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A Bit of the Old Up, Up, Down, Down

Martin McLauchlan | 12 Jan 2012 09:00
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Catherine is a pretty damn good game.

Now, I like puzzles and I like moving blocks around and I sure as hell like shoving sheep-headed men to their deaths, but it's been another aspect of Catherine that has actually made me recommend this game to my friends, and that's sex.

It treated me as a player who possessed functioning genitals and whose interactions with the opposite sex didn't consist solely of rubbing up against them on crowded trains.

When I say I liked it because of the sex, I don't mean that I liked the sexy anime ladies with their improbable hair and their physiques crafted by manga pervert artists. No, I've never been enamored with the anime vision of female aesthetic perfection that fuses together the eyes of an owl, a balloon shaped cranium and the bodily measurements of a 10 year old Romanian gymnast. Rather, I liked Catherine's depiction of sex because it was complicated, adult and contained actual emotional conflict.

For those who haven't played it, the game is the story of a man caught between his fear of commitment posed by his long term semi-serious girlfriend (Katherine) and the possibilities of consequence free infidelity and cartoon dicking with the alluring Catherine. Each night he falls asleep and navigates puzzles while being chased by spectres of commitment like giant babies and Katherine's grasping hand. It was as I was being chased by a sixty foot infant up a pile of cubes that the phrase "exception that proves the rule" occurred to me, because this was one of the few games I could think of that had managed to make sex and relationships into a believable aspect of the narrative.

I've been tempted by infidelity. I've been faced with someone asking me to commit more than I wanted to. I've escaped from giant ghost hands through cunning cube placement. It was relateable and fresh and, importantly, it treated me as a player who possessed functioning genitals and whose interactions with the opposite sex didn't consist solely of rubbing up against them on crowded trains.

And it's sad that I never feel that way in most of the other games I love.

I love Metal Gear Solid. I always have, ever since I realized that allowing me to blow up tanks containing shamans and punching invisible ninjas was what the PlayStation was designed to do. But MGS3 and 4 have a feature that allows you to see through the eyes of Solid Snake during cutscenes. In MGS3 I first did this during a conversation with the double (or triple? Quadruple?) agent Eva. What was he looking at? Her breasts. Now, I'm not one to tell a legendary cloned supersoldier what to do, but when someone's lecturing you on exactly how you should go about destroying the dinosaur-shaped megatank or explaining why nanomachines are accelerating your ageing and giving you a moustache, I believe it would behoove you to tear your gaze from her fucking tits. I have to believe that in a life or death exposition meeting, Snake can stay on topic and not just stare boggle eyed at the nearest exposed female flesh while breathlessly rubbing himself. And I would also want to believe that brilliant scientists and undercover spies (even if they happen to be sexy ladies) can take the time in the morning to do up all the buttons on their shirts or maybe even chuck on a bra.

But I shouldn't pick on Snake, since that's a good way to get your neck snapped. Let's look at another dirty old man.

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