Friday, November 6, 2015

Q Attack, Round 23 - Should Visual Novels be Classified as Games?
Rabbit has recently completed AMNESIA: Memories on PlayStation Vita and decides to share some thoughts on the surge of visual novel localization. She and Tiger discuss past visual novels, the different genres, and if visual novels should really be considered video games in this entry of Q Attack.


Rabbit: ^sighs^ I wish Ikki was a real person.

Tiger: Really? I thought you’d be more of a Shin fan.

Rabbit: I don’t like my tsundere guys with that much edge. What about you, Toma I take it?

Tiger: *crosses arms* Heck no. I’m not a fan of yandere, not at all. If I had to pick anyone, I’d say Kent is more my type.

Rabbit: Of course, I should have known.

Tiger: What, is it that obvious?

Rabbit: ^shakes head^ Megane.

Tiger: Hey, I’m not even a fan of otome games; you’re the one that’s been on this AMNESIA kick all month.

Rabbit: I’m really enjoying it; I waited months to finally play it. I even got the physical collector’s edition.

Tiger: Back up a minute, a collector’s edition?

Rabbit: Yes.

Tiger: For a digital only game?

Rabbit: Yes, Iffy made a physical collector’s edition that came with the soundtrack, artbook, coasters, and a body pillow cover.

Tiger: *rolls eyes* Oh geez.

Rabbit: I even got the anime as well.

Tiger: You and your games that aren’t even games.

Rabbit: They are too! Otome games are visual novels geared towards gamers who like dating sims.

Tiger: I don’t even like calling them dating sims, that’s pretty inaccurate.

Rabbit: Well, I don’t want to say they’re chick games because that’s wrong too. I know a few guys who enjoy playing them.

Tiger: They’re non-games that have a load of hot guys that interact with the usually voiceless heroine in non-realistic ways.

Rabbit: Like Toma and the cage.

Tiger: Actually, I think that might be the most realistic scenario from AMNESIA.

Rabbit: ^shocked face^

Tiger: Anyway, otome games are a subgenre of visual novels.

Rabbit: And NVLs are games that include lots of text, pretty art, and are often fully voiced-

Tiger: Yet they don’t have any actual gameplay-

Rabbit: They have mini-games!

Tiger: Jan ken pon does not count as a video game!

Rabbit: They are too games and there are a lot of them.

Tiger: We all know you have Hakuouki on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable.

Rabbit: Ah, my PSP. We had a good run together. Hakuouki is considered an otome game as well as Sweet Fuse: At Your Side.

Tiger: Then there’s AMNESIA which came out recently on PlayStation Vita.

Rabbit: I’ve also played XBlaze Code: Embryo on Vita but that’s just a straight up visual novel. I picked up Steins;Gate too. I’ve heard some people call it a dating sim but I don’t really think of it that way. I also preordered Norn9: Var Commons and Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ which are both on Vita also.

Tiger: You also have a few ADVs as well.

Rabbit: I do! Those tend to have a lot more gameplay in them like with Zero Escape. You could even say that games like the BlazBlue series have light ADV components to them too. Whether they’re straight NVLs or ADVs, I love them all!

Tiger: I still don’t think NVLs should be called video games, you’re basically reading a book. You can, after all, just go read a book instead of “play” a book. It’s not like it has to be in video game format. Now ADVs are a little different, they actually have gameplay elements but NVLs have you pushing circle a hundred-thousand times to advance the text, that’s it.

Rabbit: You have more control than just that. Because most NVLs have multiple endings, you have dialogue choices that lead to different branches of the story. And if it’s an otome game, often times you have multiple endings for each guy, AKA route, you can choose from. Like with AMNESIA, there are five routes and each route has at least three endings. You have other controls too like fast forward so you don’t have to sit through text you’ve already read, though I really enjoy replaying my favorite routes.

Tiger: That doesn’t sound fun, just fast forwarding through scenarios you’ve already seen.

Rabbit: It makes more sense when you play them. Anyway, that’s not the real reward. NVLs are special because of the usually high quality voice acting and unlocking the CGs, which are sometimes partially animated.

Tiger: We’ve thrown around a lot of abbreviations and terms so far, maybe you’d like to clarify what they really mean.

Rabbit: Oh yeah, good idea. Well NVL is just the common way to refer to standard visual novels. I think it’s short hand for NoVeL though I could be wrong. ADV is the same concept and refers to ADVenture games, or visual novels that have more gameplay ala Danganronpa. CGs stand for Computer Graphic and yes, while technically all the images are computer graphics, CG directly refers to the full screen images you unlock throughout the playthrough. Most games have a gallery that keeps track of which ones you’ve unlocked and allows you to look at them again, sometimes with the full voice audio being replayed as well. Routes, as I already mentioned, refer to the different paths or love interests you can choose in the game. With AMNESIA you choose your route very early on but in Hakuouki, it’s not as clear which route you’re following until you advance farther in the game. These routes lead to the multitude of endings that most NVLs have which usually consisted of a good, normal, and at least one bad ending.

Tiger: I think in Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, all the endings were kind of bad.

Rabbit: That game had so many endings, the game actually had a chart to help you keep track!

Tiger: It’s crazy to think how many visual games have been localized.

