Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about describing the mechanics of Catherine based on the descriptions of the Player-Game Descriptive Index (PGDI). I had decided to split it up into two parts, the first post looking at the Customization, Progression, and Social categories. There was supposed to be a follow-up post last week that described Catherine via the Immersion, Mastery and Participation categories, but as you may or may not have noticed, that did not happen. Without going into too many details, I decided that I had written enough for the first month of the semester and met with some professors to greatly adjust what I am doing this semester for their class. Basically, the goals for what I was going to do this semester were inadvertently already met within the first month, and we decided that the rest of my work was unnecessary. So I proposed a new semester’s work and now I will be aiming towards something I wasn’t going to touch this early. There will be more details about that in a separate post. For now, let’s just get down to describing the Immersion, Mastery, and Participation categories of Catherine.
In today’s post I will be describing the game Catherine through the framework of my model, the Player-Game Descriptive Index (PGDI). Earlier this month, I described the mechanics present in Catherine, based upon a playthrough I completed. To describe the game, I will be using the descriptions provided by my recent posts on PGDI. This will be the first of two parts, and it will be focused on describing the Social, Customization, and Progression components of Catherine. I will do so based upon my field notes and recorded gameplay. The scale I will be using for components is: none < weak < fair < medium < strong <total. A score of none means that the game does not exhibit the component in any way, while a score of total means that every aspect of the game exhibits the component. Few components will be none or total.
For my class on understanding games and impact, we have to describe 60 minutes of gameplay. As I mentioned in my last post, I have chosen to analyze gameplay from Catherine, a game about a man who has a supernatural nightmare that mirrors his real-life dilemma of choosing between a life of marriage or a life of fun. I chose to record my playthrough from start to finish and have divided the video into digestible chunks. In this post I will be providing the video and then following each video will be a description of the mechanics described and used in the game, as well as how the game progresses through its narrative. A side note on the structure of Catherine, as I describe in a previous post, the game is divided into three parts. The first part is a climbing block puzzle, the second deals with narrative decisions that affect the resolution of the game, and the third is a section of narrative feedback, which describes the results of the player’s performance in the first two parts. Keep this in mind when viewing the videos.
This should be a brief post of my journey of finding a game I could use for quickly absorbing and describing a game’s mechanics. My goal with this was to find a game where the core of the mechanics were described in bulk, up front. The reason for this is that I’m going to have to eventually describe the mechanics in the game, and I didn’t want to have to play the whole game to do it. Instead, I am focusing on what is presented to new players and how it is presented. The aim of this is to describe the mechanics of the game in terms of the PGDI model I created, based on the psychology of player types research. I ended up considering eleven games for this, and played through the intro stages of eight of them. The other three games I relied on my memory of recent playthroughs to determine their usefulness.
I have been working on deciding what to do for my research project for a course entitled “Language and Learning in the Digital Age”. Those of you interested in language, literacy and education might note that this has the same title as this book by Dr. James Paul Gee and Dr. Elisabeth Hayes. If you did realize that, then it might interest you to know that Dr. Hayes is the instructor of the course. In this course I have to do a project that falls within the scope of the course (which leaves a lot of wiggle room, when you think about it). The “traditional” research project is a research paper. This is unsurprising, as it is an English course about literacy research, and I am in the quintessential research program: rhetoric and composition. However if anyone knows anything about me, it is that I don’t always do things the “traditional” way (for example, just tonight I asked why no one tries to make new methodologies, rather than use established ones). So instead of the traditional research paper, I am making a game.
So, yesterday I popped Catherine into the 360, pretty much knowing what to expect by playing it. Adult drama with a puzzle game attached. And I played the game for about three hours before I put it away. I might not go back to Catherine for a while, but that’s ok. Three hours was enough for me to really evaluate what I wanted to out of it. This was the nature of the game’s difficulty in relation to its story.
Now, I could go into a rant here about games and story and how story is treated in Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun (On page 86 Koster even says, “my background is a writer, so this actually pisses me off.”). Instead I want to talk about how Catherine is fun and what it is teaching us. I will needless get back to story and challenge just that which Koster is so pissed off about.