For my autoethonographic experience I chose to look at Catherine and after multiple play throughs I’m pretty certain I’ve experienced this game. It’s not like any traditional JRPG but it has an incredible amount of depth especially after research of the characters, what they’re inspired by and even the roles each character has within the game and outside of the game.
One thing I hadn’t picked up until I googled it, was the setup of the game. It’s designed to look like a tv program called the “Golden Playhouse” which is run by “Trisha, the Midnight Venus”. At the beginning of the game she sets up the story and lets you dive right into the gameplay. What I hadn’t realised was that Trisha wasn’t just setting up the show and hosting it to us but she was in fact the architect to Vincent’s entire world and he was under a test from her and not through Catherine or Thomas Mutton (another character who reveals himself to be an incarnation of Dumuzid the Shephard and creater of the nightmares). Trisha, once incredibly in depth within the game; reveals that she is actually “Ishtar” and also reveals the true identity of “Astaroth” (a voice in an elevator within the nightmares). Aswell as Ishtar and Astaroth being around, Catherine ends up being a literal Succubus, and is revealed that her father is Nergal and mother is Ereshkigal. The nightmares are set in ‘The Tower of Babel’ and Vincent must pass ‘The Great Trials’.
So who are these characters or names? Dumuzid the Shephard, Astaroth, Ishtar, Nergal, Ereshkigal, and what is a Succubus let alone The Tower of Bable and the Great Trials?
After some googling around I found that Catherine’s characters or demons were inspired by Mesopotamian mythology.
Dumuzid the Sheppard was a mortal man who married a goddess named Ishtar but eventually cheated on her whilst she was in the underworld, resulting in Dumuzid becoming a demigod after being thrown into the underworld by Ishtar.
Ishtar is the goddess of fertility, love, war and sex (not emotional) and is supposed to fill humans with the necessary drive and sexual desire to reproduce.
Astaroth in different demonological texts is described to be “The Prince of Hell, Accusers and Inquisitors but said in Mesopotamian mythology that he is an avatar of Ishtar Herself.
Nergal is the husband of Ereshkigal who is the goddess of the land of the dead and is also Ishtars eldest sister.
A Succubus is a female demon that invades human’s nightmares and dreams and is believed to take the form of a beautiful female and have sexual relations with sleeping men.
The Tower of Babel, a tower built from humans when everyone was able to understand each other and only one language existed. The tower was to be built to heaven but God thought this would turn people away from him, so he came down and separated the creators and therefore separating all languages.
The Great Trials are a part of the game Catherine, in which is a ‘curse’ that only affects men past their late 20’s that are in problematic relationships. An odd twist with The Great Trials are that the nightmares in which they are held, cannot be remembered, the victim cannot get any rest, and if they die within the nightmare they die in real life suffering unnatural atrophy. The purpose of the trials is to split men from women they have no intention of having children with, hence Ishtar’s presence within the game.
With all these Mesopotamian references within the game, ATLUS, the creators of the game prove that these JRPGs can produce such immaculate and incredible stories whilst recycling old stories and lore around demonological texts.
So how well did the game go?
Catherine had received mostly positive reviews from major game publications and aggregators, winning six awards and achieving a runner up for two other awards. The game had sold around 500,000 copies by the end of 2011 and has since appeared in many “top games” lists.
How do I feel about the game? Having played Catherine only twice still, and after researching and finding out theres a WHOLE lot more behind the game, it has me more than operationally possibly keen to play and beat the game 100%. The research I’ve put into the game has only opened up more and more layers of interest especially with finding out new endings and possibilities in the game as well as all of the lore surrounding it.