Rabbit: I know! Especially the straight NVLs. Now I don’t play PC or mobile NVLs so I know I miss a lot that release that way but on Vita alone, I’m going to pick up five legit NVLs and three more that could be classified as ADVs just in 2015 alone. I remember when I only had Hakuouki to keep me company at night back in the early PSP days.

Tiger: *shakes head*

Rabbit: I’m really thankful for Aksys, XSeed, NISA, Iffy, and everyone else who supports the NVL community here in the West.

Tiger: Now you mentioned a game I don’t consider to be a NVL, Danganronpa.

Rabbit: The first two Danrangonpa games are considered visual novels, ADVs to be exact, just like the Ace Attorney games!

Tiger: But I like the Danganronpa games.

Rabbit: That means you like visual novels!

Tiger: Technically, that only means I like ADVs. I still think straight up NVLs shouldn’t be considered games.
Rabbit: So you don’t think visual novels are games?

Tiger: No, I don’t think visual novels are legitimate video games. While they are partially interactive it’s only a small margin of the overall experience. I’d say NVLs are closer to choose your own anime or manga than anything else. While the genre has its fans, *points at Rabbit* I wouldn’t consider it a large enough category to be a subgenre of video games. I personally don’t see how you could really call them video games. It’s similar to my issues with some of the indie games like Journey; they just don’t really fit into what I perceive as a game. I mean the definition of “game” is that it’s an activity that involves skill, knowledge, and chance in which you follow rules to try and win against an opponent or solve a puzzle. There is nothing in that definition that even remotely applies to NVLs. Again, I’m not saying they're wrong and shouldn’t exist; I just think it’s going a little too far to call NVLs video games. ADVs are something else because you do have parts where a player’s skills are involved and it’s something you can beat. NVLs just end, no matter what you do. So no, I don’t think NVLs should be considered games.

Rabbit: Well, I just think you’re being too narrowed minded. Not everything is quantified by winning and losing, sometimes there are other ways to finish a game. How about reaching the end of the story? That is almost like winning. Plus, you do get rewards for choosing certain paths or completing various routes in the form of CGs and bonus stories. And media can be interactive in more ways than one. You don’t always have to be in control, the fully voiced narratives in NVLs create a level of immersion that when coupled with choosing your own destiny, creates an experience you couldn’t get in the theaters or with books. I love NVLs because it’s just another great way to experience a new world and a new story that I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.

Should Visual Novels be Classified as Games?

Tiger     vs     Rabbit


  1. I loved reading Choose Your Own Adventure books in my youth and I remember playing a lot of interactive fiction, as it were called then, around that same time and many of them are precisely what visual novels are today--only there were no pictures beyond ascii or ansi art if the game included any at all. Many of them were little more than an electronic version of CYOAs, but as time passed, puzzles got introduced and they evolved into your classic point-and-click adventure games.

    I enjoy narrative games where you are following an experience or story. I'm not huge on the dating sim thing because I really don't like the anime girl stereotypes and feel very too old to get anything out of them. I'm also not a fan of harem anime, either, so it's no wonder I'm not keen on it. However, if the content were of the shōjo-ai persuasion, that'd be a different story. I'd much prefer romance I can relate to that isn't so painfully obviously written for a guy.

    All that said, visual novels are totally games. You're following the narrative and making choices based on the goals you've set for yourself or the game put forth which is usually some story end. They still have the same elements as any other creative medium out there which tells a story (ie. Freytag's pyramid). There doesn't need to be an action element to make the game.There doesn't need to be enforced rules. When the story reaches it conclusion or you've achieved what you set out to, it's over.

    One could argue many sandbox games like Minecraft aren't games. There is no set goal for you, all you're really doing is playing with blocks. There's no real end. Adventure mode introduced RPG elements and monsters to kill, but nothing ends after you kill the ender dragon. At-the-end-of-the-day you are still playing with building blocks mixed in with a few animal toys and fantasy monster toys. There's a key word here, though: playing. You're playing with something and interacting with it in some way.

    It's amusing reading posts in the Steam community pages for games of these types. There are plenty of people with palpable hatred and rage that this stuff even exists dirtying the waters with their non-game filth. People even blame them for ruining gaming and Steam. It's as ridiculous to me as people raging and boycotting Starbucks over nothing more than the offense of a red, paper cup.

    When we were kids, GI Joes, Barbies, He-Man & She-Ra dolls didn't come with any rules, but we played with them. Pretending to be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or other cartoon characters in the back yard with friends didn't have any rules, but we did it. We had scenarios with our toys and make-believe adventures making up our own goals, but these were the games we played with our friends and got into fights over. "You're dead!" "Am not!" "Are too!" And even though we're all older now, we're still getting into the same fights only now it's about stuff we didn't care about back then because it didn't matter. "That's not a game!" "Is too!"

    1. I love that there are so many different genres within this medium that there's something for everyone... you just have to find it. I'm happy we're seeing NVLs hit consoles and handhelds more. I know there's a ton of them on Steam et al. but I still love seeing the boxes lined up at a retail store.


    2. It is stupid for people to fight over what's a game and what isn't. Everyone has a personal opinion and none of them are necessarily wrong or right. That's the awesome thing about the medium of video games, there aren't set rules to abide by which gives creators unlimited possibilities to make an amazing experience.