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How can we make visual novels more popular in the west?


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1 hour ago, solidbatman said:

drop the porn for one. Once VNs are no longer associated with porn they stand a better chance. Western perceptions of sex are not going to change. And remember, even in Japan, its not like VN fans are proudly popular. 

 

TAKE YOUR BLASPHEMOUS IDEAS SOMEWHERE ELSE, YOU HEATHEN!!!!!

 

 

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14 hours ago, solidbatman said:

I mean, I dont know if most VN fans really want VNs to become popular based on the treatment of shitty ol ddlc in the news. 

11 hours ago, Emi said:

I have to agree with bats, drop the porn. and make less titles like the sakura series. all fan service no story. 

The sad truth is, where porn or fanservice aren't involved, those games aren't popular either. VNs are mostly about reading and no one really reads nowadays, especially gamers; the reading rates have been constantly dropping across the world. When you compare the sales numbers of popular games like Nekopara and story-driven, plot-heavy all-ages titles you will see they barely sell at all; no matter how good they are and how well praised they get by critics, Steam curators and gaming websites, they won't ever be able to fight with those. It's another reason why we get so little of them and what gets translated nowadays are typically light charage and moege instead.

VNs are destined to remain a niche and interesting vns will always be a niche within a niche. It's because the population those games were once directed at is actually declining and new generation that's ought to replace it remains completely different.

Edited by Narcosis
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I know this forum is mostly male-focused but some niches really do have a lot of potential. Some would say drop the porn but I can see that the otome crowd actually wants more of it. We don't get a lot of R18 stuff that the moege/charage crowd do and I don't know if it's because the protags tend to be younger. The BL stuff has more of it though. Also, otomes and BL games with Japanese school settings tend to be rarer so it confuses me when people say EVNs are same-y and school focused. The only similar aspects I see is usually the anime artstyle and even some games feature unique art.

I saw that Fata Morgana only sold about 8k copies in Steam which really saddens me because it's my all-time favorite VN. I would love to see more of it. I honestly don't mind games without character-based routes if I can get a game with the love, pain, beauty, and catharsis of Fata Morgana. If there could be more like it, maybe VNs would be seen as a legitimate medium by the mainstream and more people would try them.

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32 minutes ago, Narcosis said:

The sad truth is, where porn or fanservice aren't involved, those games aren't popular either. VNs are mostly about reading and no one really reads nowadays, especially gamers; the reading rates have been constantly dropping across the world. When you compare the sales numbers of popular games like Nekopara and story-driven, plot-heavy all-ages titles you will seey the barely sell at all; no matter how good they are and how well praised they get by critics, Steam curators and gaming websites, they won't ever be able to fight with those. It's another reason why we get so little of them and what gets translated nowadays are typically light charage and moege instead.

VNs are destined to remain a niche and interesting vns will always be a niche within a niche. It's because the population those games were once directed at is actually declining and new generation that's ought to replace it remains completely different.

alot of people read, and alot play the bl titles that swarming the mobile market.

the old saying of internet was made for porn isnt really accurate anymore. neither does it mean that it has to be accurate for VN´s for forever either.

the porn & overload of fanservice paints an bad image for the rest of all other vn´s. further gets put into the corner of weeabo masterbation masterrace.

niche market or not. there is those that have sold pretty well and being all ages. with titles as sakura tarnish the reputation of vn´s in general on steam.

 

not saying stopping with what they for most part is now will solve anything. just what i think about it. it doesnt help its spread

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10 hours ago, solidbatman said:

drop the porn for one. Once VNs are no longer associated with porn they stand a better chance.

Sounds right at first glance, but it's a slippery slope. Next the stories are too long, then it's lack of minigames. Eventually it will be something, which might be more popular, but will they still be VNs? Sounds like you want to take the path of sacrificing the existing VN readers in order to maybe gain new ones.

