the artistry and psychology of gaming


The Cat and the Coup

The Cat and the Coup

Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.

Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!

This week, we take a look at history, politics, global economics, propaganda, and the occasional ball of yarn.

The Cat and the Coup

USC, by way of Wossamotta U

Genre: Historical puzzler
Link to Game:
Game Info: Created in 2011 by Peter Brinson and Kurosh ValaNejad with funding from The Advancing Scholarship for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, and released as a free download on Steam in June.

Maintaining an accurate view of the world and all of its events is often harder than it should be. Stereotypes run rampant, agendas can be pushed, and historical data can sometimes go missing or undisclosed, especially when considering the limited timeframes of the average educational curriculum. More often than not, the subject of history stands to lose out the most in comparison to time dedicated to language and mathematics, with broad overviews of historical topics that rarely have the time to delve into greater details. Historical topics regarding events that took place halfway around the world stand an even worse chance. If U.S. children are initially taught that Columbus discovered America, what chance does a strategic coup in the Middle East that we helped engineer have?

Believe me, in context, this makes a lot more sense

The Cat and the Coup is an educational video game that provides a partial documentary of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran (first elected in 1951). The game places the player in the role of Dr. Mossadegh’s cat, who moves the Prime Minister’s ghost through various moments of his life in reverse, by way of a few physics-based puzzles.  The game is fairly short, beatable in about 10-15 minutes, however it’s art style (reflective of persian miniatures) is visually arresting, it’s music is pulled from a Creative Commons work by Nine Inch Nails, and it’s subject matter is one that is somewhat unknown in many parts of the world.

Iran is a tough country to incorporate into video games to say the least. Just yesterday, our own resident author Ali Nazifpour wrote about the depiction of Iran in Battlefield 3, which offers several innacuracies that would perhaps go by unnoticed by a large portion of the gaming community. Often, the region is subject to broad stereotyping and bias in its portrayals, and there often may be seeds of some sort of subliminal propoganda being handed, either deliberately, or through existing knowledge gaps.

I’m happy (and partially regretful) to say that there really is no level of misinformation, or suspicious allegations to be found within the Cat and the Coup. The chronological events of the game cover the beginnings of the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry (which previously operated under British control) and Mossadegh’s rise to power, followed by the resulting Iranian coup d’état in 1953 organized by the CIA and MI6. Rather than taking an active role in the coup itself, to which the player may have an effect on the historical outcome, the game only allows you to be a partial observer, limiting your actions to the task of moving Mossadegh forward (or backwards, as it were) while reading the corresponding news headlines and dates for each area (the authors smartly have their headline sources available at their website to research further as well). There is nothing shocking about the game’s contents, as documents surrounding the historical period have been publicly available for some time now, yet as a topic of interest, the coup is still one that is rarely revisited by most parties involved.

The Bulldog is Winston Churchill, by the way

Creator Peter Brinson perhaps said it best: “this is not a game about alternate histories, but simply one you don’t know. The Cat and the Coup is about your relationship with Mossadegh as a historical figure, even if you didn’t realize there ever was one.”

As a video game, there’s not really too much to say. Puzzles are fairly easy to comprehend, and the controls are limited to moving around and swiping a paw. Even so, the game offers a fascinating educational concept for addressing a specific issue with grace and beauty, and exhibits the type of power that video games may have as a medium beyond that of just entertainment. The visual appeal of the game also speaks volumes for its color, its technique, and its symbolism.


  1. Wow, two articles in a row about Iran. :O

    Which reminds me, I love you. Mossadesh is one of my few Iranian figures, and I admire him, and this game is perdect. :D

  2. We aim to please.

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