What Gaming Taught Me, Writing

4 Things Catherine taught me about writing


WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

First a little background on the game Catherine, as described on the Catherine Wiki:

Catherine is an M-rated horror/romance/puzzle/adventure video game from Atlus USA, released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The game is developed by the same team that created Persona 3 and Persona 4: Katsura Hashino as Director, Shigenori Soejima as Character Designer, and Shōji Meguro as Sound Composer.

It deals heavily with the themes of commitment, relationships, infidelity, maturity and love, while intertwining the horror and mystery of a rash of unexplained deaths of young men, rumored to be the “Women’s Wrath”: vengeance against the unfaithful.

The story revolves around Vincent, his long-term girlfriend Katherine, and his subsequent affair with Catherine. Following the affair, he is plunged into nightmares each time he sleeps, which makes up the puzzle/action part of the game. Each night within his dream, Vincent must push and pull blocks from a tower to create a path to the top, all the while racing against a time-limit or outrunning bosses which are manifestations of his real-life fears.

During the day, Vincent can freely explore and talk to his friends at the bar, listen to music at a jukebox, send and receive text messages, order drinks, play an arcade game, and experience the narrative of his struggle of choosing between Katherine and Catherine. There are 8 possible endings based on the various choices the player makes throughout the game.

As you can probably tell, this is one of the run-of-the-mill Japanese horror games with endings separated out between “Good” and “Bad” endings depending on which woman you decide to pursue a relationship with, as well as how you treat other NPCs in the game. I’m a sucker for anything reminiscent to my anime fanatic days, then throw in a puzzle? Plus romance and horror? I was hooked from the start.

I’ve written about other games like Minecraft, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf! Click the titles to see what I learned!

And of course, my writing life always intermingles with my gaming life, so here is what I learned from my time with the wonderful game Catherine:

  1. Your characters need motivation.
    They can’t just do things, just to do them. I mean, sure, I do some random crazy things, but most people don’t do that. So you have to give them a reason. Vincent is in love with Katherine, so why would he cheat on her? The creators had to give Katherine a bit of a controlling, pressuring side to push Vincent to seek a freer partner in Catherine. Otherwise, we would have no plot, or on the flip side, Vincent would just be a dumb asshole. Vincent is still a dumb asshole, but at least we can sympathize with him a little. He has a reason. It’s a crappy reason, but a reason.
  2. People should somewhat like your main character.
    They don’t have to necessarily love them, but they should at least be able to sympathize and root for them. Vincent is scum. I didn’t like him, but I felt bad because Katherine was somewhat mean to him… and I loved Katherine, so that was hard for me to admit in the end. I didn’t agree with what Vincent did, but there was a part of me that felt bad for him, too. Katherine made me want to like him. Which leads me to my next point:
  3. Side characters are important.
    The main character is Vincent. He is you, you are him. But Vincent’s story would be nothing without Catherine and Katherine, plus all of his friends. This is a very plot-driven game. You connect stories from the people you meet, and every decision you make interacting with these characters plays a role in what ending you get. If you ignore characters, they may die, which, in turn, will cause Vincent to miss out on an interaction. It makes a huge difference. Don’t forget those side characters.
  4. Your character’s decisions have consequences.
    They can’t do something bad and expect to get away without a scratch, unless of course they are master thieves, then I guess that could happen… but for our regular characters, there are scratches. Lots of them. Vincent is a cheater and depending on who you ultimately choose to be with, he doesn’t get away with the perfect girl with just a “Sorry, love ya.” Oh no, he has to go through hell to win her back – literally. Consequences create plot. Don’t be afraid to punish your babies.

This game was interesting, fun, and kept me going until the very end, and that’s how I want my books to feel. Have you played Catherine before? Think you will? How do you feel about these tips? Find them helpful? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading!

-Lissy

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