While browsing my friends on Steam the other day, I noticed a game some of them had been playing called “The Cat and the Coup”. As a lover of cats (especially those politically inclined), I couldn’t help but be interested. Termed a documentary game by its creators Peter Brinson and Kurosh ValaNejad, this game tells the story of Mohammed Mossadegh, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran.
The game itself takes somewhere between ten and twenty minutes to complete. Yes, it’s short, but in those brief moments it is able to meaningfully communicate history through play and art.
In the game, you play Mossadegh’s cat. As his cat, you are able to knock down objects, jump on furniture, run through rooms and sit on Mossadegh’s lap. Each room is a scene in Mossadegh’s life marked by a textual heading and containing objects of decoration and occasionally characters of interest.
Time flows backward. Mossadegh is dead, so you guide his ghost back through the events of his life, each one a room, not in a real house, but in the house of memory. As you fall through these rooms, you see a vast array of images, some text, and scattered objects all lying in the background. Although the narrative of his rise and fall is told through the textual headings of the rooms, the story is told more fully through the images that serve as mere backdrop.
The gameplay itself is very simple. Some short puzzles are required to progress from one room to the next, but aside from that, the game is composed of simply experiencing the story of what happened to Mossadegh.
The artistic beauty of this game and its up-down-up, back-and-forth method of storytelling created a lasting impression in my mind despite the fact it only took 13 minutes to complete. Now, a few days after playing it, I may not remember all the exact dates and names. I do, however, remember the images and Mossadegh himself. I remember the mood and the tone, the oil dripping, and the confused way Mossadegh stumbled through his fall.