A wide range of material has been known to show up on the Internet. Sometimes, this material creates short-lived interest that withers when nothing follows up upon it. Other times, this material serves as the lead-in for something more substantial, though this is never clear save in hindsight. Regardless, it is interesting to note that the gifs for a game concept called HK_Project from a few years ago have now materialized into an upcoming PS5 title called Stray, which is a cat-themed game in a futuristic setting.
What Can We Expect From Stray?
For starters, the name HK_Project should make it no surprise to learn that Stray is set in a futuristic version of Hong Kong. To be exact, it is set in a futuristic version of Kowloon Walled City, which should make it very clear that this timeline is very different from ours. After all, said settlement hasn’t existed since the mid 1990s.
Those who are curious should know that Kowloon Walled City’s roots can be traced to a Chinese outpost meant to manage the salt trade. In time, the outpost turned into a fort, which was never ceded to the British but nonetheless fell within the boundaries of the New Territories that were handed over for a period of 99 years in 1898. The location saw a massive surge in population in the mid 20th century because of refugees, so it should come as no surprise to learn that the resulting settlement wasn’t what anyone would consider to be well-off. Even worse, a lack of government oversight by either the Chinese or the British enabled crime to flourish, with the result that the location earned an infamous reputation for both crime and corruption. As for how Kowloon Walled City became Kowloon Walled City, that can be explained by a construction boom in the 1960s that saw newer structures raised on top of older structures, thus turning it into one of the densest-populated settlements on the planet.
Crime rates in Kowloon Walled City fell over time, but there was a wide range of other issues such as sanitation and pollution. As a result, the authorities decided to demolish the settlement in the 1980s, though the actual act of demolition was carried out in 1993 and 1994. However, it is worth mentioning that Kowloon Walled City lives on in pop culture.
One excellent example would be Kowloon Walled City’s prominence in cyberpunk fiction. In short, cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction that is fundamentally dystopian in nature. Furthermore, its particular flavor of dystopianism is marked by the combination of incredible technological advancements with either a breakout or some other extreme change in the social order. Under those circumstances, Kowloon Walled City became a natural fit for cyberpunk fiction. After all, it was a marked contrast to Hong Kong, which was seen as a capitalist success story in the late 20th century. On top of that, the crime and corruption meant that its residents developed a tight-knit community in order to survive the tough living conditions, which is another concept that resonates very strongly with cyberpunk fiction. Besides this, it is interesting to note that crime and corruption have become more and more peripheral to the popular recollection of Kowloon Walled City because the immediacy of those issues has given way to nostalgia as well as romanticization. Something that has caused it to turn from a point of shame to a point of pride over the course of a relatively short period of time.
In any case, this means that Stray can go in a number of ways when it comes to its setting. As mentioned earlier, it is using a futuristic version of Kowloon Walled City, meaning that it is very natural to draw comparisons with cyberpunk depictions of the same. However, even if the game decides to go with a more dystopian interpretation rather than a more romanticized interpretation of the settlement, it seems likely that it will put a fair amount of focus on how humans can shine even under the toughest of conditions.
This is because Stray will be seeing players take on the role of a stray cat. Speaking bluntly, the life of a stray cat is not something that most people would like to examine at length. After all, it is a constant struggle for survival in a not very hospitable environment, which is made worse by a wide range of potential threats that include but are not limited to predators, moving vehicles, and humans with malicious intentions. Theoretically, it might be possible for someone out there to make a cat-centered survival horror based on that, but considering the adorable presentation of the cat in Stray, it seems safe to say that the people behind the upcoming PS5 game won’t go for something as depressing as that. However, some measure of darkness is still very likely, both because of the setting of Kowloon Walled City and because there are some indications that humans might be extinct.
Regardless, the idea of a cat-themed game is actually quite interesting in its own right. We judge things by our own experiences, which is very understandable. However, it is important to remember that our experiences aren’t universal. For example, one person might see a chair as being perfectly-sized for them, whereas someone else with different physical measurements can have very different opinions in that regard. Naturally, different species are going to have an even more different perspective even if they are experiencing similar environments. One example would be how cats can climb and otherwise access locations that humans cannot by virtue of our size as well as our physical capabilities. Another example would be how cats approach the same things that we do from a much smaller perspective, thus casting them in a very different light. As such, it seems likely that a cat-centered game will offer something both fresh and familiar even before we consider the fact that this one will have a very unusual setting for even more interest. Of course, there are bound to be some people will be intrigued by just the ability to meow at passersby incessantly, which amusingly enough, has already been promised for Stray.