The post-apocalyptic world of 'Stray' evokes the walled city of Kowloon

The post-apocalyptic world of ‘Stray’ evokes the walled city of Kowloon

in Stray, you play as a cat. For many, this is a mic drop worthy of an immediate purchase, and Blue Twelve Studio, the former Ubisoft employees responsible for the game, clearly know this – from the very beginning, Stray shamelessly alludes to remarkable antics Cat.

Where should I start? Press O to meow. Use the hammer L and R to scrape trees (and furniture). You growl from corners and hang out in crevices. Interludes will see you dancing on keyboards, bouncing on pianos and terrorizing board games. And while StrayThe cat is just a ginger tabby, not as tall or genetically mutated or struggling to breathe like the more famous internet cats, as well as Untitled Goose game‘s goose before that, they still provide rich fodder for memes. Thanks to a partnership with Travel Cat, there’s even a Stray-themed collection of harnesses and backpacks capable of carrying “a 25-pound cat in its sturdy, well-ventilated chassis.”

The cat has been the talk of the town and it’s only fair that it’s the star of the show. But I’ll focus on something else: namely, the seemingly limitless influence of the now-lost Walled City of Kowloon.

Stray takes place after the apocalypse. People are gone, but cats are as resilient as cockroaches. (Jonathan Franzen cried.) The game begins with four fur balls dodging the rain in a vine-covered concrete structure. On your daily trek through the ruins of industrial civilization, you slide down a crevasse into the darkness and land hard in a moldy sewer. After traversing the lab, you’ll discover a flying drone named B12. This drone will act as a Navi to your mute Link, who lives in a backpack that looks a lot like the one I just mentioned, and which allows you—er, the cat—to do tasks that require opposable thumbs—like using flashlights and keys – and the concept of language – such as the translation of Robot into American English.

The scene is eerily familiar. In 1993, William Gibson visited Singapore and recoiled at the dystopia he found there. Decompressing on the flight back home, he revealed a vain hope: to catch a second look at the ongoing obsession “before the future comes to destroy it.” This possession was the walled city of Kowloon. He wrote: “Hive of dreams. Those mismatched, uncalculated windows. As they seemed to absorb all the frenetic activity of Kai Tak Airport, sucking up the energy like a black hole. I was ready for something like this.”

The walled city, when it still stood, stood on the edge of Kowloon City, then part of British Hong Kong. Controlled by China as a de jure enclave, it became a political pinball: Hong Kong’s British governors hated it; China wouldn’t tear it down. It was run by five triad gangs, explains James Crawford in an article for Atlas Obscura. There were “no taxes, no regulation of business, no health or planning systems, no police presence. People could come to Kowloon and officially disappear.” The remarkable productivity—residents churned out enough fishballs to supply Hong Kong’s wealthy upper classes—mixed with gambling, prostitution and drugs. Even the rats, Crawford writes, writhed with heroin addiction.

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