“Stray” Is Cool Enough to Turn Anti-Screen Cat People Into Devoted Gamers
Take the cat off your lap and get into it.
Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)
Rein in your cat-lady stereotypes: Not every game-obsessed homebody has a cat weaving in and out of their legs as they advance from one level to the next. And some cat people prefer to read, thank you very much.
Gamer or not, you’ve been missing out on “Stray,” the feline-centric adventure that’s quickly become a global obsession. In fact, since its debut in July, “Stray” has consistently remained a top-selling release and has rallied its fans to give back to the cat community.
A Gamer’s Guide
The third-person adventure game, created by France’s BlueTwelve studio, is born of the internet’s two great obsessions: cats (the ultimate muses of memes) and our collective end-of-days anxiety (a collateral effect of the pandemic). At face value, “Stray” looks like yet another post-apocalyptic/cyberpunk contender, entrenched in a “decaying cybercity and the murky environments of its seedy underbelly” (their words). But it’s actually a kind of sweet story about a cat’s colorful journey — with artificial-intelligence drone in tow — through a curious, new world inhabited by robots.
The orange tabby lands there after accidentally falling into a hole, while traveling with its clowder (a.k.a. a group of cats — look it up!). As the cat attempts to escape from this creepy underground city, it eludes Sentinel and bug-like Zurk menaces and makes some curious acquaintances along the way.
Oh, also: There are no humans. They’ve all been wiped out by a plague. Yup, even in this pandemic era, the creators went there.
Cats Are Gamers, Too
Cat aficionados will revel in the game’s many realistic delights, such as prompting the feline to meow, nuzzle, scratch, jump, balance on ledges, knock things off shelves — but mostly — you know — explore. Unsurprisingly, a stray rescued by BlueTwelve’s cofounders served as the game’s primary inspiration. In fact, the Twitter account called Cats Watching Stray follows real cats that have been entranced by it, too.
Said BlueTwelve producer Swann Martin-Raget to CNN: “When the cats in the office started to react to what was happening on our screens, I think we kind of felt that we were going in a good direction.” Meanwhile, some fans are going rogue with their “Stray” love, modifying the game’s code to add in shoutouts to their favorite cats.
“I certainly hope that maybe some people will be inspired to help actual strays in real life,” Martin-Raget went on to tell the Associated Press, “knowing that having an animal and a companion is a responsibility.”
His wish has come true. “Stray” has inspired a grassroots fundraising culture around it. Gamers, such as a twice-over cat-dad who goes by Twitch username TreyDay1014, have been live-streaming themselves playing “Stray” to raise money for cat-related charities and shelters. The game’s publisher, Annapurna Interactive, has joined them, too.
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Nisha Gopalan has been a writer/editor for The New York Times, New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and NYLON magazines. She currently resides in Los Angeles.