CRank: 10Score: 0

Why Catherine's marketing team did a disservice to video games as an art form

I'll start by saying this: I have yet to play Catherine. As a broke college student, I don't always have $63.59 lying around to pick up the latest releases, awesome or not. However, I have done my research in the form of ravenously devouring every review of this game I have come across to get an idea what it was about. My presumptions were proven wrong and I must say that this forward thinking title will soon be part of my collection. Once I compared the reviews to the advertisements I have seen everywhere, though, I must say, I'm insulted.

To quote an adage that has been around for quite some time: sex sells. I have countless friends that went to see the Transformers movies simply because Megan Fox was in it and then were hesitant to see the third one because she wasn't. Many in the hip-hop world argue Nicki Minaj wouldn't have been as successful without her bodacious booty (I'm not one of them). Pornography is one of the biggest industries in the world. You get the picture: sex sells.

What makes video games different from these fields, however, is that they are still looked down upon as a child's play thing despite the copious amounts of statistical data that runs contrary to these presumptuous critics' view of video games. Roger Ebert refuses to look at them as art, just a few weeks ago a popular morning talk show laughed at the notion of any man in his 30's playing a video game and I have been given sideways looks every time I passionately get into a discussion about my favorite video game with someone.

Now for my point: what in the hell was the marketing team behind Catherine thinking? To whom did they think this game was being marketed and what did they think it was about? I’ll feed you the information in the order it was given to me; advertisements first and reviews excerpts second to see if you are thrown for as big of a loop as I was.

There’s the cover art:

Now for some advertisements:

So, give me a few wild guesses on what you think this game is about given what you have seen here. A porn simulator for some kid discovering his first boner on the playground? A game providing a big box of ammunition for some CNN or Fox News pundit to jump to conclusions about? Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball: The Some-Random-Chick-With-Her-Leg s-Spread-Named-Catherine Edition? And hey! You can even head over to the official site for some more misleading photos! Score! Sure, further reading gave me a better idea concerning the meaty content the game had to offer and changed my mind a bit, but why did they have to plaster up-the-skirt shots all over the site? How do you think that would look on the 5 o'clock news?

Before I get to the review excerpts, I’ll shoot some honesty your way: I dismissed this game almost as soon as my eyes fell on it. Sure, I saw the pictures in previews that depicted some puzzle solving and some jibber jabber about a story but what was sitting at the forefront of my mind the whole time were those photos. I wrote the game off as some low brow trash targeting what some marketing team thought would be a desperate never-had-a-girlfriend type (oh, wait, we’re gamers! I forgot that we’re all like that. My bad!) longing for something pretty to look at.

But imagine the shock I went through almost as soon as I saw the review scores pouring in this week:

At 1up (who rewarded the game an “A”):

Catherine surprised me. Plastered with scantily clad ladies and come-hither artwork, Atlus' marketing materials make it look like yet another sleazy, pandering gal game from Japan. The reality of the game is far different, and considerably more nuanced. It's sometimes sexy, and it's often sexual, but it uses its "adults only" tone in a genuinely adult way.

-Jeremy Parish

At Gamespot (who rewarded the game an 8.5/10):

This story-heavy puzzler is mature and occasionally profound, exploring themes like sexual fidelity, personal responsibility, and trust. Catherine doesn't just challenge your hand/eye coordination: It challenges your intellect and your emotions.

-Kevin VanOrd

At IGN (who rewarded the game a 9/10):

…but it's the fact that the game deals with two issues in particular that gaming pretty much never broaches -- a fear of commitment and cheating on your loved one -- that lends to its uniqueness.

-Colin Moriarty

Doesn’t seem like much of a juvenile walk through the more perverted corners of your mind so much anymore, does it? This is a game that is challenging the conventions of our medium with thought provoking themes and questions about human nature and what does it get presented as? Some sleazy, pandering, exploitation of women that just exemplifies one of the many stereotypes that us gamers are tagged with every day by the rest of society.

What makes it worse is that movies and books have dealt with similar themes for years and somehow have managed to market themselves in an adult fashion. Movies like “Brokeback Mountain,” “Shakespeare in Love,” and “Presumed Innocent” are all considered great examples of film and were presented in a mature way. “The Scarlett Letter” has also dealt with this theme and is considered a classic. Why does this video game, in all of its maturity, get neutered by such a cheap marketing scheme?

The thing about video games' biggest critics is that they are usually the least informed on the topic. I did my research as I'm sure anyone reading this blog will have as well. Do you think that the naysayers of our culture will do the same? One look at the advertising material will send uninformed people into a frenzy. If we want to be taken seriously, we have to present ourselves in such a way.

