A Video Game Made Me Come Clean About Infidelity

I cheated.

[WARNING — This article contains Catherine spoilers] After spending the last three years of my life slowly being consumed by my grave misstep, I've finally come out to say it. I cheated on my ex-partner.

I've never been one for using video games as escapism–I like games that force me to face hard and ugly truths, uncomfortable subjects and unconventional angles. At least, I thought so. When the prospect of Catherine arrived, a game whose entire plot rested on a huge, secret source of anxiety for me, I hesitated. Was I really about to play a game that had me repeating a mistake that had so much impact on me, I hadn't spoken about it to anyone for years?

Yes. Yes I was.

In the critiques following the game's release, I saw people claim how unrealistic and stereotypical the whole thing was. Yet, as I played the game, the parallels seemed eerie. Vincent, becoming frightened at the prospect of a serious relationship with his long-time partner, makes an irresponsible, and frankly repulsive, choice.

Heh. Easy–and perhaps hypocritical–to condemn when it isn't me, eh? ‘It doesn't matter what the context was, Vincent!,' I thought to myself. You are responsible for your actions, just like any other adult!

And yet I think back on my own situation, and it wasn't as easy or simple as it sounds.

Catherine explained: Catherine tells the story of Vincent Brooks, a man-child who lives his life on cruise control. In order to cope with a pregnancy scare that threatens his complacent lifestyle, Vincent makes the mistake of falling into the arms of the seductive Catherine. The player must then help Vincent take a stand, for once in his miserable life. Does he do the 'responsible' thing and commit to his current girlfriend, Katherine? Or does he chase temptation with the girl of his dreams, Catherine?

I don't know exactly what led me to that unfaithful night in real life. I can tell you the context, though. I had been going out with my then-boyfriend for years. It was about as serious as these things can get - we spoke of marriage, the future house, kids, careers, the works. An engagement almost happened, even.

Really though, think on that for a second. 19. Marriage? I saw my future laid out neatly in front of me. Me, the kid that wasn't even out of her teens.

I couldn't. I just couldn't. And one night, I acknowledged that insecurity and uncertainty in the worst possible way. I cheated.

I considered myself — up until that point — a person of strong moral character. The cheating, however, turned my world upside down. What kind of a person was I becoming? What kind of person cheats? I've never really been able to answer that question–I ran away from what it might say about me, hence it taking me years to even acknowledge — but playing Catherine made it impossible not to dwell on it. Seeing everyone condemn Vincent for the type of person he is made it impossible not to dwell on it.

Vincent isn't a likable character–I'm sure this is a universal sentiment. He comes across as a spineless, milquetoast sap. As you play, you're practically screaming at the TV over the choices he makes.

I didn't just dislike Vincent, though. I absolutely hated him. I hated how he stalled. I hated how he ran away from his problems. I hated how he strung both Catherine and Katherine along. I hated how he acted as if the problem would fix itself.

Or was it that I hated watching Vincent commit exact same mistakes as I did, for being exactly the same as me? I can't say.

As I played, I asked myself why I would go so out of my way to ruin something positive I had going for me. I came up with no answer. There was no logical reason for it. And yet the error felt so..human? I can't expect you to understand that, especially if you're cemented on the idea of pure, unwavering love. But I can tell you I felt solidarity for Vincent as he stumbled through the ordeal himself, and that's something that most people did not relate to.

Actually dealing with it

Telling my ex I cheated was terrifying, especially considering how solid our history seemed. In fact, telling him this summer was probably the most difficult thing I've ever had to do in my life. There's no perfect moment for it. There's no segue. There's no straightforward way to do it. It's easy to give Vincent shit over how he handles his situation, but as someone that's been there, a week or so is swift. It took me three years after the fact — it took breaking up first, even — for me to tell my ex.

But I told him.

I decided that I could not deal with the issue in a stupid video game and not actually deal with it in real life. Waiting so long to do it was reprehensible and ridiculous enough as it was.

The revelation didn't go over so well with my ex — unsurprisingly, of course.

It was during this back and forth between the ex and I that I started using the game's puzzle segments as therapy; problems were straightforward, logical, had solutions that fit neatly into place amidst all the chaos. I could pause when things were tough. I could make mistakes, and there was an undo button that let me have another shot and doing things the right way. Better yet: it was possible for me to achieve the results I wanted, by saying the right thing. The right choices are so clear when it's just a game and I'm meant to be the hero. Katherine can come around. I can get married. I can get the happy ending I wanted — even if I didn't deserve it.

