Are Videogames Art? (Part Three)

Part Three – More than just a pretty face.

Videogames can be artistic in more ways than just pretty visuals. Whereas Saving Private Ryan may be a standout in the field of cinematography, the Godfather tells the greatest story of this generation (or so many would say). Similarly, if wonderful HD graphics aren’t your thing, the captivating and frankly insane yarn from ‘Catherine’ may be more to your liking.

Don’t get me wrong, Catherine has a wonderful anime art style. But it’s the utterly unique and medium-defining maturity of the games’ narrative that sticks with you.

A common scene, chatting at the bar

You play as Vincent, a 30-something bar-crawler with a dead end office job he hates. Basically, he’s us. We aren’t all in our 30’s and we don’t all hate our jobs (unbelievably), but we can all relate to his slightly slacker lifestyle and desire to just hang out with his friends in the pub on a Friday night. His one saving grace is his girlfriend, Katherine, whom he is too commitment-shy to marry. The monotony of his life changes, though when he has a drunken one-night-stand with the beautiful young Catherine. He adores her playful and carefree nature, perhaps wishing to go back to a time when he could live and act more like her.

I know right? I couldn’t believe it either. THIS IS A VIDEOGAME. Videogames never have anything mature or profound to say about relationships!

But that’s the thing. They do. You just have to know where to look. Stop ending your search for a new fix at the first-person shooter section. Stop laughing at the ‘geeky’ anime art styles of Japanese games. Pick up Catherine and enjoy the breadth of artful experiences videogames have to offer. Chat to your surprisingly judgemental friend over a cup of sake. Attempt to balance the needs of two very different women; or don’t, just pick your preferred lifestyle and the girl who best suits it.

The puzzle-play can frustrate

The greatest compliment I could give this game is that it made me turn around and look at my own life. In a time where I myself was unsure what I wanted from my relationship (you would NEVER guess what my girlfriends name was), and even life, Catherine spoke to me. It’s not often you can say a work of art from ANY medium does that, so for an obscure videogame from Japan to do it is profound. It’s a special achievement, and the sort of experience everyone should give a chance.

Just make sure you bring a guide.

The downfall of Catherine rears its head when you play it. If you like insanely difficult puzzle games, all the better. But sandwiched in between all the great story sections comes the actual ‘game’ portion on Catherine. Set in Vincent’s nightmares, you have to escape from his greatest commitment-driven fears. It is a clever way of manifesting Vincent’s thoughts at first, but over the course of the game gets way too hard, and simply gets in the way of Catherine’s best attribute, its wonderful story.

It’s a great example of a wonderful idea getting bogged down in an attempt to turn the tale into a ‘game’, and Catherine turns out worse for it.

This isn’t the only way in which a game’s greatest assets can become muddled. Some games are simply too huge. Luckily, this generation has ushered in a new era of smaller, denser, but equally as artful titles…

Part Four soon…


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