I noticed a stack of art books on a sale table today.  From my point of view, I could see the base of each book and I found my self looking at the gap between one stack and another.  I wanted to shift some of the lower books to the right and build a set of steps to climb higher.

That’s when I had the thought that I’ve been playing too many video games lately.  More fun than that, I’ve been playing puzzle games that take place in a dream-like atmosphere.  Most recently, I’ve been playing Catherine, a game from Atlus that takes place in the daily life of a thirty-two year old man with relationship issues.

(That doesn’t sound familiar at all.)

Much like in my favorite movie, Inception, Catherine takes place in a shared dreamscape–a nightmare, to be more specific.  Those trapped in the dream must make their way higher and higher to the top of a massive tower or die trying.  Aside from pulling blocks to make a path, the game takes place in the waking world as well.  The everyday stresses of the main character, Vincent, create the massive fiends that try to kill him as he tries to climb toward freedom.

We could call these bosses “projections.”  We could, but let’s not.

Interestingly enough, Christopher Nolan once envisioned Inception as a horror movie.  To a degree, that matches the scope of the horror viewpoint of Catherine.  Religious symbology abounds in this latest Atlus game, but it’s not part of the overall Megami Tensei franchise.  That freedom allows Catherine to ba a game with a small, everyday focus, which is one of the highlights of the total game play.

By taking a very personal viewpoint with the majority of the story elements, Vincent’s story becomes easy to relate to.  He’s a man with complacency issues with his long-time girlfriend when, suddenly, he finds himself cheating with another woman by accident.  It leads to Vincent (you, the player) making small decisions that decide his alignment toward the perky blond Catherine or long-time girlfriend Katherine.

Now, I did say games before.

A few weeks ago, I found a game on the holiday Steam sale.  Another dream-like game, Limbo follows a nameless boy as he tries to find his sister.  That’s what the tagline says; the game itself says nothing.

As you can see from the cover, the game exists in three tones, black, white, and scales of gray.  The boy wakes up into this dark realm and begins traveling through a series of obstacles–twisted, nightmare-inducing puzzles–on a quest to find his sister.

This boy will die A LOT.  Every time he dies, you can start the puzzle over, but it’s almost worth getting him killed just to see the intricate ways the designers made allow him to die.  For every puzzle, there’s another way for him to get killed.  Saw blades, electrocution, impaled by spiders, spikes, falling from high altitudes, the list goes on and on and on.  Limbo is moody, dark, and ultimately up to the player to interpret the ending.

Sounds like Inception again.

My hope is that I can eventually write something as interesting, intriguing, and personal as one of these games.  Before I go, let me ask, what games inspire you?  What games stay with you, even when you’re not playing them?

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