China Embraces a Game About a Traveling Frog
BEIJING — A few short weeks after its release, a Japanese mobile game featuring a traveling frog has become a hit in China.
Why, exactly, is a bit hard to explain.
The game is called Tabi Kaeru, or Travel Frog. It was created by Hit-Point, the Japanese company that released the popular game Neko Atsume, or Kitty Collector, in 2014.
这款游戏叫Tabi Kaeru，即旅行青蛙，由日本公司Hit-Point开发。该公司还在2014年推出了热门游戏Neko Atsume，即猫咪后院。
It is played like this: A frog sits in its stone hut, eating and reading, while you collect clover from the front yard. The clover is used to buy food, which the frog takes on a journey.
Once the frog leaves on a trip, it’s unclear how long it will be gone. Sometimes it travels for hours or even days. When it returns, it provides snapshots and mementos of its journey.
If the 1980s arcade game Frogger is frog travel as sheer terror on the open road, Travel Frog is more like waking up at your destination after a restful nap.
For whatever reason, this seems to be a concept that Chinese mobile gamers have been waiting for. The state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday that Travel Frog had risen to the top of the free simulation game category in Apple’s App Store in China. It is being widely discussed on social media, where users post photos of their frogs’ adventures.
The secret of the game’s appeal isn’t readily obvious. But the frog is cute, for one thing. Some players say they enjoy the feeling of traveling vicariously.
And it’s also really easy.
“You don’t need to do a lot of things, you don’t even need to think about anything,” said Yu Ting, a 28-year-old accountant in the northeastern city of Tianjin. “It’s not a competitive game, so it’s very relaxing.”
The game also has a strong connection to child rearing. Before the frog leaves on a trip, you have to pack its lunch. And in Chinese, the word for “frog,” wa, is a homophone for a word for “baby.”
“My friends and I all call the frogs our ‘frog sons,’ ” said Gao Lang, 22, a graduate student in Beijing. “After raising this frog, I suddenly understand the feeling of being a parent, at least partly. And I think when I am traveling somewhere far in the future, I will try to send some photos to my parents.”
“Some people compare it with raising a child,” said Zhu Juan, 35, a sales director at a medical instrument company in Beijing. I have a 3-year-old daughter, and I know it’s different.”