Don't take what I am saying the wrong way, though. I would never suggest we censor, water down, or alter in any way the content of the game, that is not the problem here (The sexual content, from what I understand, is actually not as prevalent as the cover would lead you to believe). I am not opposed to having Catherine on the front cover either. But can't it be done in a more tasteful manner? How is this going to be taken seriously if she is posed in lingerie like some cheap pin up on the cover? She is much more than that to the story and even if Catherine moves more units because of the cover, it isn't selling for the right reasons and defeats the purpose of the game's narrative.

What if "The Scarlet Letter" had a depiction of Hester Prynne having sex with her lover on the cover? In addition to not being taken seriously, the book would have been utterly misrepresented because the actual sex plays a very small role in the overarching plot in the book despite being the thing that set everything in motion. To use an example from video games: what if L.A. Noire's cover depicted Cole Phelps in the passionate throes of forbidden love with Elsa Lichtmann? Sure, it had a big impact on the story, but does that belong on the cover?

One thing that I want for this industry (and hopefully you do too), is for it to get some recognition. Not the type of recognition it has gotten so far in the vein of condescending reports on news channels, the witch hunts that plague it and burn it at the stake after every sad and tragic school shooting or the court cases that try to insist we can’t monitor ourselves, but the type that you can be proud of. In order for that to ever happen, this type of marketing and thinking about the things that appeal to our crowd has to not just stop, but change altogether.

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SageHonor2334d ago (Edited 2334d ago )

Hmm, I agree about some of those pictures.. ESPECIALLY the third one with her having her legs open like that.. I literaly went WTF after seeing that.

But here's the thing.... who cares what Roger Ebert or people on some talk show say anyway? They are ignorant and don't understand video games as much as we. I for one am gonna get Catherine. I like what I played in demo and I really like the art style and other types of interaction within the game.

From my experience, most gamers enjoyed playing the game and didn't care too much about the marketing. Heck, you even showed excerpts from reviewers praising it for what it REALLY has to offer... Of course people from fox or other ignoranct people would blow this out of proportion given the chance. However, what they don't realize is just like movies... video games have genres and stories which include some being serious.. and some not meant to be taken that serious...

snipes1012334d ago

Like the article says, I want video games to get the recognition they deserve and, given what has been said about the game by professionals, this was a chance for us to let what our medium has to offer shine.

It has been argued (quite effectively) on another site I posted this blog on that the box art is representative of the lust that drives the plot of the game; and this is true. However, that was not the only theme the game had to offer and those were not represented here.

To me it cheapened it.

SageHonor2334d ago

I definately understand and agree because Catherine does have more mature themes than that

armycore2333d ago (Edited 2333d ago )

Do romance novels at the supermarket cheapen the beauty of books? Is that latest Justin Timberlake movie going to change your outlook on movies? Will the latest Katy Perry song make you forget about centuries of music? Of course not.

This is marketing that you're getting worked up over. It's not the game, it's the boxart.

You may dismiss a game over box art, that's your agenda, others would rather wait for reviews or try the game itself.

My point is this, if you want gaming to be taken seriously, making a big deal out of BOX ART is not the way to do it. There's bigger issues out there regarding gaming other that BOX ART for a game that you dismiss because you felt that it was hoping to get that male demographic that's intrigued by a sexy lady on the cover. I'm sure all the BOX ART in your collection is only of highest caliber and most sophisticated taste cause as we all know, you can judge a book by it's cover. Oh wait you can't.

Pozzle2334d ago

This is a great article. I don't know how many times I have come across people saying they aren't interested in Catherine, not because it's a puzzle game, but because they think it's a shallow hentai or sex game.

I do think the marketing team made a mistake by purely focusing on Catherine's sex appeal. There's nothing wrong with using a bit of sex in advertising, but showing off pictures of Catherine with her legs spread or Vincent falling into her cleavage doesn't properly portray why the game is worth buying. It pretty much just says "If you like boobs, buy this game, because that's all we can offer you here!"

Perhaps focusing more on the love-triangle and cheating aspects of the game in the advertisements would have beem a better choice. That way, they can still use sex appeal to sell, but it would also show gamers what the game is actually about. And that it isn't just a game about sex.

snipes1012334d ago

EXACTLY...right on with that last paragraph. The only reason the sex is a big deal is because of Katherine, Vincent's girlfriend, is there to turn the whole thing into a love triangle.

