My coworker lent me his copy of Catherine, the sexual psycho puzzle thriller. I’ve got to say, ever since I read up about this game way back when I was itching to play it. Not because it’s a puzzle game (not my favorite genre) but because of its interesting subject material. Let’s just get comments on the puzzle game out of the way. The puzzle game is fun and addictive. Even after an hour or two of play, there seems to be enough going on with it to keep me interested. There’s even a memorization flow going on due to the strict time constraints with bosses (this would imply that each puzzle has an optimal solution). Anyway, that’s fine and great. It plays well and is an interesting metaphor for the most interesting part of the game, its story.
More after the jump…
Without saying much, the game is about men’s sexuality and explores it through the protagonist Vincent and his recent bout of infidelity. There is a Katherine he is dating and there is a Catherine that he drunkenly sleeps with. Already, the game is ripe with all kinds of metaphorical language and interpretation space. I don’t want to talk too much about its subject material other than to point out the differences between Japanese (not Asian or Eastern in general) vs. Western (I feel like I can generalize here) sensibilities. This game would have never been made here in the Western hemisphere. No way in hell. It brings me to question what Western gamers really want out of their games.
The confusing thing is that, mechnically, Western games tend to be much better than Japanese ones. New and interesting things are being done with interaction, game mechanics, systems, etc… but nothing really exciting is being done with narrative material. Sure, some games may have great decision trees for different outcomes but even this is not that exciting when what you’re deciding about is more boring than watching paint dry. Is Western culture really losing touch its emotional or artistic touch? That can’t be it, other mediums have incredible stories. It’s just Western culture when its comes to games from industry standards and how local folk view games.
Narratives in Western games are so epic and grandiose. Inter-galactic commander saves the universe! I want less Hollywood summer blockbuster and more Wes Anderson or something. I want something close and tightly-knit. Not to say those epic games are bad, it’s just a very different feeling. For lack of a better description… they’re grand! Where are the introspective titles? More likely than not they’re coming from the indie space with games like Dear Esther. Maybe if the Japanese were to pen while the Westerners were to build, hell we might have something really special.