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News Opinions 25 July 2022, 13:25

author: Julia Dragovic

Stray Proves Gameplay Isn't Everything

Stray has launched and became quite a hit – we finally got a cyberpunk game that lived up to the hype. While you're unlikely to hear my raptures about the gameplay itself, it's a hit as a feline phenomenon.

What is this phenomenon all about? We got the digital equivalent of a catnip toy – a product that we buy more for ourselves than for our cat, because a licking and hollering cat is a sight we can never get enough of. Look at the game's presence on social media – a photo or video of your own cat watching Stray is now a point of honor even for Sunday gamers, if they're "full-time" cat freaks. Of course, I also jumped on this bandwagon; I'm only human, don't expect heroism from me! Before launching the game for the first time, my priority was to prepare a comfortable position for my cat under the TV, and black out all the windows to reduce the number of distractions, rather than focusing on the excitement of the title. Of course, all that was to no avail; the cat will do as it pleases, and it certainly won't be what you hope for.

Gamers, they just wanna have fun

Stray is an excellent cat simulator, and every cat person knows this. Its behavior and level of discomfort when we try new clothes on it is a masterpiece; the purring, the movements of his fluffy shy paw when dropping more objects, the weeping, the paper bags on its muzzle. It's hard to find a better representation of man's (second – ed. note) best friend.

Still, I can't help thinking that underneath this huge layer of socialmedia potential and cat "purrfectness," building a strong emotional bond between the player and the cat, there is simply an average game, and the essence of its success is a cute, nameless and gender-neutral protagonist, in whom everyone can see their own, purring child with perked ears and long tail. Verily, 'tis a work of some marketing genius. My cynical side already has a whole list of accusations about how we've been fooled as gamers, how, blined by cuteness, we don't notice the annoying elements of gameplay; we buy a PlayStation subscription to run the game once and take a photo for Instagram. But is that a bad thing? Well, exactly – it's not.

I think I won't be wrong if I say that we all like to find a game that's tailor-made for us. Where we can finally have fun, play an interesting storyline in a beautiful environment without bugs and not be overwhelmed by the number of collectibles or the size of the open world. Where without sacrificing 150 hours of our lives we can get the "platinum."Where we will relax after a day of work, school, or household chores. Stray is exactly that for a whole lot of gamers – it's hard to create a production that will be appealing both to a broad audience and at the same time cat fanatics, for example. There are already animal wars even in our editorial team, but even cat haters are talking about this game. Stray must have been a success. No one can resist the cute little muzzle.

Stray Proves Gameplay Isnt Everything - picture #1

On Reddit, you'll read which part interested the post author's cat the most, whether the pet flipped on the TV or mumbled to the protagonist – yes, it's a self-perpetuating advertisement, but also proof of a great product. And that's what games are. Show me a sweeter scene than a kitty sitting on a keyboard, sending rows of random characters to a caller. If I get a guarantee that it also works for my feline roommate (and it does!), I take it blindly. Games don't have to be difficult (this one isn't), and they can't manage without good marketing and you have to accept that. Stray couldn't have been released in a better moment, when we all need at least a few hours of a nice break to forget the depressing reality. And if, at the same time, we get to spend time with our pets and flood social media with positive content – that's even better.

Games don't have to be perfect. Success of Stray proves that a complicated plot, difficult battles or activities for hundreds of hours are not the most important thing. We just want to have fun. And that's it.

Julia Dragovic

Julia Dragovic

She studied philosophy and philology and honed her writing skills by producing hundreds of assignments. She has been a journalist at Gamepressure since 2019, first writing in the newsroom, then becoming a columnist and reviewer, and eventually, a full-time editor of our game guides. She has been playing games for as long as she can remember – everything except shooters and RTSs. An ailurophile, fan of The Sims and concrete. When she's not clearing maps of collectibles or playing simulators of everything, economic strategies, RPGs (including table-top) or romantic indie games, Julia explores cities in different countries with her camera, searching for brutalist architecture and post-communist relics.

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