The cyberpunk city of Stray is based on a city that once existed

With a 10 out of 10 on Steam, it is clear that Wander made many fans. Created by French indie video game company BlueTwelve Studio, the story explores a cyberpunk world through the eyes of an orange tabby cat. The game is loved not only for its cute feline protagonist, but also for its beautiful world, interesting robots, and sobering apocalyptic lore.

In fact, one of the biggest parts of the game was its location. The walled city that players can explore is full of life in its skyscrapers, neon signs, small apartments, and alleyways. It’s the perfect playground for a cat. However, there is more to the city than meets the eye. It was actually inspired by a place that existed in real life. This place used to be the walled city of Kowloon in China, a place that was demolished in the 90s due to poor quality of life and sanitary conditions.


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How Kowloon inspired Stray

According to an Inverse interview with producer Swann Martin-Raget, the walled city of Kowloon was the source of fascination that inspired early development. Kowloon was known for its incredibly high population density. In fact, Kowloon was the most densely populated place on earth during its time. Its lanes were thin, only reaching three to six feet wide with poor drainage and little room for light. Since city apartments were so small, much of people’s lives shifted to rooftops and balconies caged with clotheslines, trash, and televisions. Most of the buildings had 10 to 14 stories.

Kowloon has created the perfect plan for Wander, when the developers realized that the architecture turned into a fantastic playground for cats. Cats can slip through alleyways, jump from balcony to balcony, and have tons of trash to play with. Looking at a photo of Kowloon and then Wander, the cities practically mirror each other. However, the history of Kowloon is quite different from the post-apocalyptic walled city of Wander.

Kowloon’s story

Originally, Kowloon was a Chinese military fort, but became an urban settlement in the 1940s in the aftermath of World War II. The city saw massive construction, reaching its peak size in the late 1970s. In the 1990s, Kowloon had between 30 and 50,000 residents spread over just 6.4 acres of land. For much of its existence, the town became infamous for its crime and poor conditions. A single fire could destroy the lives of thousands, and sunlight rarely reached the ground at the lower levels of the city. The city was also home to many unlicensed doctors and dentists who need not fear repercussions.

Due to its unique location, the city had its own unique culture. The difficult living conditions have pushed the community to help each other, especially with regard to childcare. Rooftops were often used as gathering places to play or work. Due to its criminality and isolation, most communities were self-governing and reflected anarchic town planning. Unsurprisingly, the city did not last due to its poor conditions, and the thousands of citizens were compensated and expelled from Kowloon by the government. Today, what was once Kowloon is now a city park. The skyscrapers were demolished and replaced by plants, statues and paths. Little remains of what existed at the time of the city.

Since its destruction, Kowloon has been romanticized by dystopian fiction. Wander is far from the first medium to use Kowloon as a source of inspiration. Movies like Brothers from the Walled City, Long Arm of the Law, Baraka, Re-cycle, Batman Begins, Crime Storyand blood sport all have scenes or take place totally in the city of Kowloon or in a city/district depending on its design.

Other Kowloon-inspired video games include Shenmue 2, Stranglehold, Shadowrun: Hong Kong, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and fear effect. With the popularity of Wander, it is possible that other visions of Kowloon in the gaming world will be in store for the future. It shows how a place can inspire others, even places long gone.

Wander is available on PC, PS4 and PS5.

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Source: Reverse

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