More top stories from Nightmare Mode

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The Text Says No: Why you can't interpret Limbo anyway you want "The text says you are wrong."

Vanquish and the Best of All Possible Worlds " It is schlock yes, but with enough promise to warrant a remake."

I don't mind happy endings, but the way the game resolves the situation was disappointing.

Spoiler begins: Catherine is actually a succubus, and not actually real. To us players–especially the ones that voted for an emotional tryst being worse than physical cheating in the polls–that distinction doesn't really matter. Vincent still cheated, right? And yet at the end, I couldn't shake the feeling that the game's creators at Atlus pulled a fast one on me, that they undermined the seriousness of the situation by how much they pushed that Catherine was only in Vincent's head. ….Vincent didn't actually cheat! It's true because he says it and everyone around him accepts it! Yeah, right.

Hence, I felt that the fantastical elements that contextualized the game also undermined the otherwise serious nature of the game. The gravity of the situation is lessened, and in it's stead we have a ridiculous, fantastical situation that is being orchestrated by powerful deities that uphold archaic values. This plot is straight out of the Atlus playbook, and while some persistent elements worked well in Catherine — the tower, alternate sexuality, dreams, etc — the fantastical element used as an absolution of Vincent's responsibility did not. Spoiler ends.

Nonetheless there's a small, niggling hope inside me. Maybe, just maybe, Vincent's courage and (eventual) resolve mean that Vincent is still redeemable in spite of what he did, who he used to be. Or maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part.

Patricia Hernandez is the editor-in-chief of Nightmare Mode, in addition to having her work featured at Destructoid, Gameranx and Bitmob. She can be found on Twitter, typically ranting about SNSD, gifs, and games.

Comments

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted

      This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted

      Please tell me that you're both kidding, right?

      People make mistakes, and the writer had the courage to tell a very personal story. Makes we wonder if you even read it.

        >white knight detected
        Makes me wonder of you've ever been cheated on?

          Wow. Really?

          The comments I replied to were uncalled for and - quite frankly - offensive. I didn't report them (in hindsight, I should have), but they were just uncalled for.

          How come whenever anyone tries uphold decent standards of online behaviour, they become a "white knight"? As to whether I've been cheated on: does it really matter? It has nothing to do with the article above which deals with the writer's personal experience after playing a game.

      This comment has been reported for inappropriate content and is awaiting review.

        Now I want to see what these things people were saying. =(

          I was awake before they were blocked. They were the type of comments you'd expect to see on youtube, though with an extra grain of uncalled for.

    I kind of feel like telling your ex was selfish. I believe you were a confused kid at the time, but telling them three tarts late is only going to clear your conscience.

      Good point. I hope you feel better. Wonder how your ex feels?

      There's two options here:

      1. You meant years, and autocorrect starts again!
      2. She cheated on her ex, ate three delicious custard tarts, then informed him

      I kind of wish it was the second. And that I had a delicious custard tart right now.

      Also: you're 100% correct. Informing her ex years later of a one-off infidelity is a massively selfish and hurtful thing to do. The only person it makes feel better is the person doing the telling, and helps them feel "better" about their cheating.

      Indeed. At this point the only one who benefits from the confession is the author at the expense of the person he mistreated years ago. Again. Classy.

      If I was cheated on I would want to know, even if it was years later (although I would prefer ASAP, obviously), I would want to know the truth.

      And if she didn't it could eat her up for the rest of her life. I think the mistake people make with cheating is thinking there's a right answer. There are no win results, everybody loses, there might be mitigating circumstances, certainly there will be reasons it happened (some better than others), but nothing excuses it, you screw up and it hurts everyone involved, there's no happy ending, only a variety of shitty to more shitty outcomes. Welcome to life, on your left you'll see grey, on your right too.

      I completely agree with the author about the ending, though I think that just goes to show she is wrong in her assessment that the game isn't stereotypical and unrealistic, it really is, and there's something very japanese about the whole affair, particularly the ending, I just couldn't help but think 'here's a group of 30 something Japanese men who have no real idea about cheating beyond casual observation of it' Perhaps you wanted to believe it was more realistic than it is?

