Purrfection: How video game ‘Stray’ transfixed cats

“My cat, Hobbes, was taken by ‘Stray’ the minute I loaded it onto the screen. He watches the cat’s every move,” Yaksic said.

Cat lover Enzo Yaksic was immediately fascinated by the recently released video game “Stray”, which allowed him to explore a luminous and kaleidoscopic underworld of puzzles as a feline avatar.

He was surprised to find that his own cat was equally fascinated.

“My cat, Hobbes, was taken by ‘Stray’ the minute I loaded it onto the screen. He watches the cat’s every move,” Yaksic said.

Thousands of cat owners have taken to social media to post videos of their pets reacting to play, and the “Cats Watching Stray” Twitter account now has more than 37,000 followers.

The phenomenon delighted the developers, who say they did not suspect that it would trigger the craze.

“When the studio cats started reacting to what was happening on our screens, we thought we were going in the right direction,” Swann Martin-Raget of French studio BlueTwelve told AFP.

“But we never imagined that so many cats would try to jump into the TV.”

“Stray” is far from the only game to feature an animal as the central character.

From “Dog’s Life” and “Goat Simulator” to the wild wolf in “Okami”, examples abound.

But cats have rarely featured – and “Stray” turns out to be the surprise hit of the year. – ‘True Passion’ – The game’s feline protagonist was modeled after Murtaugh, a stray cat adopted by the co-founders of BlueTwelve, and Oscar, the beloved pet of another team member.

Many members of the team own cats, including Martin-Raget whose two roommates are known as Tao and Litchi.

He says creating a realistic animal was a huge challenge, but the team managed to get the computer cat to purr, meow on demand, snuggle up for a nap and of course take great pleasure in defacing the furniture.

“We couldn’t make a cat game without also making a couch for him to scratch his claws,” says Martin-Raget.

“We made this game with a real passion for our companions.”

It is the highest rated game of the year on Steam, a game download platform, and has an 83/100 rating on Metacritic.

Some reviewers noted it for its simplistic adventure, but most praise the graphics, dreamlike atmosphere, and sense of freedom provided by the feline protagonist.

And feline critics seem to universally approve.

“Every time I play, the silhouette of his two ears blocks the bottom of the screen,” Curtis Amrein, from Houston, USA, says of his short-haired girlfriend, Bebe, 17.

Yaksic, a researcher from the US city of Boston, told AFP that eight-year-old Hobbes reacts to danger and hides from bad guys, just like his IT counterpart.

“I wonder if I’m stressing out Hobbes because he tends to look around thinking there’s another cat in the house before he sees the cat from ‘Stray’ onscreen,” he said. told AFP. – ‘Very natural’ – Animal behaviorist JoAnna Puzzo of UK shelter Battersea Dogs and Cats Home told US site GameSpot that the realism of the animated cat was key to eliciting reactions from real-world cats.

“They really noticed a lot of very natural cat behaviors,” she said of the developers, pointing out the virtual pet’s grooming, squeaking and scratching habits.

“They also included some nice subtle behaviors like the pupils that dilate when he’s alert enough, those spinning ears, and the defensive posture.”

Another sign of the enthusiasm for “Stray” is that fans have created “mods” – modifications that allow players to change the appearance of the main character.

For a laid-back approach, players can choose to be lasagna munching from the ginger cartoon “Garfield.”

For those looking for maximum sweetness, Marie, the grey-white kitten from Disney’s “Aristocats”, is also available.

More controversially, enthusiasts have strayed where felines are afraid to tread: the world of dogs, with dog lovers able to transform their avatar into an adorable pup.

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