Project Athens

Stray pets have been a very big issue in the south of Europe for many years. It is getting better through the help of a lot of organizations but it’s not something that’s solved. I got really invested in this because we had a dog that we adopted from Greece. He was really sweet but had very bad mental issues. He’d probably been abused and hurt a lot, we’re not sure. After a year or so he started to exhibit increasingly aggressive behavior and he was a very big dog. We took him to vets but they couldn’t do much. Either trauma of some sort of brain tumor they said. We eventually had to decide to put him down because it was simply too dangerous. This had a huge impact on me. I felt so bad even though I couldn’t do anything about it. Project Athens is a result of this. It’s an applied game where you play as a stray dog in the south of Europe. Going through heartache, surviving and trying to find your place. It’s a hardcore survival game, death is inevitable. There is no crafting because you’re a dog. You’ll have to get creative to make it through some of the events and conditions the game throws at you.

Writing for empathy

The main goal of this project was to make a game that will inform the player about the problem of stray dogs and to make them feel empathy for them. There are many ways to foster empathy in players. The most basic one is simply to put the players in the shoes of these dogs. By playing as one you immediately gain some amount of empathy because now you are the dog. Another is to create difficult situations that force the player to think about their actions and how they will impact not only themselves but others around them. And finally by making the intro very sad I intend to create an emotional connection to the character.

Setting the stage

The game starts, pouring rain, lone guitar music. The camera pans along some of the town ending up at a box. Inside the box a mother dog and her puppies are sleeping. light from a nearby streetlamp illuminates the box. The game starts with you playing as one of the puppies. It explains that you are hungry and need to look for food. This acts as a tutorial as well as proving context to the story. You crawl through a gap in a fence. Where you find some food leftovers. You eat the food but before you can return a cutscene is triggered. A van pulls up out of the rain. A man jumps out and starts loading your mom and siblings into the van. They look like kidnappers but in reality are just volunteers bringing them to a shelter. You are left behind, scared and alone. You return to the box and go to sleep. The screen fades to black. And a text appears “2 years later”. It’s a bright sunny day as the camera slowly pans towards a trash container. You hear rummaging and the container bumps a couple of times before a big dog jumps up from behind the the container. Shakes his fur and jumps of towards the camera. The player once again gets control but now as an adult. He must survive in the streets. Deal with packs, finding food, water, shelter. As well as making choices on how to act in certain encounters.



The movement is based on a third person driving style control system. I’m not sure this is the most intuitive but it makes the animations and flow feel nice. I might want to change it for a more tradition 3rd person control system however.


The survival mechanics are fairly simple. Food, water and shelter. Sadly dogs can’t do all that much in terms of crafting so I can’t really have any mechanics like that. However I feel that having interesting interactions can help make up for that gap.


During your gameplay you will encounter various packs, dogs and more. The player must make conscious decisions on how to deal with these encounters. Will you help a lone dog in need if it means sharing your resources? How will you interact with a pack? What about people putting out poisoned food? These are some of the things the player will have to deal with during their gameplay. All these interactions are based on things that happen in real life and designed to make the player think about the struggles of stray dogs.

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