In the new game “Stray,” gamers are able to take control of a lost but adventurous cat. They aren’t the only ones enjoying the experience – real-life cats are also benefiting thanks to the support of the game’s developers, as well as those playing it.
For cat lovers, the “Stray” video game might be your new favorite obsession. Set in a neon-splattered, robot-habituated city, a stay cat must solve mysteries and puzzles while avoiding danger in order to find his way home.
Of course, with that fantasy comes the basic cat stuff many are used to with their pet. Players can walk on ledges and railings, knock over things with their paws, and radiate the general cuteness of a fuzzball. It’s a perspective that certainly adds a whole other dimension to the gameplay.
“Stray” has clearly made its mark on the gaming community (and apparently with cats wanting entertainment as well). With overwhelmingly positive reviews on the story, worldbuilding, and immersion, it’s made its way to the top of the best sellers on video game distribution service Steam, sitting at the second-most sold last week.
However, it’s not just the third-person virtual feline that’s getting all the love. “Stray” is helping to benefit real-life cats through the efforts of both those playing it and those who developed it.
“It was really mutually beneficial. They got some really good PR out of it and we got a whole new donor base out of it.”
According to “Stray” developer BlueTwelve Studio, the France creation team was made up “mostly made up of cats and a handful of humans.” While the jokes are endearing, those behind “Stray” have shown their commitment to animal welfare.
The game’s publisher, Annapurna Interactive, offered two animal rescues and adoption agencies copies of the game while renting out a cat cafe. The partnership was only natural given the game’s mechanics and audience.
“The whole game and the whole culture around the game, it’s all about a love of cats,” Nebraska Humane Society marketing specialist Brendan Gepson told the Associated Press. “It meshed really well with the shelter and our mission.”
With the copies, the shelters were able to hold raffles. Gepson noted the shelter was able to raise $7,000, in addition to the $1,035 donated by Annapurna Interactive. Nebraska Humane Society also acquired hundreds of new donors from around the world.
The popularity of “Stray” didn’t just resonate with gamers, either. “We had a few people tell us they didn’t even have a PlayStation or any way to play the game, but they wanted to donate to help us out regardless. Right now we’re looking to reach out to some local streamers to keep this momentum going,” Gepson told Polygon.
The cat cafe also resulted in success, with hundreds of dollars being raised thanks to visitors being able to play the video game while being surrounded by felines.
“I certainly hope that maybe some people will be inspired to help actual strays in real life — knowing that having an animal and a companion is a responsibility.”
Streamers have also played a massive part in bringing support to shelters. According to streaming service Twitch, “Stray” was the fourth-most viewed and broadcasted game on its launch date.
Since that time, “Stray” currently sits as the 26th most-watched video game on Twitch with over 11 million viewing hours in the last 30 days. It also earned over 270,500 peak viewers, 12th most in the same period.
Annapurna Interactive has attempted to capitalize on that audience by partnering with U.K.-based Cats Protection, which invites people to stream and donate funds raised through their “Pawsome Players” initiative.
Though it remains to be seen if the game will entice gamers and viewers to adopt some of the more than 3.2 million cats that enter animal shelters each year in the U.S., what is obvious is that its power to attract attention to beneficiary causes has resonated heavily with streamers like TreyDay1014, who also spoke to AP.
“This has opened my eyes to being able to use this platform for a lot more good than just playing video games.”
Andrew Rhoades is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. A Saint Joseph’s University graduate, Rhoades’ reporting includes sports, U.S., and entertainment. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.