Box art is not there to sell the game to people that already know what the game is about because they are already going to buy it. It is there to sell the game to people that are uninformed. This cover art only shows a small part of what the game was all about.

You're right, they could have kept the sexuality they clearly wanted to push by showing a love triangle on the cover. They could have been more tasteful all while being sexual.

mastiffchild2334d ago

But,haven't they BEEN doing that by all the "Love is Dead"edition stuff? they had to paint Catherine as the temptress as she's the plot device which sets the whole game up-without his infidelity, his giving in to lust and the temptation, to his primal urges there'd be no dreams, no puzzles and no love triangle-so when they say "love is dead" I think the reader or auteur of the game's press should be clever enough to read into what I think is a particularly subversive ad campaign which sets you up for a fall if you just accept the first thing that comes to mind and, even if you DO fall for it, as they say, sex still sells. Whichever way I look at it the marketing is great-it's even interactive if you so wish(though exactly WHO wants to text an anime girl is a bit scary!)and the suggestive stuff just plays on the temptations Vine (and men of that age) face all the time-and it's a reaction to the fear of settling down and losing the opportunity to give your carnal instincts their own way forever so naturally the iconic image for the game is that of Catherine who embodies this choice for Vincent.

IDK-it's a great blog and everything but I just don't find myself agreeing -
AND I'm not even that interested in the game itself as I don't really like puzzle games thee days but the fact the SMT/Persona team have taken on a truly adult subject is great, refreshing and typical of them too! That said, I just think the best way to promote it is the way they HAVE done. She's the natural choice, she has worked(tons of press)and then, when you discover there's a lot more depth to the whole thing she STILL makes sense AND the developers and marketers come out looking both clever AND savvy. UI'm even a little prudish by today's standards and I never felt this was in the gutter at all and alwas a bit ironic and tongue in cheek-it's certainly, the lust that is, done in a very knowing way and to be offended or upset by it-when it kind of supports the idea that lust is a pretty base instinct anyway-is just being a bit too literal about a couple of the images they've used in the precise HOE someone says the same kind of things you would, if you were upset, say about it. It's all attention and that's what they want.

At the end of it all the game actually seems to be able to stand up to it's subject matter AND as a good game i and of itself so what's the harm in the marketing team taking a few liberties? they have never veered into perversion and have been pretty gentle about it all and never been graphic whatsoever and I think they have also done it all in a very knowing, post modern way and aren't really trying to exploit women or sex at all and rather poke fun AT that whole way of doing things because the game, actually, is more about fidelity, the loss of it an the loss of freedom approaching Vincent. It's not about sex really but it's sex that causes it all.

I'm sorry, i'm tired, and the blog deserves a better response than my incoherent rambling but I think you aren't looking at it right.

snipes1012334d ago

Well the beginning of the blog didn't order you to agree or anything :p haha. I see where you're coming from, I really do. I was not offended by the images either, I have a high tolerance for smut and offensive jokes. Your standpoint is perfectly thought out and makes plenty of sense.

I just do not think that this representation is really at the heart of what the game is about. Sure, without Catherine there would be no temptation but on the same token, if there was no Katherine the temptation wouldn't be there. The sex would I think that if there is far more to the game, it should be presented as such.

I'm not against being clever, savvy, or ironic either. I'm a big hiphop fan and almost the entirety of that genre (that isn't crap) thrives on those traits. I'm not asking for the game to cater to the naysayers expectations either (though it may seem that way). I'm asking for the game to be presented with some maturity. This just seems juvenile to me, ironic or not.

Good response. I think you're right, I just disagree with your "right." We're just on two different sides of a fence.

KwietStorm2334d ago

I sure as hell thought it was some hentai game that wasn't even getting released outside of japan. I couldn't understand why it was getting so much attention until I saw gameplay video. I almost never knew it was a puzzle game.

CrescentFang2334d ago

The only thing I have to say is that the last 2 pics are from Japan and were meant to advertise there... They're different people and as such they have a different culture...
Good article though...

snipes1012334d ago

Yea I was trying to find ones that were american but no luck :\. Bad journalism on my part I suppose. Have any links to any?

CrescentFang2334d ago

Only thing I can suggest is their YouTube channel
I'm sorry I couldn't be much help...

nskrishna22334d ago

very well wriiten...
And I agree completely
As much as I love The Witcher 2, i wasn't a fan of their marketing methods either. I can count many people on my friends list who purchased the game because of their marketing of in game womeN, whereas the game was a rich RPG experience

There is really nothing in your blog that I can point out and talk about, I agree with it completely

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