      Completely agree.. Telling them years down the track just re-opens old wounds for them whilst trying to make yourself feel better.

    The writer has chosen to share a personal story through a piece of criticism on a videogame -- please reserve judgement for the quality of the piece and the ideas raised rather than attacking her based on decisions she has made in the past. There is no room on Kotaku for offensive, degrading and sexist language, even if some commenters think otherwise.

    Thanks.

      +1

      Is there a way to IP ban those people?

        Get real zap, this isn't a wiggles blog. Stop sucking up.

      BAM, and the dirt is gone.
      I disagree that we should be reserving judgement of the author of the opinion piece because they have inter-twined their personal life within the thread of the game's review.
      In a sense, the article has inter-twined a personal story with a critical review and has evoked an emotional response that is not connected to the game but toward social ethics and morality of the reader.
      Offensive, degrading and sexist comments must be managed carefully,

      However the author is entitled to an opinion, why cannot the reader be entitled to an opinion?

        wow, grammatical errors abound... TOO EARLY.

        I tend to agree. This is a public arena and if you walk around in public naked, people will point and stare and make comments about your saggy arse and wrinkly balls.

        But the people pointing and staring will be doing this from a full clothed position, all their saggy wrinkly bits hidden away. All the while forgetting to asked important questions like "does this person need help?", "are they ok?" or "why the f%#k is that person naked?"

        I don't think that people should judge the individual exposing themselves. It's easy to point and laugh at someones hairy arse while yours is tucked away in your calvin cliens.

        My point is, don't judge the naked person, ask what brought them out into this public arena to expose them self.

          And what did that? The profound effect a video game has had on their lives. We can all relate to that.

        My comment came from the fact she was espousing the games ability to make her do the right thing, when I thought all she had done was reopen a wound with her ex. Seems,appropriate to make that point, as its the basis of the article. I think its worth noting that I'm not particularly monogamous myself, so this isn't some 'she's an evil harlot' point I'm making.

      That makes no sense... IF she'd shared critique on a videogame through a personal story, then yes, but as you quite rightly said, she shared a personal story through a piece on a videogame... Obviously throwing irrational attacks at her is uncalled for, but the subject matter here is most definitely her personal story, or at the very least her personal story as it intertwines with Vincent's. There's very little in the way of valuable insight on game mechanics or even plot devices/development, what discussion is brought up is one on the cheating of the author in relation to the cheating in the game, keywords, 'in relation to.' This is a games website, yes, but this article is a personal story, it's irrational to claim comments should only be related to videogames even if what we publish is not!

      Sorry Tracey I know you're just trying to keep things civil, but in all fairness that's something that needs to be considered BEFORE publishing articles.

        I love reading about how games can affect people. I much prefer pieces like to cosplay galleries and hype-ridden game announcements.

        Experiences are a big part of why I game, and read about games.

          I agree, my point wasn't that these articles shoudn't be here it was that you can't put them here then tell your readers not to talk about them.

      Incorrect.

      The type of person the author is has a big bearing on the content of the article. Any comments about her are valid , as long as the comments are kept with some decency.

      First up, I'm going to apologise to Tracey if I've caused undue offence (as she seems to be the one moderating here...) however I stand by my original reply to that post up top. Perhaps the word B*** should have been substituted for "Troll", but nonetheless, I'm reiterating my support for the writer of this article. There are no grounds for attacking her in what was a very honest, well-thought at and reasoned article.

      And if my post was "moderated" for the dropping of an F-Bomb, then I will sadly shake my head and point out the editorial double standard as set by Kotaku's own staff.

      I refer to Kirk Hamilton's 'article' from yesterday:
      http://www.kotaku.com.au/2011/12/the-cuter-video-game-characters-are-the-more-i-want-to-kill-them/

      ...Saying "it's from the Kotaku US, so different rules apply" will also not fly here, as it's clearly being directed to the AU domain for those of us downunder. If you wish to enforce your editorial policy, then keep Hamilton's tripe off the AU page. It's that simple.

        Hey Koppenflak, I didn't actually moderate your comment. It was reported by someone and when a comment gets reported it is removed from the page and appears in a list that an editor can then re-moderate from. I went through the list and the comment you posted appeared as blank (the system sometimes glitches) so I don't actually know what you wrote. Anyway, since it was just blank I left it in the "reported" basket without approving it because there is no point approving a comment that doesn't have content in the body!

