“You know, you have real, live cats,” my husband says.
I know this. I also know that I’m not allowed to have any more cats. Four is the limit, we’ve decided. Four adorable cats: one sightless; one deaf; one old; one new. The new one, now 6 months old, is maddening. His name is Waffles and yesterday he broke a decorative cup and saucer as he leapt into the rosemary plant pot on his monkey-like climb to the window.
Four is the limit. So, I tell myself, this is why I’m addicted to Neko Atsume.
Neko Atsume, Japanese for “cat collection,” is a game Yutaka Takasaki and Hit Point developed for the Japanese market in 2014 and released in English last fall. It was designed for iOS and Android platforms. The iPhone 6 my husband gave me as a birthday present couldn’t have been better timed.
The game starts with a yard, a toy and one cat, Snowball. Each time the cats visit and depart, they leave you fish. Fish –normal fish and valuable gold fish—are currency. You shop for toys, cushions, tents, furnishings and food to place in the yard, attracting the kitties who will give you more fish. Some are generous, like Tubbs—the fat cat with kibble on his face, chowing down all the food but leaving a hefty sum of fish. Others give what they can for the favor of playing with a ball of yarn or sitting on a cushion. As far as I can tell, the longer they stay in your yard, the more fish they offer. But it doesn’t matter. You will have enough fish at the end of the day to buy something, anything, for the yard.
Each cat has a name but you are free to change it. Before I check messages or Facebook, I look in on my pretend cats Scout, Waffles, Bennie, Kobe, Snubby, Mr. Steve, Bootsie, Tubbs, Smokey, Lexy, Snowball, Bandit. Those are just a few. There are more. Many more.
If I better understood economics I would write a thesis on Neko Atsume. Something about abundance and scarcity, wealth creation and distribution, and how very little, just like real economics, is based in reality. (True story: I introduced my work presentation today with Neko Atsume and the idea that “if you build it, they will come.”)
For a small price—the value of your time checking on fake cats to accept fish payments—you earn the ability to shop. It doesn’t really matter if you shop wisely. That beige cushion? At least one cat will leave a fish or two for the comfort and it will, eventually, pay for itself. Should you really buy a plastic bag? Won’t it suffocate the cat? No cats die in Neko Atsume. There is only prosperity and happiness. Your pile of fish will grow, kitties will visit and leave you more fish. You’ll shop for toys and furniture and decorative pieces (a glass vase, perhaps) and more cats will play and sit. You’ll save enough fish to expand the yard, maybe even trade up for a Japanese garden or a modern deck.
The only thing you have to do is feed the cats. You don’t even have to feed them the fancy stuff. Today, Tubbs left me 53 regular fish to pay for the entire bowl of meh-Frisky Bitz he devoured.
Neko Atsume offers near-instant gratification, unlimited opportunity to save and spend, economies of scale that are approachable—a dresser, for example, might be pricey at 950 fish, but you also get two vases with that dresser and you can easily save up 950 fish in a day. Aside from adding on to your yard, a one-time cost, you don’t pay for your land. No utilities, insurance, clothing, gasoline. Everything is free, except for cat toys and cat food—and the cats pay you for those. You make money from cats.
I can’t imagine a better world.
While economic behavior is fascinating, each day I am sucked in more by “teh cute” factor. Little x’s to represent their butts. Adorable kitty smiles and whiskers and noses. Ginger jumping up and down as she plays with a mouse on a stick. They do face plants, for god’s sake. They turn their backs to you, as cats are wont to do. They roll on the ground with the bunny toy. They play, sleep, play, sleep.
And, oh, the anticipation of a rare cat appearance. These cats have special identities and favor particular objects: Guy Furry, the chef who makes fabulous sundaes in the glass vase; Conductor Whiskers plays with the twisty rail game and has a whistle; Bob the Cat with his pick-axe stands atop the cat condo like a conqueror; Saint Purrtrick loves the dainty red pillow; and my favorite, Senor de Gato, the sword-wielding cat who fences with the mouse on a stick. (I realize I am using “who” as a pronoun in each restrictive clause to represent an antecedent that is not human. It is in my DNA. I must.)
So, yeah, they are almost as adorable as my live cats. And they don’t poop. And they pay me in fish. In return, I get to shop and giggle at the adorable butt x’s sticking out of the fish stick tube.