Catherine (Gender Issues + Review)

With all the attention Catherine had gotten when it first released, I found myself really wanting to play it. I heard several people talking about how good it was. I was pretty excited. I knew a game by Atlus would let me down in some ways but I didn’t know I’d find all of these problems.

catherine

The Girlfriends:

The game’s two love interests, Katherine and Catherine, as characters, really lack any sort of depth. This is possibly due, in part, to the fact that the characters aren’t really given many scenes or much variety in the scenes they are in.

Katherine and Catherine come off as archetypes. There is the nagging girlfriend (K). Then there is a flirty/crazy one (C). Because those seem to be C’s two modes, she’s flirty and naked or she’s crazy and threatening Vincent. These personality traits even carry over to their text messages—there is the sound of K sighing when Vincent reads her text messages while C’s texts are all giggly.

That’s all there is to these characters. As my roommate said, they are two dimensional characters.

To add to their poor portrayal, Vincent always seems to be written as the victim being overwhelmed by these two forces. The women, then, are shown as antagonists, to the point where they are literally a few of the bosses.

Then in most endings, he is never punished for all of his poor choices. Everyone decides to ignore the fact that he actively lied to his girlfriend, and actually did cheat because the succubus was, in fact, a real person, even if they couldn’t see her.

Erica

Erica:

Then there’s Erica, the most disappointingly handled character in the game.

Even from her first interaction with the main cast you can see questionable choices. Similar in theme to Persona 3’s trans woman, Erica’s introduction as an important character is her flirting with the boys and referencing kink.  In the scene, Toby is complaining about never getting girls, saying that he wants an older woman and mentions adult fun. Right on cue, Erica shows up saying, “Hmmm? So, did I hear someone call for me?” followed shortly by, “I’ve got a nice pair of stiletto heels I know how to use.” Because, of course, a trans woman in an Atlus game will immediately flirt with the inexperienced, eager, young man.

Throughout the game every major male character says things that are transphobic. First, when Toby starts to develop a crush on Erica, everyone starts to tell him he can’t date her. Before he asks her out, everyone at the table wonders aloud whether they should “tell” Toby. This, of course,  hints at the fact that Erica is trans, and that the characters are thinking about outing her.

In another scene, Toby declares, “Got rid of my V-Card, Boom!” and Orlando looks shocked and concernedly asks him, “with who?” Then Orlando looks clearly bothered by learning that Toby had slept with Erica.

Immediately after that, Toby says there was “something weird about it,” after which Orlando quickly and nervously changes the subject.

Erica2

Later in the game it’s discovered that Erica started having nightmares, too. Toby says, “I thought only men had that dream… So maybe gender doesn’t matter, huh?” to which Orlando replies, “W-Well, I’m not so sure…” suggesting that Erica isn’t a woman.

Near it’s end, the game explicitly states that only men are the ones to have the nightmares with such lines as, “I have these hesitant gentleman climb that…” and other similar lines, but Erica still had the dreams, even though she is a woman, which tells the player that the writers thought of Erica as a man and therefore think of all trans women as men.

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, in one of the game’s endings it is revealed that Erica is trans in possibly the worst way. During the game’s ending, Toby is upset because he’s never “gonna win big”, to which Erica teasingly hugs him, saying they’ll always have each other. Then Toby complains that “The other guys knew [Erica] as ‘Eric’ back in school” and that he wants his “damned V-Card back…!” To this, Erica just smiles, winks and says a wordy version of “Nope.” Then the cut-scene shows another character video-taping the interaction and enjoying Toby’s misery.

This scene continues the transphobia, because Toby seems really concerned that “The other guys knew,” showing that he feels ashamed/embarrassed by having slept with a trans woman. By recording and enjoying his misery, the other character is confirming that, yes, sleeping with a trans woman is something to be ashamed of.

Furthermore, Erica’s taunting and gleeful manner, coupled with her eagerness to flirt with Toby at her first opportunity, paints the horrible cliché of trans women as deceivers trying to lure men into bed. And with that, Erica is one of the worst portrayed trans characters there is.

Review:

So, despite all the flaws in the female characters, how is the game? Well, you spend most of the game playing uninteresting puzzles, in which you have to push around blocks in order to climb a big tower of blocks, most of which aren’t hard by themselves, but then you get to frustratingly cheap boss levels where the boss is set too close behind you and you get killed a few too many times. To make this worse, the dying screen is fairly long and annoying to watch every time and some of the boss’s make noises that are abrasive to listen to. I actually had to mute the game on two portions because the noises coming from the boss were much too irritating.

