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A few more thoughts on VNs

Clephas

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I know many people have chimed in on the debate about what precisely VNs are to them... but the three main schools of thought pretty much come down to 'story-delivery system', 'pretty picture delivery system', and a mixture of both. To an extent, I can sympathize with all three... but I fall mostly with the 'mixture of both' school of thought with a leaning to the 'story-delivery system' end of things. Why? Because, when it comes down to it, all forms of otaku entertainment are story-delivery systems, when you get right down to it... even if that story is somewhat out there, disjointed, or so mixed in with pointless moe that it is hard to recognize. Of course, that is in the larger sense, so it is basically playing with sophistry on my part to think that way... *loves making it impossible for anyone else to win the argument*

Nonetheless, it is a valid point. I love stories, in general. I live for fiction in all its forms, though the written word is my preferred way to receive it, preferably with narrative, not just dialogue. More than anything, my taste in VNs is shaped by this simple root cause... in the end, I'm a narrative junkie who needs his fix. Chuunige like Dies Irae give me that in the most obvious form, and every once in a while, a fantasy masterpiece like Ikusa Megami Zero comes along and revives my love of world-building and deep settings. Even more rarely, I hit gold with something like Konata yori Kanata made, which burns so deeply into my soul that it causes an epiphany.

The last half-decade of my life has been pretty much shaped by my addict's pursuit of good VNs. As a result, outside of my work I'm pretty much the picture of the hikikomori erogamer (actually, since I work from home...). At the same time, I've more and more come to realize that almost no one across the water has any real idea of the potential of the medium in general for storytelling, despite having the best of all tools in all areas relatively easily at hand.

If I walk through a section my local bookstore (any fiction section), I can pick out at least a dozen titles I've read and left their mark on my way of thinking and expanded my mind in general. Going through all the VNs I've played, I can name only about forty out of the five hundred that left their mark in a significant way on my mind and spirit... and that is seriously a small number, even proportionately speaking. Less than a tenth of all the VNs I've played have been something worthy of remaining for the future... and how sad is that? This is despite the sheer potential the medium has... When I think of it objectively, I'm sometimes driven to despair.



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I think this is probably the main reason that reading VNs have usually been an on/off experience for me. I'm not a fiction junkie (I wish I could watch anime and read VNs one after the other as others do), but when I do find myself craving an interesting story, I tend to look for an anime first before a VN (I would look for a book, but ironically I don't get much pleasure from most of them). The VNs that are good, I find tend to be really fucking good (or at least I prefer them to fiction in any other medium). But the truly stellar works are so few and far between, that it really disappoints me. Not to mention that while I'm working on changing this, I'm still confined to translated VNs... Although judging from your post, it would seem that even among the realm of Untranslated, there is a relative scarcity of great works.    

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VN's are the greatest at immersion I feel. With the elements of visuals, music, voices combined with loads of text you get a great result. I find it a lot easier to get into a vn than I do a book most of the time.
Although I read books at a regular basis. The main reason I do that is for trying out different genres and classics that might have a intellectual value. But I don't feel so immersed in them, nor do I enjoy them as much.
 
The best vn's imo are those who combine both interesting ideas and a great story with the immersion of the visual novel medium. It's like you can have your cake and eat it too for me.

 

Even though I like having both, I can enjoy the immersion of being inside a good story. Hananono felt was somewhat like this. I enjoyed the most the interesting setting around the protag, as well as I found discussions with Ouka and things surrounding her. But the drama and story was the majority of the vn, and ofc I enjoyed that as well. But not as much as the latter.

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Although judging from your post, it would seem that even among the realm of Untranslated, there is a relative scarcity of great works.    

Unless your clephas, there's enough good stuff to last a bunch of years. Just way more trash.

 

But honestly, when I might get tired or run dry of the VN medium, I'll have (japanese) novels to go to. Going by other peoples' recommendations of course.

 

People say the medium is very underused, but it's kinda hard for me to imagine what those VN's would look like. Well...putting experimental works aside, it would be awesome if VN's were more diverse in structure (pursing stories that are supported by structures other than route-herione).

 

Clephas, do you have any ideas on what currently-underutilized constructions (plot+presentation+structure) would make for great VN's?

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First of all, one thing most VNs lack is balance, particularly in romance.  VNs that manage to use romance as a tool without romance becoming the purpose are rare.  At the same time, an endless action VN is just as tiring, in its way.  Even Masada understands that much, which is why he generally inserts those moments of peace in between disasters. 

 

Another thing that the Japanese seem to be incapable of doing is writing a true epic - in the technical sense - story in a VN.  I've yet to encounter a VN that can approach the sheer mastery of someone like Steven Erikson or David Weber.  That is despite the fact that there are plenty of Japanese book authors - and even a few light novel writers - who are quite capable in that area.

 

Basically, it is under utilization of resources.  There are things a movie can't do that a book can, and there are things that a book can't do that a movie can do.  There are limitations to every medium... but it is like they didn't even attempt to explore their limits with VNs sometimes.

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I think you are missing something regarding books. Every medium has its own "addictions". Books are not an exception. Every medium learns from itself, in a way that its works are influenced by previous successful works. But this can also be a bad thing, limiting the "horizons" of that medium. For example, Twilight was a huge success and had a great impact. But now try to count how many vampire books are there, with overused elements to appeal to people. Many write books to "sell", looking firstly at what stuff people like, they aren't really worried with being original or leaving a different experience in the reader.

 

Experienced VN bloggers criticize almost all VNs they see or read because they already know the addictions and fads of the genres. The same thing can be said about experienced book reviewers. The problem is that you don't read as many books as they do, and the ones you read probably correspond to the few kamiges in VN market. VN newbies can be more 'optimistic' or even 'idealistic' to VNs, because they read few and those few are the ones that are truly good, original or at least very popular.

 

Don't delude yourself thinking books are that different, because they aren't. The only difference is that books aren't niche, so there are many more to choose from, including intellectual ones. Instead of having more broad addictions, there are more addictions within sections of literature. Every section has its own, though.

 

I even remember a VN two bloggers wrote about. One was a galge player and the other was a otome gamer. The erogamer said the VN was generic and uninteresting, like most of that kind. Now the otome gamer loved the VN, he/she said he/she wished the otomeges were like that, sweet without rape or stuff like that. The last one didn't play many galges, so she/he wasn't aware of its addictions, but the first one was.

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