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.”
On Thursday came a sign that Travel Frog had truly made it: finger-wagging from the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, which warned people not to embrace the ethos of the game.
“Live to the fullest and don’t be just a lonely ‘frog-raising youth,’ ” it said Thursday on its official Weibo account.
To most players, that probably doesn’t need saying.
“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.”