The other portions of actual game-play include walking around a bar, talking to people, answering text messages and drinking. This part could almost be called fun if it weren’t for the fact that, as you heard before, the characters are badly written. You won’t have to look too hard to find a sour NPC sitting in the bar, uttering something misogynistic. Furthermore, the text message choices were not very good. Each time I found myself thinking, “OK, which is the least bad of these choices?” Despite that, this actually was the best part in the game. A game that was so bad, I actually looked forward to these segments, if for no other reason than that I could see more of Erica, who, despite her poor portrayal, is still my favorite character in this game. That anticipation, however, started to wane as the game continually made transphobic comments.

But surely a game with so much hype has a great story. Nope. Unfortunately I found that the story is at best silly and at worst really kinda stupid. Vincent, for one thing, makes unbelievably poor choices and he’s a pretty terrible person. It makes me feel like all I could do was try to salvage what I could of his pathetic existence so he could continue to be a bad person. To make this task worse than it had to be, none of my choices felt like they impacted anything major in the game’s events, and all the choices I made weren’t actual interactions between characters. I had to answer some of the worst questions they could have possibly thought up like “Are all men stupid?” After playing this game for a few hours, I found myself picking “yes”, because if these male characters I encountered represent men, then yeah, they are.

As I told my friend, the story shouldn’t have lasted more than 20 minutes: Vincent would accidentally cheat, I should have been able to make him break it off with the crazy succubus girl and confess to his loving girlfriend, Katherine, and then she’d break up with him and he’d die alone. But the game didn’t give me any satisfying choices; instead, I had to choose who Vincent ended up with by answering questions that seemed random, and sometimes unclear as to which way they’d cause the in-game morality meter to sway.

I don’t even want to bring up the sociological inaccuracy that is the premise of the main plot twist, if for no other reason to prevent me from spoiling the horribly stupid surprise that you will encounter if you are unlucky enough to decide to play this game.

Then at the very end, in the most condescending way, Catherine (the game not the girl) explains all the themes and metaphors in the game through a chesty girl with an afro.

Persona 3 (Gender + Sexuality)

Gender:

I had read about it before and Operation Babe Hunt was the only reason I finished the game. I wanted to see for myself how horrible it really was. In the middle of the game there is a segment where everyone goes to the beach and one of the characters (Junpei) wants to go hit on women at the beach.

The entire scene is supposed to be funny and it’s actually quite short. Maybe that’s why I didn’t find it difficult like the scenes from P4 but more annoying. It’s more a feeling of frustration with the existence of the stereotypes that they are re-enforcing. I am not trying to tell developers what to do, but if you are going to have trans characters, something other than the same negative cliche’s would be nice.

Here’s what happens in the scene: the boys run around hitting on random groups of girls. Of course, they only meet comic failure. Only not quite humorous. The only woman who responds positively to their advancements was the trans woman. That’s where the stereotype painting trans women as sexual deviants/predators comes in. Other than that, they also use a question mark in the name “Beautiful Lady?” which is offensive.

But like I said the scene went by quickly and within the game it was more of a nuisance. It’s just another example of Atlus poorly portraying trans characters. It’s the same type of quick joke that has been done before and likely will be done more. Though, I admit Atlus does seem to be improving with their trans characters. I wouldn’t mind seeing how much they can improve. They make good RPGs and great characters.

All in all, the scene was overshadowed. Because, even thought the reaction from the characters was negative when they discovered that she had a bit of stubble on her face still, and the game didn’t include any option to speak up against your classmates opinions (which would have been nice), just a moment later…

Sexuality:

I saw a girl. I knew right away. She’s the tank they were just mentioning a few scenes back. “OMG, She’s the Tank,” I proclaimed. She instantly became my favorite character of the game. Her name is Aigis and (Spoilers) she is a robot made for killing shadows.

As I’ve said before, I love AIs. For me the prospect of playing out a relationship with a robot was exciting. It drew me in, immediately. Unfortunately, the game makes you wait a long time before you can experience it.

Much of the story for Aigis revolves around her trying to understand what it means to “live” and trying to live. There isn’t any profound revelations from her unless I’ve overlooked something(actually entirely possible). She realizes that she wants to protect you, the main character, and that she loves you.

Toward the end of her story she asks you to touch a delicate component that lies at the base of the neck, behind her bow. She tells you that it will burn some of your genetic information onto the component and then she apologizes if she makes unusual noises. The scene ends with her request, “Will you… untie my ribbon?” It is a very intimate moment even though nothing is shown.

