Cat and the Coup


There have been many, many games about history, but most come from the wargame tradition—recreating battles fought by great generals or set at particularly dramatic moments, but always focusing on the physical conflicts of history, armies marching on each other with certain objectives.

This leaves out many types of historical events that just can’t be meaningfully modeled with troops and dice tables. How do you talk about a clandestine coup by the CIA in a war game? It becomes much harder to discern anything meaningful from pieces, hexes and stats.

The Cat and the Coup takes an entirely different approach, discussing the life of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. As Dr. Mossadegh lays dying you play as his cat, moving together throughout various scenes in his life and coercing him to move onward. You can only interact with the world in a truly feline fashion, by jumping about the room and swiping at things with your paws. The game is presented in a symbolic style modeled after 13th century Persian miniatures. It’s a stunning look, but it provides interesting context given the subject matter.

As the cat, the player is frequently put into situations where you’re effecting Dr. Mossadegh’s life in profound ways. The scenes are symbolic, the struggle of Dr. Mossadegh to catch a fallen inkwell leads him tumbling down past a bulldog wearing a British-flag top hat. The effect is striking, bringing historical events without clear, meaningful physical representations into stark focus.

Talking Points: How does the game get its point across? What is the point? Was the game educational about history? How would this have been presented in a war game? What about a more traditional adventure game?

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This reminds me both of Tom Clancy's Politika and The Weakerthans' "Plea From A Cat Named Virtute."

I played this last night. It's not a terribly long game, so it's easy to play through and draw an impression.

It's pretty neat. After completing it, the first thing I thought was that this would be a great classroom tool for my wife. It doesn't beat you over the head with a narrative; it's just bullet-points on a timeline. And, while the game's authors have clear political opinions about this bit of history, it's carried through the art style, which is quite new (to me).

The gameplay is odd and struck me as slightly unintuitive, and by the time I'd gotten the hang of it, the game was over. But, so what. Not many games find you playing a jumpy cat in a hallucinogenic political allegory. It's uniqueness got points with me. Ultimately, though, it provides a bunch of very useful jumping off points for discussion.

It manages to seem like it's a game first, while also an obvious tool for education. That's it's true value.

I can't wait to try this out. It unlocked yesterday for the anniversary of the 1953 coup, and I've had that date on my calendar for months looking forward to this.

Which seems a bit extreme.

As someone unfamiliar with the details of this bit of history, the allegorical significance of the gameplay sequences were lost on me. So as a game it just felt like a simple little platform puzzle game. While the historical bullet points presented in text were interesting, they didn't explain enough for me to be able to follow what was happening. The high points of the game for me were the unique art style and mood setting score which got the point across to me more than the gameplay or writing elements.

This felt like a game designed by petermolyneux2. "A serious game about Iran's first elected PM. You play from the viewpoint of his cat and solve physics puzzles."

Well it is free so I'll check it out. A game with a message.

Pretty interesting. Almost an Alice in Wonderland feel to it (I am referring to the story of Alice and not the most recent game that I haven't played yet).

docbadwrench wrote:

The gameplay is odd and struck me as slightly unintuitive, and by the time I'd gotten the hang of it, the game was over. But, so what.

It seems to be based around the concept of balance, which may have been a good analogy for what the gentleman doctor was having to do, or may just be me seeing meaning where there is none. I not familiar enough with the fine details of the history to say either way.

Strangely the steam sale today was 'Fate of the World' another semi-educational game.
I decided to pick that up since it was pretty cheap, and I feel it did a far better job of getting you to understand different perspectives.
The Cat and the Coup was very much a narrated with a set viewpoint, the conclusions of the creators were supposed to be our conclusions.
Fate of the World you are given the data left to see how the consequences play out, and make up your own mind. I'm not saying Fate of the World doesn't have any ideological viewpoint it does, just that it also lets you see some of the counter arguments against it.

In the end The Cat and the Coup felt like I was being told an anecdote by someone, a little story to which we are all supposed to nod along to and make positive noises. It didn't make me think. And if all we are doing is telling a story about the Iranian revolution Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (in either film or graphic novel form) does a better job because it allowed you to relate to the people far better.

codicier wrote:

may just be me seeing meaning where there is none.

If that message comes through in your play, then you don't have to hedge or excuse yourself.

I, too, felt that the game was largely about balance and falling (on a mechanical level). Whether and to what extent that's true about the political situation in Iran in the 1950s is a second question (and one worth exploring).

KrazyTacoFO wrote:

Pretty interesting. Almost an Alice in Wonderland feel to it (I am referring to the story of Alice and not the most recent game that I haven't played yet).

Between the pastiche visual construction and the "find what to interact with and when" mechanics, it felt a fair deal like Monty Python's Complete Waste of Time.

By the way, I did purchase Fate of the World a few months ago. However, I was discouraged (and haven't returned to it) because it didn't hand-hold me enough. I would guess that I'll just have to make the time to stumble around the interface and figure things out. The video that I watched (that purported to teach me about the game) didn't do it justice.

Getting back to the Iranian Kitty game, though...

Balance is certainly a primary theme. Leave it to the large gaps in my cognition not to truly get that before now... However, the conclusions of the game's authors, while obvious (in the art style) still allow lots of room to have questions. I think it's because we are presented with bullet points. We get to make sense of them, debate them, disagree with them, etc.

I suppose it's length, the look - it all screamed out "teacher tool!" to me because I'm married to an educator.