Why Does TikTok, and the Internet At Large, Love the Cyberpunk Cat Game Stray?

Stray is drawing in people who don't normally care about games.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a capital-G “Gamer,” there’s a high chance you’ve seen clips of the cute cat game Stray over the past week. From snapshot-worthy PlayStation 5 videos on Twitter to the endless TikToks and videos of cats reacting to gameplay, it’s become exceedingly clear that BlueTwelve Studio‘s debut game has the internet hooked on its furry cyberpunk adventures. Stray achieved this even before its launch, as it rapidly climbed the Steam charts before its release.

But how did a cat game nonchalantly take over the games industry, briskly becoming a social media manager’s most intimate fantasy? There are a couple of causes for this purr-fect result.

The first is that Stray is a modestly priced game. Now, I don’t know about all of y’all, but a regular full-priced video game in Canada is $79.99 before tax. When you add tax on top of that, it vaults to $90.39. That is one million dollars to me. Up in the north, AAA video games have us in a financial chokehold, slowly squeezing increasingly more coins out of us every other year just because they can.

Thankfully, Stray pushes against that begrudgingly accepted standard by being less than half of that price, thus opening itself up to a plethora of players who aren’t able to afford the higher price tag.

Stray Tiktok Internet

Stray is also an uncomplicated game, and I mean that as the highest compliment. It sets up a straightforward premise of a lost cat in a neglected, post-human society, and the misadventures that spur up on their journey home. It also executes the world it proposes with keen attention to detail.

You are a cat, so you solve puzzles like one: knocking things off of a table without any repercussions, scratching up tangled wires, and sneaking around à la a little guy. The vertical level design provides the ideal infrastructure for feline parkour, making it real fun to hop around rooftops and explore what’s going on in this mysterious underground city.

Accompanying exploration are a couple of “combat” sequences where you’re tasked with fighting a group of enemies. While these skirmish sections are distracting, they are short. I’m very glad they don’t take up too much of the story because they diminish the good vibes Stray so meticulously curates. I was worried they would turn Stray into a game where you unlock a laser gun and fight off hordes of evil robots, because it could so easily have made that pivot, but that’s not what Stray is.

The best moments in Stray are found in the reflective, downtempo times where you’re able to do silly cat hijinx like curl up into a fuzzball and listen to an android pluck sweet tones out of a makeshift guitar. That’s the stuff that catapults you into the inscrutable fortress that is a cat’s mentality.

People don’t want another game where you use guns and violence to explode your enemies into a trillion cubes; they want a game where you scratch up a bunch of shit because you feel like it. Stray favors soft, mesmeric cat mannerisms over mind-shattering twists and bloodshed, and it is an extraordinary game for that. The level design, affordability, and clear-cut gameplay make Stray incredibly welcoming even to people who rarely, if ever, play games.

Stray Keyboard TikTok Internet

But the fundamental reason why Stray is popping off online, amassing millions of views on TikTok, is actually very simple: it’s a game about cats. Keyboard Cat’s melodious refrains and the LOLcat’s Impact font reign in the late 2000s prove the internet has always loved cats, and this won’t stop anytime soon. For some reason, there has never been an AA or AAA game where you play as a cat, doing cat things. Stray, from inception, was bound to this viral fate.

I love Stray for all of the reasons mentioned, but it also means something more to me. Recently, my cat Gogeta returned after going missing for over a month. When I picked him up, he was ridiculously skinny, crying out into the sky as I carried him back home. He’s doing great now! He’s healthy and back to causing a ruckus at my desk, but I wish he could talk so he could tell me exactly what he was up to; what adventures, scary or pleasant, he went on — and which ones led him back home to me.

Stray means a lot more to me now because it serves as a fictional yet nonetheless emotional window into what Gogeta experienced, and I’m thankful for that. Also, I now know the joys of knocking things off the table — it’s an incredibly rewarding pastime. And now I laugh every time Gogeta makes a mess on my desk because, you know, I get it.

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