A couple of weeks ago I checked my cats religiously. I made sure they had their ritzy bitz, bought all the latest toys and took frequent photos of them in my modern style garden. Yes I was a Neko Atsume addict. I played the popular Japanese cat collecting app every day, and never question my interest in the relatively mundane game.
Now, however, as Neko Atsume has faded (for most people) into the app of last month, I wonder: why do the most popular apps adopt the most boring premises? For example, the app of the hour is Miitomo, a Nintendo game I downloaded yesterday which consists of designing your persona, or Mii, friending other Mii people, dressing yourself and answering personal questions like “What’s your favorite food?” Or “Cats or dogs?” And commenting on others’ answers for points.
These types of apps aren’t the exciting car racing or trivia competitions of the past, instead they involve a whole lot of waiting around for people to accept your friend requests, your cats to come back to your cat garden and your points to accumulate enough to buy something interesting.
Are we shying away from excitement and competition because we have enough of it in our lives already? Honestly, I’m stressed enough already without the countdown timer of Trivia Crack or precarious ledges to jump and fall off of in Doodle Jump. The animated cats of Neko Atsume are relaxing, and watching out for rare cats and mementos adds variety and a reason to check back everyday.
As for Miitomo, there’s something paradoxical about a game that is essentially life. My Mii looks like me, has the same opinions and style as I do and doesn’t do anything particularly extraordinary. But she does have something I do not: time to walk around in her little box of a room and talk to her friends. Twenty four seven she is interacting “face to face” with those I have friended. I don’t have that luxury.
These apps are admittedly boring. But I know I’ll never have a garden filled with colorful cats and unique toys, so even if the novelty is brief it is worth clicking on. I’m still waiting on all that free time and free cash to buy cute clothes and hang out with my friends, but I prefer the real me to the virtual me, she doesn’t disappear every time my phone dies.