‘Stray’ video game brings some benefits to real shelter cats

NEW YORK — The virtual cat hero from the new video game sensation “Stray” not only meanders along rusted pipes, jumps over unidentified mud and deciphers clues in a seemingly deserted town. The brave orange tabby also helps real cats.

Thanks to online fundraising platforms, players play “Stray” while streaming live to audiences to raise money for animal shelters and other cat-related charities. Annapurna Interactive, the game’s publisher, also promoted Stray by giving away copies of the game to two cat rescue and adoption agencies and renting out a New York cat cafe.

Livestreaming gameplay for charity isn’t new, but the response “Stray” is quickly finding among cat lovers is unusual. It was the fourth most watched and aired game on the day it launched on Twitch, the streaming platform said.

Viewers watch as players navigate the adventurous cat through an aging industrial landscape, doing normal feline things – balancing on railings, walking on keyboards, and knocking things off shelves – to solve puzzles and avoid enemies.

About 80% of the game’s development team are “cat owners and cat lovers,” and a real-life orange stray along with their own cats helped inspire the game, a developer said.

“I really hope that maybe some people will be inspired to help real strays in real life – knowing that having a pet and a companion is a responsibility,” said producer Swann Martin-Raget of BlueTwelve Gaming Studio in Montpellier in southern France.

When Annapurna Interactive approached the Nebraska Humane Society to partner ahead of the game’s July 19 launch, they jumped at the chance, said marketing specialist Brendan Gepson.

“The whole game and the whole culture around the game is all about the love for cats,” Gepson said. “It was a really good fit for the shelter and our mission.”

The shelter was given four copies of the game to give away and asked for a $5 donation to enter a raffle to win one. They raised $7,000 in one week, Gepson said, with the vast majority of the 550 donors new to them, including people from Germany and Malta. The company also donated $1,035 to the animal shelter.

“It was really mutually beneficial,” said Gepson. “They got some really good PR out of it and we got a whole new donor base out of it.”

Annapurna also bought up Meow Parlor, the New York City cat cafe and adoption agency, for a weekend and donated $1,000. Visitors who made a reservation could purchase Stray-themed merchandise and play the game for 20 minutes while surrounded by cats. (The game also captivates cats, according to videos on social media.)

Annapurna Interactive marketing director Jeff Legaspi said it made sense that launching the game would do something “positively impactful” and hopefully create more awareness about adopting a new pet rather than buying it.

Annapurna declined to disclose sales or download numbers for the game, which is available on PlayStation and the Steam platform. However, according to Steam Monitor SteamDB, Stray has been the #1 game purchased for the past two weeks.

The North Shore Animal League America, which saves tens of thousands of animals each year, said it didn’t see an increase in traffic from the game but they did receive more than $800 thanks to one player.

Luckily, the week the game launched, the shelter had just set up a profile on the Tiltify platform, which allows nonprofit organizations to receive donations from video streams. The player made donations to the animal shelter, surpassing her original goal of $200.

“We see Tiltify and live streaming as this whole new way to reach a whole different audience,” said Carol Marchesano, Rescue’s senior digital marketing director. Typically, however, organizations have to turn to online personalities to coordinate live streams, which can take a lot of work, she said.

About nine campaigns on Tiltify mention the Stray game, said the company’s CEO, Michael Wasserman. JustGiving, which also facilitates charity livestreams, said it identified two campaigns involving the game.

For his part, Nebraska’s Gepson reached out to an Omaha resident, known online as TreyDay1014, to host a charity livestream. Trey, who asked that his last name not be used, has two cats, one of which he adopted from a shelter.

Last week, he told viewers watching live on the Twitch platform how his cat character flicked another cat’s tail and danced over railings.

“If I found out my cat was doing this outside, I’d be upset,” Trey said as his character jumped a dangerous distance. Moments later, a rusty pipe ruptured, sending the tabby a heart-wrenching fall into the darkness.

“That’s a poor baby,” Trey said somberly, “but we’re fine.”

The fall was followed by a $25 donation, taking Trey’s amount raised for the Nebraska animal shelter to over $100 in about 30 minutes. At the end of four and a half hours of play, donations totaled $1,500. His goal had been to raise $200.

“It opened my eyes to using this platform for much more good than just playing video games,” Trey said.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://6abc.com/stray-video-game-tabby-cat-raising-money-for-cats-technology/12098893/ ‘Stray’ video game brings some benefits to real shelter cats

Alley Einstein

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