The core of Eastern philosophy is to look beyond the self toward a higher state of being. Some religions achieve this through meditation, while other houses of thought seek the meaning of life through nature. The Japanese rock garden aims to discover the essence of nature through the simplicity of placing several objects such that they reflect the flow of life in its purest form. It is no surprise that the culture of such an insightful means of self-reflection also created the modern mirror for society, Neko Atsume.
Neko Atsume was released on the app store on October 14, 2016, which was when it began its journey to capture 5.5 million hearts. Neko Atsume (Japanese for Cat Collector) is a game in which players purchase goods with fish (the game’s currency) to attract felines to their virtual backyards. The app involves a single screen where the player taps on food bowls and cats to earn fish. The fish are then used to buy toys to attract more cats such as “Mr. Meowgi” and “Saint Purrtrick.”
Buying goodies for my neko was certainly fun, but the app serves to deliver a much more substantial revelation. As the toys were bought and the inventory was filled, I was emptied. The accumulation of material wealth could not fill the void in my soul. Virtual hammocks and socks cannot replace the relationships that humanity requires.
After spending hundreds of fish, I realized it was meaningless to amass so many useless trinkets. The purpose of Neko Atsume is not to collect earthly goods, but rather to love your kitties and to treasure every one of your relationships. It is not the goodies that matter—it is the cats, the network of love that surrounds each one of us. The app preaches that life is not about what we own; it is about how we choose to spend our time. Neko Atsume allows us all to derive greater enjoyment from life and from each other.