It was a beautiful relationship. It was made even more significant to me by the fact that I made no other effort to date any other of the characters in the game. Although, it was a different kind of relationship that I don’t think the developers intended to be used as a romantic relationship. At least maybe not the way I viewed it. Probably because of the issue of her being a robot. I assume this since the game didn’t prompt me to give her any gifts like it did with other characters. But it definitely was the most meaningful to me.

Digital Relationships:

I almost missed this last storyline in the game. That would have been a shame because it was one I could easily relate to. I thank my friend for pointing out this social link.

Early in the game one of the characters gives you an MMO game to play. For a while I didn’t realize how to play it but near the end of the game I realized I had just overlooked it. You enter the game and are greeted by a girl. You interact with her through the game and she begins complaining about work. After a while you can really feel a closeness. The two seem to care more about each other than the game.

One day you get a note that the server is shutting down because there aren’t enough people. At this point I think it’s just you and her. This is a sad thing to me. It’s an end. That is enough to start to be sad but then you wonder what will happen to the relationship and it’s even sadder. The girl, Maya, devises a strategy to send the company your chat logs so they can see how important the game is to you.

Then the sad parts happen. She changes her mind. The chat logs make her want to refocus her life and she leaves, forever, before the servers even shut down. No exchange of information. No “see you later”. Just, goodbye. But she leaves you a note. She tells you to take a screenshot of it for your phone after she leaves. Then she’s gone. Her note reads, “I LUV U”.

Maybe it’s because of who I am, but it’s one of the sadder things I’ve ever read. Anyone who reads my blog probably knows, I don’t have many RL friends. So, the bonds I make online are very important to me. I care about all my online friends very much. I am grateful for having them. It is a scary thought that they could disappear like that. I went back to my computer several times to see if it would let me try to talk to Maya again. It did not. And I cried (though I had also been depressed at the time).

There is hope however. The girl reveals enough information that you figure out who she is IRL. You don’t get to interact with her until the end of the game. She discovers who you are and starts to freak out. She feels bad for telling you all the things she did. Then she asks you to dinner but runs away.

My friend said that the scene was funny but I just felt the loneliness that I feel everyday. I feel like something is slipping away from the characters and they are just standing there letting it. It’s an empty feeling for me.

Mini Review:

P3, much like P4 which I’ve already reviewed, is a very well crafted RPG. The music is fantastic. The Visuals look nice. The characters are endearing. It starts off very slowly, much like P4, although the characters early on feel weak. None of the social links you can make are very interesting, so even though the game opens right away, it still feels restricting. Once more characters start to be added the game really starts to take off. You get more social links that you actually want to see through to the end, including 2 that I mentioned above. The game also has an intense story with many unexpected surprises. It would be difficult for me to choose a favorite between P3 and P4. I liked them both despite each having some things that bothered me. This game also has become one of the only few games that have made me cry. It is a great journey and I think you should experience it.

(forgive me if this reads awkwardly, I was crying while writing most of it. I’ll come back to check it later.)

Not Cool

Warning: There may be Dragon Age Origins spoilers ahead.

I’ve been playing through a lot of RPGs lately. I’ve been taking advantage of the break between semesters, the amazing Steam sales lately and the fact that this is the first generation that I have a computer capable of running recent games. The latest RPG on my list is Dragon Age Origins. I picked up a quest to remove some Mercenaries from a brothel. It sounded fun. I went over to the brothel to get rid of them. While I was there I decided to see what the brothel had to offer. The Madame gave me the option of males, females, both or surprise me. I asked to see both and she brought out a handful of the brothel’s available companions. I made my choice and was about to click on her but then I noticed something. Above her head read “Female” Companion. “Female”?

I didn’t like it. Quotation marks are what people use to tell me that I am not nor will I ever be a real woman. Quotation marks are mean.

I looked it up, two common reactions I saw from other gamers on this issue was that the brothel girls were not trans women but intersex OR that it wasn’t a big deal because they were not real women. I will address both positions briefly. Firstly, it doesn’t matter if a person is intersex they are still allowed to identify as woman, man, bi-gender, third gender, no gender, etc. It is no more OK to quotation an intersex person as it is to quotation a trans person.

The second point saddens me. The logic that trans women are not real women is the same reason why quotation marks are so offensive. That people are posting this point of view on sites intended for a gay audience is depressing. I think this just goes to show that trans people and trans issues are not respected by too large a number of people in the LGBT community.

I am female. No quotation marks.