Exploring morality in fiction- or why Catherine is great

I’m on the brink of exhaustion as you can probably imagine.

Getting married in a matter of weeks, preparing to move to London, starting a new job, still trying to meet my writing schedule. It’s as if a giant pair of hands have grabbed me, squeezed and won’t let go.

Each evening and weekend is jampacked with activities and usually they are not fun ones. Updating the spreadsheet on wedding invites, financially planning the first few months in London so we don’t go beyond our means, checking the duties of my new role, proving more documentation to the letting agency. Not fun.

I don’t have the energy to do very much. Probably the best example of that is my eating habits of late. I love my food, my meals are the highlight of the day. The good company of my fiancée and just enjoying the food, lovely. We have a bit of a duty roster, she makes the amazing meals, I do the cleaning and keep the flat in good order, we’re happy with that arrangement. Lately though, we have been ordering food in from pretty meh take away places and I have equally dropped the ball and need to give the flat a serious tidy. We are too tired.

I took a long weekend off work to try and gather myself and decompress after the whirlwind of changes. My better half is visiting her mother, so it was a chance for some time to sleep, relax, catch up on a few things. It’s Sunday and I do feel like I am getting my breath back now, got tomorrow off as well.

Given how exhausted I am, it would be pretty hard for a story to properly catch my attention through the haze.

One did however.

Catherine, the game.

The main premise of this romantic horror is you play a young man, Vincent, who has had a one night stand. How you handle the situation, and other people in general, goes on to form the main narrative of the game, giving you plenty of choices throughout. Worst of all, there is a rumour going around of a curse, “The Woman’s Wrath,” cheating men are being found dead all across the city. There is an eerie supernatural edge to the story which I loved, no surprise there.

I idly gave it a go and got totally absorbed in the exploration of morality. I was tired, I didn’t really want an interactive medium per se but I was fascinated by the story and moral choices presented. I played on and couldn’t put it down.

I enjoy playing games, especially role playing games. Most explore morality but in a fairly cartoonish way. You can be a deranged dark lord or a saint, with little in the middle. In these kinds of stories, I almost always go the evil route. It’s true, I end up the moustache twirling villain, whether it is Mass Effect, KOTOR, Baldur’s Gate, Fallout. Part of the fun in choosing the evil option is the outrageous results that can come from it.

Here are some of the most sadistic decision I made in gaming

  • I flooded a mine in Baldur’s Gate, damaging the enemy yes, but I made no effort to evacuate the slave workers.
  • In Fallout, I entered a plague into the new water supply to ensure that it would be undrinkable for mutants.
  • In The Wolf Among Us, I killed the villain of the game on the spot rather than take him back for a fair trial.

Given my brutality in these games, you would expect that playing this game, I would go the jerk option. Cheat on your girlfriend, be a total scumbag, gleefully be hooking up with the girl on the side, being a terrible friend.

However, I wasn’t.

The choices felt so real, so relatable, I was really in the shoes of the character. The same guy who mercilessly crushed the Galactic Republic and established an evil empire, killing countless millions, couldn’t bring himself to lie in a text to the girl.

A lesson I took from this is when we deal with moral issues that are relatable, it can have more of an impact and be more interesting. I can’t imagine what it is like to be an all powerful hero and having to make a moral decision that will determine the fate of an empire. Not really. It can still be fun, a bit of a power fantasy I suppose, but I don’t really understand it. However, Vincent in Catherine, trying to salvage a relationship, I get that, I understand that in a very real sense.

When it comes to morality in fiction, bigger isn’t always better. The fate of nations and the universe can be less interesting than Vincent trying to deal with the fact he had a one night stand.

It is certainly something I will keep in mind for my own fiction writing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s