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"Stray" and the importance of play
Playtime shouldn't be left just to the kids.
“Our brains are built to benefit from play no matter what our age.”
-Theresa A. Kestly, American psychologist
The highly-anticipated cat game is finally here. Stray has already become the best-reviewed game on Steam and modders didn’t hesitate to start adding their own cats to the game or split-screen co-op play.
Games, by their nature, provide us with an opportunity to play. But Stray takes us further than simply completing tasks or moving through the objective: it encourages us to take the time to nap in a cozy place and enjoy the moment. Breathe. Relax.
When we think about playing, we usually associate it with children. We played as children and, as adults, we’re supposed to leave playtime behind. We have bills, student debt, credit card debt, rent, mortgages, insurance, and work schedules — the list is never-ending.
But playtime isn’t one of those things that we should be leaving behind in childhood. Playtime is self-care, it’s good for our mental health, and it’s good for our physical health. Giving ourselves space to imagine and have fun releases endorphins, improves brain function, and helps with memory.
Stray coaxes us to play around with our environment for pure joy (and a few trophies, sure). Playing Stray goes beyond taking Cat on his mission from start to finish. There are winding paths leading you to just soak in the world around you — to play in it.
This particular basketball is for an achievement, but others can be found scattered in the city, just waiting to be batted around. Not to mention the scores of bottles or planters, every one of which can be knocked over just like your pet at home does.
There are a few scenes where you knock over a can of paint for story progression. But the paint lingers, and paint-covered paws decorate the floor every time you walk through. The Cat becomes Picasso for no other purpose than joy.
One of the discoveries I loved the most was learning that the cat will spin around in the bucket. Riding the bucket was already amazing but spinning around enhanced the experience that much more.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “it is a happy talent to know how to play.” We need those moments of freedom and beams of light from playing to permeate the stress of adulthood. Sure, we know how to mechanically “play” a game — but it’s important to remember the essence of play no matter how old we get and Stray does a beautiful job at that.