        Sooooo yeah. If you want you can email me your original comment (tracey dot lien at alluremedia dot com dot au) and I can assess it and slot it back into where your original comment was posted.

          You're a fine lass, Tracey. :)

          It's all good. I've said what I felt needed to be off my chest, but I thank you for the reply just the same. There are far too many hot tempers in here as it stands, so I'm happy to let it be.

          No point adduing fuel to the fire.

    I'm not going to get involved in the morality of your choice, it's not my place to judge. But great article.
    The question being raised is, what does it mean when a game has such a profound impact on the decisions made by the player in real life. Is it therapy, is it art or is it dangerous.
    There is a part of me that looks forward to the day when a video game impacts culture, changes lives and starts revolutions and is thought of as so dangerously influential that is banned by governments and anyone caught with a copy is tried for treason. When this happens, then we can call video games art.
    I though we were on the verge of something big with Kirby's Epic Yarn.

    Whats the point in telling your ex about it now? I don't see any benefit in it, since you're no longer an item. It means nothing now.

    I've been cheated on before, more than once, by more than one person, and, in all honesty, I would rather not know about it. Hurts too much when you find out. It fills you with nothing but doubt about you and your partner.

    We're taught to forgive people, but if you forgive, how do you know it won't happen again? Everything was going great up til now, so should you really let one mistake ruin it for the both of you? And what do you tell family & friends? What about finances and living arrangements?

    Its never anything but hurt and sadness when shit like this comes to the surface.

      While I see why the author did it, I also see your point. Strange how often it is girls, usually the really nice and pleasant on the surface ones, cheat.

      I just hope the one I'm going out with now doesn't turn out to be cheating either on me or someone else. Though going by what I usually see nice girls do, I'll be heartbroken but not surprised at all if it happens

    This is a gaming blog, while there's a reference too a game, seriously? Askbossy at news.com.au comes to mind.

    I'm not having a go, but this should be put elsewhere..

      I think there's room for all kinds of approaches to discussing games. Games aren't just entertainment products, nor are they pieces of software that are only to be dissected and discussed for their mechanics. One of the most interesting things about games is their ability to affect our lives -- people get passionate about these things, people get angry about them, people form relationships and social bonds over them -- I think these facets of gaming are all worth exploring, and where better to do that than on a gaming blog where readers have an existing relationship with games?

      I understand that not everyone will like that this piece of writing is here. It's personal, it's on a touchy subject, and some readers might also find it uncomfortable. I also understand that some people might argue that this is a gaming blog and so we should only talk about conventional gaming things. But I do believe there's room for it here. It's interesting, it's thought-provoking, and I'm sure that it is of value to many readers, if not all.

        Very classy and professional response Tracey, you are absolutely correct.

    Good story. But I can't see how people on both sides get so worked up over a small physical act. Calm down. If you don't want to be with someone or would rather play the field then come clean and do so.

      I'll just correct your little typo:

      If you don’t want to be with someone or would rather play *Battelfield then come clean and do so.

        I noticed a typo in your response: *Battelfield.

        I fixed it for you:
        If you don’t want to be with someone or would rather play *Modern Warfare 3 then come clean and do so.
        :D

    Although I dislike the way Catherine plays and the way it's marketed with a sexy girl to lure in the market looking for a little T&A in their game, I've now seen a few stories that commend Catherine for it's representation of relationships and the confusion people somertimes experience when they're not sure how a relationship is going, or if it's gone off the rails, or yeah, if they happen to have cheated on their significant other.

    These stories make me want to check the game out, because while it's marketed as a vapid (is ludicrously difficult) puzzle game, it's beginning to seem like one of those things everyone should experience at some point.

      Actually, this raises a question - at what ponit does it become cheating? The writer has pointed out Cartherine was a succubus and not real - so it didn't count, but argues that he still cheated.

      I understand the concept of emotional affairs, but this is kind of like saying you can't even think about another person intimately. What about dreams? Everyone has sex dreams, and not always about their partner (more often about someone other than their partner than not, in fact). Is that cheating, because deep down in your subconcious you're thinking about another person and therefore not 100% loyal?