11 hours ago, MaggieROBOT said:

I agree with this as well. Let's be honest, the easiest way to make VNs popular is to promote even more quick ecchi things like Winged Cloud games and meme games that youtubers would easily pick up. And with time they'll become even more cheap or even more meme. That's REALLY how we want to be popular?

I was thinking something like that, but more like adult stuff like an all age title and storyline like a pure nukige.

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I mean yeah, VNs will never actually be popular in the west unless its a straight up meme game like Nekopara, Sakura, or DDLC. The genre is not taken seriously at all because it is tightly tied to a perception of being anime porn. 

Other hurdles remain too such as; lack of gameplay, poor story telling, generic cardboard cutouts, and the supposed gold standard of VNs are too damn long. Interactive media today aims to give instant gratification. VNs cannot do this very easily. 

Current VN fans do hold back the genre by demanding a preset standard of tropes, porn, and characters. Take for example Rancesama on twitter who threatened to stab people in the eye for some perceived slight against his favorite VNs. He was then promoted by Mangagamer and given a big special blog post to advertise Rance. Or the reaction when Sekai Project fucked up the loli train game where you sex lolis. How the hell to you advertise a genre in which the biggest outcries within the fanbase come when porn gets cut somehow or the leaders of the community threaten to kill people on twitter?  

VNs will not be popular with the current fanbase. VNs will not be popular with the current stable of companies promoting VNs. If VNs are to become popular, the fundamental definition of what a VN is would need to change. Which is kind of why I said I don't think VN fans want it to necessarily take off mainstream and become popular. The things you love about VNs would likely change and become heavily watered down. Not to mention porn would be gone. 

Please note, I am not demonizing anyone who loves porn in their VNs. I just think it is something that would be lost if VNs achieve mainstream success.  

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Honestly, to make a VN mainstream you'd have to change about everything which defines the genre (I don't mean the porn as much as I like it to be in there, there are enough all ages VNs which show it's not necessary just nice to have).
You'd have to drop the anime-style, the long periods of reading, the pacing comparable to books, the lack of gameplay in favour for the story and so on.

If that's what it takes I see it like I do with small game studios, I'd rather have them stay niche titles before they loose everything I enjoy about it.

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The biggest one: We need to stop treating VNs like they're Video Games Lite. I think we're all guilty of this (myself included), but by doing so, we're effectively limiting VNs' potential reader base to just gamers.

An assumption I see often is that gameplay VNs like Ace Attorney or Danganronpa are inherently more newbie-friendly than normal VNs or especially kinetic novels. This only makes sense if you're assuming that you're trying to market VNs to gamers. I'm not saying that it's bad to try to get gamers into VNs, but why should we limit ourselves to that? Why are they the only audience that we're trying to get?

Other groups who might be interested in visual novels:

  • Regular novel readers. Yes, they still exist. This is such an obvious thing to me (after all, we're trying to promote visual novels) that it almost amazes me that almost nobody considers that people who like to read might be interested in...well, reading.
  • Comics fans, especially fans of indie comics. We're seeing a tiny bit of overlap between indie comics and EVNs already. I read a short yuri VN named Serre by Adrienne Bazir not too long ago that does really nice things with CGs and sprite animations (especially considering she did everything except the music/sound effects). There's also an interactive graphic novel (which I haven't had the opportunity to buy yet) that came out recently named It Will Be Hard that I've seen get a good reception. I don't know if it'd be called a VN per se, but surely it'd be of interest to people who are interested in interactive storytelling? There's a lot of things that our mediums could learn from each other if we bothered to expand outside our normal horizons.
  • People with disabilities who can't/don't want to play "normal" video games. After all, 99% of VNs have no interactivity beyond clicking to advance the text and possibly making choices. This makes them inherently more accessible than 99% of video games. There are some things to keep in consideration (for example, making sure you can access the menu easily; adding screen reader or text-to-speech support for visually-impaired readers; adding an option to use a dyslexic-friendly font like OpenDyslexic), but overall, making a VN accessible is much easier than making your average video game accessible.

