The entry of video games into the realm of art is becoming impossible to deny. Traditionally, the debate about the potential of video games has been between people who say games are entertainment and people who say games can be art. Obvious artistic creations like Will You Ever Return?, The Stanley Parable, and Papers, Please signal the end of this debate, but a new debate will soon take center stage: good video game art vs. bad video game art. I am glad to say Devi Ever’s A Game of Cat and Mouse falls into the former category.
Don’t expect adventure, action, or puzzling from A Game of Cat and Mouse. Like the less serious boogerman shits, A Game of Cat Mouse is more of an exhibit than a game. Having said that, you do “play” as a mouse with an umbrella. The mouse is on a street where a dead cat lies. As rain pours, you have a choice: you can stand away from the cat and watch its body decay, or you can stand over the cat to shield its body from the rain.
A Game of Cat and Mouse illustrates the relationship between emotions and morality, but this relationship can only be expressed through the individual gamer’s experience. That is, the emotions of the player, not the developer, are the moral compass. With this in mind, the game has an appropriate title. The simple choice of where to stand in A Game of Cat and Mouse either reinforces the age-old rivalry between mortal enemies or brings about a new tale of mercy and respect. Either way, the enemy of the game (the cat) can be perceived as precious life. (It’s striking that all of this can be achieved with primitive pixels.)
Again, the cynicism of Papers, Please and The Stanley Parable is exposed. Papers, Please stacks the deck against you as it asks you to consider the plight of strangers over a faceless family, obstructing thoughts and emotions that might occur in a real-world scenario. In contrast, A Game of Cat and Mouse gives ample attention to the proverb “Love your enemies,” a lesson that video games have largely ignored. The universal emotions attached to the choices in A Game of Cat and Mouse also shows the limitations of The Stanley Parable’s inside joke — good art vs. bad art.
A Game of Cat and Mouse can encourage genuine empathy from the player. At the same time, the game requires a more open mind. Even though A Game of Cat and Mouse is more powerful than boogerman shits as an interactive picture, it might ultimately suffer the same fate as boogerman shits at Game Jolt: lower ratings and puzzled players. Devi Ever appropriately asks for patience from the player before A Game of Cat and Mouse begins. Indeed, only patience from everyone — gamers, developers, and critics — will let video games realize their full potential.