        Did he cheat just by wanting to?

        Great point.

    I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who tell the truth, who admit they are wrong and who own their mistakes. Ms Hernandez, if you read these comments: I think you've done the right thing. Best of luck in the future.

    As far as this article's place on Kotaku, I agree with Tracey Lien, Tristan Damen, McGarnical and Nomea. Here is a good example of how video games are more than throwaway pieces of hollow entertainment. Articles like this should be encouraged, given their own tag, turned into a series; and the people brave enough to bare their souls writing them should be commended.

      Basically took my reaction word for word. Good on you, Matt M

      While I fully agree about the importance of telling the truth, it cause much more pain then it absolves if a person you really really cared for admits she cheated... trust me she didn't do the right thing. Coming clean and feeling guilty is good, but she's just hurting them more despite good intentions.

    Wow. My heart sank when reading this, but it was still such an interesting read. Great post!

    I read it as infertility originally :\

    Wow, touchy subject! I haven't seen so many comments blocked in ages.
    I guess a topic like this is always going to touch people, and it would be an especially sensitive area those who've experienced it first hand.

    You shouldn't hate on Patricia for cheating, but respect her for finally coming clean about it.. Sure, waiting 3 years is a bit much, but she chose to admit what she had done when she could have just as easily left it alone. We all make mistakes, especially when we're young (19 is young, just so you know), so accept that she's clearly learnt the lesson she needed to from her experience and appreciate her attempt to set things right.

    Also, TOPICAL VIDEOGAMES.

    for all our perceived complexity as a species, we are all just really, really simple creatures.

    I think why people are reacting to this article in such a negative way is not because Patricia cheated it’s that she seems to be the only one to benefiting from the confession to her ex.

      Regardless of who benefits, it seemed to be the right thing to do. You could also argue that, while the author seemed to gain the most benefit, it is still a very hard thing to confess.

    I did the same at 18. Never had I imagined before that I was even capable of such a thing, I don't even remember there being so much temptation, it just happened.
    In my case I spent the next few months being the best I could possibly be to my girl, before she decided to break up.
    Within a week she wanted me back but I couldn't take her back without first coming clean. Hardest thing I've ever done, even now 6 years on the memory of breaking her heart like that just kicks my arse.
    It takes a lot of guts to admit such a thing in public, and I respect that.

    As for those saying 'the only person it helps is you', while that might somewhat be true, if you and him had've stayed together the guilt would've kept driving a wedge between you both. Better to face the problem and give it a chance of working out in the long run than have it keep festering indefinitely.

    Really great article and it should open the eyes of some who have been in the same situation or have contemplated it. I'm going to guess those who've posted negative comments are either still butthurt about their resolution or have never been in a real relationship with real complications.

    I applaud you for having the courage to write a article on a game that isn't highly regarded and deals with this touchy subject AND actually relating to it in your own way, showing a completely different point of view to most of those that would play this game.

    I admire

    Looks like Im gonna have to bookmark this article and come back to it when I eventually get around to playing Catherine. The 360 PAL version doesnt get released for another 5-6 weeks.

    This is a brilliant article and the kind of thing that needs to be both written and read. We all sit around puffing out our chests about how games are art, but when it actually comes around, everyone seems to turn into particularly stupid monkeys who just can't get enough of screaming incoherently whilst randomly flinging poo.

    Art is both a cause and effect of the human condition. We need art to cause anger, sadness, mirth and love in equal measure. It shows us who and what the artist is and (if it is any good) who we are as well. The fact that a game had such a profound effect on a person is wonderful. The fact that the person was another artist who chose to quantify that in a way that is easily parsed by the rest of us is wonderful. The fact that is illicits these strong reactions from us is wonderful, too.

    We need this. We all need this. We have all spent years on the forefront of a form of expression that has been slowly gaining weight, traction, momentum and integrity. We are so close to the tipping point that we can taste it and although we are right to be unsure of what will come of it in the future, we do ourselves, the author and the medium as a whole a disservice by reducing it to figuratively throwing shit at a person who was brave enough to show something private of themselves in order to show you something you can learn from.

    To paraphrase a great author in praise of a great book: This story, like all the best works of literature, takes you apart and then, before you can read the last line, puts you back together: better, wiser, more human.

    Thanks for writing something so great, Patricia.

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