More things that would help VNs' reputation and encourage people to check out the medium:

  • Stop pretending that porn is a necessary component to VNs. I'm not saying "drop the porn" (that'd be hypocritical of me, since I've wished for more 18+ otome in the past), but it's off-putting to a lot of people, and a lot of time it's shoehorned in anyway. Sex in VNs should be treated the same way as it is in books: some books have sex in them, in some books (erotica) sex is the whole point, but you don't need to have sex in a novel for it to be considered literature, nor does having a sex scene in it automatically disqualify a book from being literature.
  • Longer is not always better. I personally like long stories, but a lot of people just don't have the time (or, yes, attention span) for a 50-hour epic. There's value in shorter VNs that tell a good story not just despite, but because of their length...similarly, by holding longer works up on a pedestal, we're encouraging creators to add pointless shit to pad the length of their stories, which just wastes everyone's time.
  • We need to support diverse VNs by diverse creators. Diverse settings, diverse characters, diverse plots, diverse artwork. Basically have something for everyone. There's nothing wrong with high school stories, but it's boring when it seems like that's the only setting that people will read. Part of this is supporting EVNs and EVN creators, who may not have the budgets that the big Japanese eroge creators do, but who are still doing cool stuff. (There's this weird perception that EVNs try too hard to be like JVNs and are all set in Japanese high schools, which hasn't been the case for years? Katawa Shoujo and DDLC aren't representative of the EVN scene as a whole, for a lot of reasons. I will say that there's a disproportionately high number of anime-style EVNs, but even then there  are  plenty  of  exceptions. That's just the first few I found when going through my VNDB collection.) I think the reaction to this year's AX announcements really shows how much pushback there can be against stories that don't fit into the mold of "normal" eroge: JAST USA announced three BL VNs, and MangaGamer announced one BL and one yuri VN, and people are complaining about this year's AX being "overly gay," or about how MG has supposedly "abandoned" the "traditional eroge audience" (never mind that they also announced two Rance games and already have plenty of "normal" eroge in the pipeline) and is now a "fujoshi paradise." I understand the appeal of self-inserting, but some of my favorite stories have been about people very different from me--in fact, a fully-fleshed character who's very different from me can be easier to relate to than a blank-slate protagonist. Basically, if I can read through VNs with straight male protagonists and manage to enjoy them, a straight guy can read through an otome or BL game without...dying, or whatever you think will happen if you touch something not aimed at straight men.
  • Don't promote lolicon/shotacon stuff. This creeps out the vast majority of people, myself included. Maitetsu was a mistake. Just because it's legal (in the US) doesn't mean we have to support it.
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2 hours ago, lunaterra said:
  • People with disabilities who can't/don't want to play "normal" video games. After all, 99% of VNs have no interactivity beyond clicking to advance the text and possibly making choices. This makes them inherently more accessible than 99% of video games. There are some things to keep in consideration (for example, making sure you can access the menu easily; adding screen reader or text-to-speech support for visually-impaired readers; adding an option to use a dyslexic-friendly font like OpenDyslexic), but overall, making a VN accessible is much easier than making your average video game accessible.

Interesting target audience. However if VNs are marketed like that, I fear people will view it as precisely what you wrote "People with disabilities who can't/don't want to play "normal" video games" as in "we know it's worse than the normal gaming experience, but at least it's better than nothing".

Apart from that I like your proposals. I would add the ability to control the text, as in font, font size, font color etc. It would help colorblind people, but also the rest of us. Eyes aren't identical, meaning even within the normal spectrum (as in not handicapped), people prefer high contrast, low contrast, bigger font etc. It happens from time to time that people complain about an ugly font in a VN. Handicapped or not, control of the font would be a good thing.

2 hours ago, lunaterra said:
  • Don't promote lolicon/shotacon stuff. This creeps out the vast majority of people, myself included. Maitetsu was a mistake. Just because it's legal (in the US) doesn't mean we have to support it.

