Critical Play: Theme Only Games

My first reaction is that I just played Cat Condo for 2 hours straight and have no idea why. But I’ll do my best to explain why in this essay.

The prompt asks: how does theme change the experience? And, perhaps more importantly, what is it about cats that makes the game world go ’round? It’s so easy for them to go viral, to become addicting.

Cat Condo is a single-player matching game, in the same vein of the famous 2048. The smallest building block (level 1 block) is a Kitty Cat, and you can match Kitty Cat + Kitty Cat to get a Kitten (level 2 block). Every time you unlock a new cat, you get a little reward pop-up. I suspect a huge reason why I kept playing was the sheer curiosity of what the next cat was. Cats, man.

Apparently, the maximum level cat is a Deity Cat at level 40, and the cats get more and more absurd as you go along, as you can see by the silhouettes of the cats I never got in the Photobook below.

The objective is to match enough to get this Deity cat and fill out up your photobook. It isn’t exactly an explicit win, but I suppose this means you’ve beaten the game.

The biggest constraints you face and the reason why you can’t beat the game right away include space (how many slots / cats you can have on the screen at a time), money (with which you can buy new cats), and time (since a new Kitty Cat spawns every 10 seconds). They made me watch ads every single time I wanted to upgrade a gift to a better-leveled cat (which I always ended up doing), but it discouraged me and made me feel like I was just there to pour money into the pockets of the gamemakers instead of focusing on the gameplay.

Anyway, it’s funny that they say curiosity killed the cat, since my curiosity was what allowed the cats to keep spawning and growing in this game. It was kind of cute watching the littlest kittens grow into regal Siamese cats, which is the roleplaying, fantasy-esque kind of fun that attracted me to games like Petz or Nintendogz when I was younger. But the main type of fun was abnegation, an escape from the toils of the real world an immersion into my phone screen as it filled up with various cats.

The theme was probably the main reason that kept me going in a game so mundane and repetitive. It allowed me to feel like it was actually another world of its own — the drawer of the Magic Circle. I imagine that the theme is also what will make this game memorable, something I would talk to my friends about. It also makes it stand apart from other matching games. After all, cats = awesomeness.

In short, my answer to why I was glued to this game was my attachment to the little cats themselves. Special shoutout to Cat 07 for being so darn cute.

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