More Than Just Ero: Visual Novels and Their Contribution to E-Lit

The world of electronic literature has come a long way in becoming its own medium of writing, and while some may still consider the majority of the texts to be nothing more than strange indie video games, the art of interactive fiction and “literary gaming” are becoming more and more popular. Part of these interactive fiction games are the visual novels, which were started in Japan and have only begun to gain popularity in the Western world. They are just now being accepted as video games and those who have not assume they are like most Japanese anime and manga, and are just perverted games. While there are games that are made solely for sexual content (these are called nukige), there are also plenty of VN’s that have complex, thoughtful stories to tell with well-developed characters; sometimes these games can be both eroge and good stories!

"Fate/stay night" is an example of a game with both erotic content and complex story. There is also a version of the game without the sexual content.

“Fate/stay night” is an example of a game with both erotic content and complex story. There is also a version of the game without the sexual content.

The visual novel is an example of an interactive fiction piece because most of these novels include branching story line in which the choices that the reader makes affect which character you focus on and how the story can diverge into different paths based off these choices. Some of these games do not have the branching choices, but do read like a novel would except with the inclusion of sound (music, effects, maybe voice acting) and visual images that can even move; there are even games that use RPG elements such as stats, mini-games and weapons such as the game Little Busters and Sakura Wars. This type of interactivity makes reading more entertaining than reading from normal print, and the usual text box style makes it easier for people to read through the story without becoming tired.

A character's stats in "Little Busters" affects how well they do in combat and social situations.

A character’s stats in “Little Busters” affects how well they do in combat and social situations.

There is also something for everybody in visual novels: genres range from fantasy and sci-fi (Fate/stay night, Tsukihime, Steins;Gate) to horror and mystery (Saya no Uta, Higurashi: When they Cry, Corpse Party). There is even an entire sub-genre called nakige or utsuge that is intended to make the reader become very emotional while reading through the story, with the majority of these being romantic dramedies (Clannad, Kanon, To Heart). Many of these stories offer extensive world-building, complex stories and interesting characters, giving something for everyone and allow a new experience in reading a novel.

Visual novels do bring something to electronic literature by making them accessible: they are bright, engaging and the majority of the novels allow for a wider range of audience that can understand what they are reading rather than trying to decipher the meaning of some weird indie IF or hypertext story.

If you would like to read more about visual novels, here is the link to its Wikipedia page.

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