I completely disagree with this statement. If we start picking topics/genres, which are too offensive for some people to be allowed, then it will be a slippery slope. First it's loli, next it's BL and yuri, then it's H scenes in general, then pregnancies are offensive to LGBT, then.... you get the idea. People will always find something to complain about.

On 9/7/2018 at 1:40 AM, tymmur said:

It will end up as TV: bland, the end user should be entertained with mindless stuff and don't think and it has to be political correct. In other words VNs could very well end up being what I try to avoid by picking VNs.

VNs are great because everything goes. We all have some contents we don't agree with, but the solution is to just avoid it as a person. Wanting to ensure everybody avoids it is a direct violation of first and moves towards book burning. You could argue that X is bad and it's best to ban it, but each time any version of book burning has taken place in history it has made sense for whoever did it, at least at the time.

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Niché interests (which means damn near all interests) always gets this topic for some stupid reason, don't U understand that the mainstream is not desirable? I don't want to share my hobby with some of you people, because your end goal is to eliminate stuff that I like for the sake of popularity, you want to "drop the porn" and "drop lolicon", screw you, screw your "diversity", screw your ideals of ruining it for others. Freedom of choice should always win, and that's why the mainstream is not desirable to fans; it's incompatible with Japanese VNs. This does not stop you from reading, creating or promoting the VNs you like. The nature of what the medium is does not change just because a lot of Japanese VNs have porn in them. Go your own way and don't drag others down with you, please.

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I never said that loli content should be banned. I said that we, as VN fans, shouldn't promote it. I consider this a moral issue, not just a reputation issue. Promoting that content (especially without adequate warnings) alienates actual, real life victims of child sexual abuse--this is why the Fuwa recommendation site (which I help out with) includes all loli/shota content under the "underage sexual content" warning, regardless of the characters' actual ages; someone who's upset by pictures of children in sexual situations is unlikely to be comforted by "oh, but she's actually 120, not 12!"

Comparing lolicon to LGBT+ content is totally ridiculous. What's the worst thing that could happen by someone discovering BL? They discover that they're gay? Oh no, the horror.

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There's always someone that's going to be alienated or offended by stuff. I'm all for respecting different people's needs. I react negatively to a lot of different things, but I've never experienced a panic trigger attack or something from a VN. I understand that there are a small group of people that might have legitimately triggering responses to stuff like rape or loli or suicide or bullying etc etc etc. I respect that, but my respect and understanding ends at just that: respect and understanding. It's still on the people with these kinds of triggers to make their own decisions. You can very easily accidentally stumble upon a rape scene in a VN that you didn't know was there, but if it's really a huge issue for you, it's more likely it would be pretty easy to do your research first. The same thing applies to lolis, lolis are very common in VNs, if you can't handle lolicon then it's very easy to do the research and find out if a title has it. I fundamentally disagree that offensive content shouldn't be promoted. I fundamentally disagree that anything morally questionable in fiction is inherently bad. Whether people strive to be challenged by certain content, or they just have fetish for certain content, or they enjoy seeing comedic situations with certain content, whether it is rape, suicide, loli or anything else offensive, I will always stand up for the rights of writers and artists to explore and create in whatever fashion they like because the more you limit them then the worse it is for all of us. Yes, there will always be people that are left out by certain popular conventions, like for example, some people simply won't read anything with porn. That's a shame but there is still plenty of gems for them to choose from.

I'm not holding back on promoting titles I love just because they might offend a vague ~someone~. Neither should you or anyone else. What you should keep in mind, though, is to always have respect for others as individuals with individual needs and tastes. That's something very important. That's why SubaHibi is not a suitable recommendation for a lot of people. However, for people that can challenge themselves and explore all this difficult content, then it should be promoted above all else.

