As is surely apparent by now, I am a fan of games. This includes all games, from PC to console to board to pen and paper to mobile.
I especially like when a game requires very little effort from me in order for it to be enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, I like games that challenge me, too, but there is something incredibly delightful about a game that requires little from its audience, but the audience is still able to engage with it.
This weekend I discovered Neko Atsume, a delightful little Japanese mobile game where the premise is to collect kitties. Like most mobile games, Neko Atsume is free to play, but has in-app purchases in order to speed up the process of collecting digital kittens.
The makers of the game clearly knew that their game was gaining traction here in America, because this past week they released an update that allowed for the use of English translations within the game.
That isn’t to say the game prior to this was unusable by American audiences, far from it, in fact. Guides have popped up translating the different icons and kitten names for American fans.
So what is it about this game that has captivated its users?
I think there are several rhetorical components that cause audiences to respond to this game:
Simplistic, 2D rendering creates a cartoon-like environment. There isn’t any shading to eat up an excess of your phone’s memory. That being said, the cats still move around a bit in an effort to make the player feel engaged. It’s almost like a tamagotchi, but minus the consequences of forgetting to feed it.
The Color Scheme:
The colors are soft on LCD or LED smartphone screens, which can sometimes portray colors harshly. The colors are also very basic and minimal.
The Time Sink:
There isn’t one. This game is low pressure and all reward. Some mobile games have you checking your phone frequently with a high amount of attention in order to maintain the game world. And while you may miss taking some photos of your cat visitors if you only check it once or twice daily, you still get credit for them showing up in your Catbook.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All:
It’s a collection game. And for some reason a lot of people like to collect things, gamers doubly so. Whether it is for personal satisfaction or bragging rights, gamers lover their trophies and will pour hours into a game in order to complete it with all available achievements. And the great thing is, the further you get into the game, the more specialized items you can earn and that means more specialized kitties will come to visit. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of fuzzy adorableness.