Management sims are games that I love to hate. You face an endless onslaught of extremely demanding customers who want you to perform your services in a very particular way, and pronto. If you leave them unattended for too long, then they make disgruntled faces. Mess up enough times, and they might even dock your pay. None of this happens in Capybara Spa, the chillest business sim on Steam right now. These furry little angels are the most patient, gracious customers I’ve ever served.
Capybara Spa is exactly what it says on the tin. You build spa tubs, fruit gardens, and other amenities on a mountain filled with capybaras. You click and drag your guests into capybara-sized tubs, you attend to their every whim, and they reward you with coins once they leave. Their questions are not complex. Most of the time, they just want fresh fruit, flowers, or a clean towel. And they’ll reward you for keeping the mountain clean of debris such as rocks and wildflowers. Since many management sims are high-pressure games that force you to work fast, it took me a while to figure out that the game wasn’t meant to be optimized or sped through.
I built as many tubs as I could afford, and then I piled all my capybaras in. When they asked for food, I made sure that nobody was waiting for longer than three seconds. Soon, I’d be raking in the thousands with my capybara spa empire. I was constantly scanning the entire area for new customers whenever I had a spare moment. Once I accumulated enough experience points to be at a certain level, baby capybaras started coming in. These mini guests always needed to be accompanied by an adult capybara (Makes sense, I guess?), so I began minmaxing my hot tub capacity based on that. No adult was allowed to bathe alone, because that would be an inefficient use of my limited spa space.
The grind never stops at the Capybara Spa. Well, until it does. One of my editors pinged me about a draft for a different blog, so I paused the game to wrap that one up. When I returned, I was horrified to discover that the “Pause” button doesn’t actually pause anything. Time in my spa sim progressed without me for a couple of hours. More importantly, it wasn’t the end of the world. The capybaras were exactly where I had left them. None of them were starving to death or demanding a refund. Unlike the socialites I often serve in restaurant or hotel simulations, capybaras are unsophisticated customers. As long as they eventually got their strawberries, they were happy. Linear time meant nothing to the humble capybara. I worried a little bit when ducks and other non-capybara animals showed up, but the main guests were perfectly content to share a bathtub with anyone I put them with. None of the capybaras had any complicated demands.
I calmed down when I realized that managing a spa for capybaras isn’t supposed to be stressful. After I built insect stumps, I gained insect employees that would help me with the customers. I’d step away from the game for a few hours, and the butterflies would eventually get around to serving every single customer. I didn’t actually have to do anything except for lifting capybaras in and out of hot tubs. After several hours, I even started to allow adults to bathe alone. Sometimes I’d put a baby into their tub. Sometimes I didn’t. There weren’t any ways of achieving bonuses for exceptional service, so I just focused on filling as many tubs with capybaras as possible. Once they were in there, they were there until I decided to come back to their stretch of the mountain again. And it was wonderful. The gameplay loop felt much less like the management game Diner Dash and a lot more like the cat collecting game Neko Atsume. Capybara Spa represents customers at their absolute best: silent and accommodating.
Capybara Spa is a game that you can leave running in the background while you’re doing something else. I can’t help but wish that real service jobs were so low-stakes.