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5 minutes ago, lunaterra said:

I never said that loli content should be banned. I said that we, as VN fans, shouldn't promote it. I consider this a moral issue, not just a reputation issue. Promoting that content (especially without adequate warnings) alienates actual, real life victims of child sexual abuse--this is why the Fuwa recommendation site (which I help out with) includes all loli/shota content under the "underage sexual content" warning, regardless of the characters' actual ages; someone who's upset by pictures of children in sexual situations is unlikely to be comforted by "oh, but she's actually 120, not 12!"

Right. I read it as a continuation of "drop the porn" and it wouldn't be farfetched to think certain users would want a loli ban if they could get away with it (you know who you are). I didn't link the word "promote" to Fuwa recommendations, partly because I'm not really using it regular basis.

I would be careful regarding linking on VN contents to real life cases. If GTA allows shooting random people, steal cars etc and still be promoted, then why should VNs be singled out as the devil's work? Both would be really bad if somebody decides to do it in real life. I'm deeply sorry for victims of such crimes, but if we start to take traumas of other people into account, we end up without the ability to add contents again. Take for instance cars. Should we accept not having cars in VNs because it would be an issue for somebody who had a near fatal car crash?

Not promoting VNs according to some list of contents is partly the same as a ban. If we ban all reviews of VNs with loli contents, then publishers could start to avoid loli titles because of the impact from people who won't buy without having read a review first. I too have some type of content I wish didn't exist, but if I want it hidden or banned, then we will return to the book burning argument. Who is to judge what is ok and what isn't? You can't say something like common sense because we will never get everybody to agree.

2 minutes ago, lunaterra said:

Comparing lolicon to LGBT+ content is totally ridiculous. What's the worst thing that could happen by someone discovering BL? They discover that they're gay? Oh no, the horror.

I didn't compare it as such. My point is that if we accept one group requesting a ban, in this case loli contents, then we end up accepting some other group, which requests banning BL and so on. The only connection is that there are people who want such content banned from all media.

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48 minutes ago, lunaterra said:

I never said that loli content should be banned. I said that we, as VN fans, shouldn't promote it. I consider this a moral issue, not just a reputation issue. Promoting that content (especially without adequate warnings) alienates actual, real life victims of child sexual abuse--this is why the Fuwa recommendation site (which I help out with) includes all loli/shota content under the "underage sexual content" warning, regardless of the characters' actual ages; someone who's upset by pictures of children in sexual situations is unlikely to be comforted by "oh, but she's actually 120, not 12!"

Comparing lolicon to LGBT+ content is totally ridiculous. What's the worst thing that could happen by someone discovering BL? They discover that they're gay? Oh no, the horror.

Funny you take issue with lolicon specifically. Aren't many 18+ BL VNs known for featuring rape and other non-consensual/hardcore sexual content? The risk that a rape victim might get "triggered" is no different, but I don't see you advocating for a ban of that (or for people to stop promoting it, whatever you want to call it).

Edited by twisted
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I took issue with lolicon specifically because of how accepted it is among VN fans.

And yes, unfortunately, BL games tend to be rather rapey. :/ I'm not a fan of that kind of content either. I wouldn't recommend it without a content warning, though honestly, I probably wouldn't enjoy something with rape very much anyway. I also don't think it should be banned.

I specifically said I wasn't advocating for a lolicon ban. That's outside the scope of this topic, and my own feelings on the matter are complex. The OP asked what we, as fans, can do to lure people into the medium...and that'd be a helluva lot easier if we didn't have so many people advocating for VNs with child sex in them.

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9 minutes ago, lunaterra said:

I specifically said I wasn't advocating for a lolicon ban.

You didn't in the first post, hence the replies. However you have specified it now and we should put that part of the debate to rest.

4 hours ago, lunaterra said:
  • Longer is not always better. I personally like long stories, but a lot of people just don't have the time (or, yes, attention span) for a 50-hour epic. There's value in shorter VNs that tell a good story not just despite, but because of their length...similarly, by holding longer works up on a pedestal, we're encouraging creators to add pointless shit to pad the length of their stories, which just wastes everyone's time.

