built-in camera, so you can log all the different kitties (each individually named) who visit your yard.
Play long enough and leave out the right goodies, and you’ll receive mementos and desirable visits from rare cats such as Chairman Meow and St. Purrtrick. If you save up enough golden fish, you can even buy expansions to your yard, allowing you to fit in even more cats. Like, say, 23 of them. I’m not sure if my brain will be able to handle that level of cuteness, but at least it’ll get me through the days until I next get to visit my own real cats back home.