"What's wrong with my frog? He hasn't written to me in three hours!"
"My frog only sent me one postcard today!"
Hundreds of similar posts have suddenly appeared in recent weeks in Chinese social media. While this may be confusing for the uninitiated, for members of China's young generation, it is a way of allaying the pressure of modern society. And it's all thanks to a small green character at the center of the wildly popular new game from Japan called Travel Frog.
"The frog is like my pet. It's very cute and doesn't take lots of time to take care of," a 26-year-old female player, surnamed Jiang, told the Global Times. "The frog is not a weight on my mind. It surprises me with little treats when it comes back from its travels!" Jiang said.
This thoughtfulness apparently eases her stress before she does a stint of overtime that her boss surprised her within the afternoon.
Using clovers that grow or can be collected as in-game currency, players can buy the necessary food and items to equip the frog on its journeys. When the frog goes off on one of its trips, it can send back pictures of its visits, or even bring back local delicacies when it "comes home".
The game has attracted large numbers of young players, and is used by many to ease their pressure and escape from the frustrations of modern life, experts said.
"The in-game lifestyle is just the opposite of the modern lifestyle for many youngsters who are in the process of finding a job, are new to everything, or have trouble dealing with relationships," Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Players basically have no interaction with the frog, have no idea where it will be at any given time, or whether he will be at home or on the road when you open the app. It's all up to the frog. It has been compared to a Buddhist lifestyle, a way of taking things as they are in order to find inner peace, Zhang Yi said.
The fascinating thing about the game is that you can't lose, Jiang said. "The frog won't die, so there is no winning or losing."
A report by Chinese search engine 360.cn shows that 47 percent of players of Travel Frog are aged 19 to 24. About 40 percent are between 25 and 34 years old.
In the past, young people would be assigned to jobs deemed appropriate for them after they graduated. Nowadays, Chinese society emphasizes the need for young people to diversify their habits and careers. Their demands for having a short transition or rest is exactly in line with the style of the game, said Zhang Kan, former president of the Chinese Psychological Society.
The game has become an emotional security blanket and an excuse to escape the fast pace of society, Zhang Yi added.
Playing games alleviates the pressure on them and prevents many young people from ending up with psychological disorders, Zhang Kan told the Global Times on Thursday.
The fact that there is no official Chinese version of the game is not to affect its popularity. Fans have managed to translate the Japanese instructions into Chinese. Tips on how to play the game have even soared to the list of most popular search items on Sina Weibo.
"I don't understand Japanese. But it's easy to follow the Chinese instructions that are circulating online," said another female player, surnamed Meng, who has been playing the game for weeks.
However, many players, including Jiang, just play the game blindly without any knowledge of the language.
Unlike King of Glory, a game that requires large amounts of money to dress up its characters or find new characters, Travel Frog requires no extra money to play.
Players can also easily get the hang of it without any particular techniques, an aspect that makes it popular with a lot of female players, Zhang Yi said. The game also plays on female players' maternal instincts, experts contacted by the Global Times said.
Travel Frog, developed by Japanese game company Hit-Point, has been the most downloaded free app in the game section of the Apple store for days. The Global Times has not received a reply to its request for an interview from Hit-Point as of Thursday.