I wrote something similar not long ago in a different thread, though I worded it differently. What I said was that I hate when it feels like the writer has a line quota to fulfill, missed it and then just add more lines without adding more contents. A well written VN (or text in general) is when you can't remove anything without removing contents. This issue is completely different from the issue of preferring short or long VNs. I prefer long VNs, but only if the storyline has enough contents to justify making the VN itself long.

Rather than recommending a VN based on length alone (like number of lines in the script), it would make sense to comment on if the length is reasonable for the contents or if it has a tendency to stretching everything to fill as many lines as possible.

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4 hours ago, lunaterra said:

I never said that loli content should be banned. I said that we, as VN fans, shouldn't promote it. I consider this a moral issue, not just a reputation issue. Promoting that content (especially without adequate warnings) alienates actual, real life victims of child sexual abuse--this is why the Fuwa recommendation site (which I help out with) includes all loli/shota content under the "underage sexual content" warning, regardless of the characters' actual ages; someone who's upset by pictures of children in sexual situations is unlikely to be comforted by "oh, but she's actually 120, not 12!"

Comparing lolicon to LGBT+ content is totally ridiculous. What's the worst thing that could happen by someone discovering BL? They discover that they're gay? Oh no, the horror.

In the same vein, perhaps one is also scared of playing loli games because they wouldn't be able to handle it if they liked the content, all the while morally chastising themselves. Do we need trigger warnings for every single title? People seem to like finding new things to be offended by. Obviously we shouldn't promote something that would give us reputational issues, as it's not something we can do just for the sake of diversity.

 

Before asking how, do you want VNs to be popular? Personally, I don't want to. The truth is that sex sells, there's no going against that fact. While Fata Morgana sold poorly and so did the community-proclaimed kamige Subahibi, a horde of moeblobs and Nekopara clones are eaten up by the community. People seem to have this perception that Visual Novels are just comfy waifu simulators and built their own echo chamber around it. They want more and more of the same, even if it's obviously a quick cashgrab. But I'm not here to judge those people.

Popular doesn't equate good, so I'd rather keep Visual Novels to the niche they are. However as pointed out previously, the advantages of EVNs are the closeness the developers have to a much wider market, be it by the lack of language/cultural restrictions but also a different kind of mentality when it comes to engaging with the community.

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Those are some pretty interesting points you all made.

Regarding sexual content - just as Lunaterra wrote - I like my games having sex in them. The only difference is, I truly enjoy it when it's meaningful, instead of being devalued to exaggerated fanservice sex romps; many vns treat erotic content like some sort of wish fulfilment for their players to indulge in, not to mention sex rarely works like that in real life. Outside the scope of sex as drama (NTR, arranged marriages, rape) and reproduction, sex is something we do to comfort ourselves. It's selfish - indeed - but there's nothing wrong in demanding love from people who want to share it with you. You take it in and want to repay for their kindness in return. This is what relationships are about. Very few games reach that sort of character development and I really hate when likeable characters are suddenly forced into a pointless sex scene by their creators, just because medium demands it. It's the most grave sin any writer could make.

VNs need to stop being porn on purpose, if they want to achieve something more, otherwise they will never crawl out of the hellhole they're stuck in.

Regarding lolicon, I presume it's quite similar as with porn. Writers need to stop treating lolita characters as walking fetish fuel dispensers. Younger characters can sometimes give a completely different outlook on many elements within a story from their perspective. In the end, it obviously depends on the writers themselves, but ultimately - if a character exists only for the porn, you're getting nowhere, unless it's a porn game you wanted to create.

By all means - I'm not saying to stop creating nukige games, as they have their own place as well. What I'm saying is that all devs - but especially western ones - should start trying harder, because I'm certain they are capable of that. We can truly create immersive, story-driven vns. It's just a pity so many creators end up falling into this niche they dug up under themselves.

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