4: Visual Novels

The digital genre I chose for this project is visual novels. Visual novels are often considered a subgenre of video games, especially because many of them are released on video game consoles, like Nintendo DS and PS Vita, and video game distribution websites like Steam. This genre is based on traditional print novels, in particular choose-your-own-adventure novels. The visual novel aims to tell a story.

What sets the visual novel apart from other digital storytelling genres is its branching storylines or story routes mechanism: through player decisions, the story moves down certain paths that result in different endings. Often the player will not fully understand a visual novel’s main storyline unless they have played multiple story routes, and some story routes lead to what is called a “bad ending,” where the story is derailed or ends in failure because the player has chosen unwisely.

The visual novel Danganronpa, which centers around murder mysteries, forces the player to make decisions at various points. While some seem fairly innocuous, like this one, others have major consequences.

Through my research I have learned that visual novels are mostly popular in Japan, where they originated in the 1990s. I was surprised to learn that visual novels had been around for so long, as I had always thought that they were a more recent genre. I also learned, through TVTropes’ page on visual novels, that this genre makes up approximately 70% of the PC gaming market in Japan. I was very surprised by this because visual novels make up a very small portion of the gaming market in the U.S., partly because many visual novels are never officially translated and re-released for a worldwide audience.

Researching this genre has been very difficult, as I have not really been able to find reliable or scholarly articles that apply to visual novels or address them. I do not think there are many sources out there that deal with visual novels, let alone reputable ones, and because of this it has been hard to flesh out my project. I have also had difficulty deciding how to format my project, and where to put certain information, but I think once I have been able to do more in-depth research it will be easier to do so.

I have found one source that I believe works very well for my project, however: a book titled Interactive Storytelling for Video Games, available on Google Books. As it is a full book rather than an article, it has taken me a bit longer to look through it, but I have already gotten a lot of useful information from it.

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