Sunday, August 07, 2011

Catherine: A Truly Mature Game

As an adult gamer, I purchase and play quite a few games with a Mature rating slapped on the cover. But, like most rating systems, the ESRB ratings are pretty worthless. Shitty parents still buy these games for their kids. Kids think the higher rated games are better or cooler and overlook sometimes much better and more interesting games for the likes of Call of Duty. And it doesn't help adult gamers decide what they want or whether will be interesting to them in the least, because the standards by which they rate are ridiculously short sighted (aka, there are naughty things in this box, don't let impressionable dipshits take this home).

Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that retailers can't force parents to be responsible, that kids will still get their hands on these games, and that their system of deciding what age group is able to handle certain content is subjective to each individual. With this in mind, I don't understand why the ESRB doesn't retool the rating system to be more helpful for those who actually care. And,, Catherine, is the perfect example of this rating system gone wrong.

Its not that it doesn't deserve this MA rating, it does, but for reasons they don't list on the back cover of games: the story is incomprehensible to those who haven't faced the struggles of adulthood.

For those who don't know, Catherine's story is about an early 30's couple facing the question of marriage and commitment after dating for five years previous. The main character, Vincent, is sure that he loves his girlfriend but isn't sure he can commit to marriage. He's just changed jobs, his group of friends are still unmarried bachelors, and he spends his nights at a local bar drinking the days problems away. To add to this confusion, one night while at this bar, he is seduced by a younger, much more flippant girl: Catherine. He loves his girlfriend of five years but prefers the freedom of his flings with his younger lover. And all the while, his dreams are filled with haunting nightmares which could prove to be deadly.

Unless you have been in a "real" relationship and felt that marriage commitment on the horizon, it would be near impossible to imagine what Vincent's mind is like. Are you ready to be with this person forever? Are you willing to give this person up forever? How easy will the transition be into married or single life again? Is the possibility of things remaining the same even an option? What will this do to our group of friends, our living situation, our shared objects and pets?

I could go on for paragraphs, but the point is that the developers left a lot of these things unmentioned in their game because they knew this was geared at an adult audience who would have some bearing on these sorts of issues. They expect us to face this game and understand the depth of how frightening this kind of choice can be. Even if they wanted to convey it in some in-game way, I'm not sure they could do a better job than they already have.

If you have not worked to pay your own bills, lived out on your own, dated someone for an extended period of time, faced the struggles of maintaining a work/social/dating life, and all sorts of other "mature" things, I'm honestly no sure if Catherine is even worth touching... because as fun as the puzzle/dream segments can be, they still carry the weight of the story with them. It's an analogy of what he is facing in his actual life. He has been thrown into a crazy situation (or maybe thrown himself into this crazy situation) which he has to climb out of. And he cannot climb out of it unless he analyzes things, asks for help from others, helps others, and sets his mind on a goal for himself and his life.

Maybe it only annoys me, but giving a game like Catherine the same MA rating as immature MA games like Bulletstorm and Duke Nukem Forever just seems... wrong. Or at least misinformed. Ignorant, maybe.We can do better than this. Just don't ask me how, cause that's not my fucking job.

Now excuse me while I go do something mature with my adulthood.

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