Opinion: A Glimpse on Enjoying to Read a “Game”

Cakra Bhirawa
8 min readJun 19, 2021

Interacting and knowing more with the story presented to the reader.

Little Busters! | © 2017 VISUAL ARTS/Key/PROTOTYPE

Reading, everyone reads right? If you don’t… then why do you even read this article anyway? Aside from that, if you read, then your preferences on reading might be different over another. Some of you might love to read articles, scientific journals, magazines, comics, and even novels. For me personally, I’m the type of person who loves to read as long it focused on the topic that I’m interested in pop culture to sciences.

On some occasions, I read some fictional stories from novels. Although normally I often read a novel that categorizes as Light Novel, a type of novel in Japan that consisted of around 50,000 words and printed on a small form factor (A6, 10.5 cm x 14.8 cm). This kind of novel commonly illustrated with artwork on some pages.

But to be honest, I’m not a much of a reader especially when reading a light novel or even a novel. Why? Because for me, I don’t quite like to read just text when trying to imagine what kind of world is the fiction is telling about. Hence, most of the time I only could finish some of the novel that I bought because I lack the motivation to imagine and trying to grasp the story from it.

So, if you’re like me who wanted to read a fictional novel, but lack the motivation to read it because the way that the story being presented. Then I guess you could try to play to “read” a game on a genre called Visual Novel. What’s a visual novel you said?

Visual Novel In A Nutshell

Steins;Gate | © MAGES./Nitroplus

In a nutshell, I will say that a visual novel is a form of literature that has become an interactive medium so that the reader can be more immersed in the story.

Visual novel can be called an interactive medium in-game since it’s also in the same genre as an interactive fiction genre. In which both of them provide a sort of “text-based” story that’s linear or branching. As summarized by the Anime and the Visual Novel books.

Visual novel designates a multi-branching and interactive ludic experience that enlists the player’s creativity alongside the production studio’s own artistry and thus transcends the boundaries of other types of more controlling video gaming.

The reader/player is presented by the first point of views just like a novel would be, but in this game, the story/premise is much more clearer for those who have a hard time like me to imagine what kind of story it will be if it was from a novel. The views point may differ over many games, some visual novel, conveys the player as just an “empty shell” of a person with no distinguishing personality or trademark other than a face which often obscured. But in some cases, the player will be presented as a livable character who has a narrative on its own.

Steins;Gate Japanese Promotional Video | © MAGES./Nitroplus

Hence from that point of view, the player may relate with that kind of person either from just an “empty shell” of a character or a livable character. Because the player can role play as that character and know more about the other character and the world on its own. At some point in time, the player might be mesmerized by a full illustration to convey some of the specific moments of that story. And some cases they will also connect to the character in this game since some of the visual novels will provide a voice actor to liven up the world and also a specific story route for that character. Being able to see a specific kind of story makes this game even more engaging because some of you might be able to deepen more the relationship with them.

Seeing is believing, thus being able to see what the writer/game intended to showcase to the player is the key reason why visual novel matters.

Visioning The Scene As A Whole

Memory’s Dogma CODE:01 | © Liz-Arts/Sekai Project

As mentioned before, what makes a visual novel become more engaging as a work of fiction compares to a novel is the “visual” aspect. In this game everything is shown to the player so that the player will know who they are, who is their friend/enemy, where do they live, and many more. So for those who have a hard time grasping what condition is the character is doing in a normal novel, you can be more relaxed and ease the thought of imagination to be that person.

Because in a visual novel you can see it very clearly, and you just needed to grasp what kind of action does the character wanted to do. Since many of the visual novel characters has only a simple sprite and don’t interact much over another, they just change their expression. But in some cases, you might found a unique scene from the story. The unique screen normally will be shown only as a picture first and later on the player will be shown a normal screen as usual.

Full Illustration of Scene Shown in Memory’s Dogma CODE:01 | © Liz-Arts/Sekai Project

For me personally, this way of showing an event to the player, makes me immerse in the story as I know what the writer/developer wanted to tell us. Previously when reading a fictional novel, I had a hard time grasping the world that the writer wanted to tell to the reader, but reading all the text in a visual novel and seeing the character interact makes me much more comfortable to know what is going on there. In some cases, the visual can also support the story even more, such as some of the visual novels that focused on mystery. The visual can help the player know what’s being presented like where’s the key located, how does the serial killer kills someone.

Although many of the visioning on a visual novel haven’t changed a lot over time. The genre itself is also evolving such as the introduction of 2D Live technology that can make the character even be more livable.

Livable Character & Story

NEKOPARA Vol.1 | © NEKO WORKs/Sekai Project

While the visual might be simple if compared to another game genre, the visual novel is the kind of genre that really convey what is really a main character/protagonist. Since many of the player interactions is talking to another character. To be able to impress the player that they really engaging with the character, most of the visual novel is drawn with 2D sprites with a couple of expressions, so that when there’s an embarrassing moment the character will be shy or even sad regarding that.

But as the technology evolved, there’s also a 2D Live approach for this situation so that the player can feel that the character is more livable by adding some simple movement from the way the hair moves to the blink of an eye. This kind of immersion makes the player is talking to a “real” character.

NEKOPARA Vol.1 | © NEKO WORKs/Sekai Project

As the story progress, the player might encounter some form of interaction in a form of choice selection. This choice selection can make the story of the game become much more personal because the answer that you pick normally resonates with you and you can see in an instant what kind of answer does the character will reply to. The narrative of the story might also change according to your choices. This kind of choice will impacted also the way that the story will end. So basically you might encounter many different ending of that story and for some people is okay because they only wanted to know the premise of the story. But for some people, this kind of result also encourage them to enjoy different route path and ending.

And that makes visual novel become more enjoyable because you can know many different stories that took place in the game. Especially if you’re also the type of person who wanted to know more about the character since this kind of choice picking is resulting in many ending that you might never think.

But in the end, not everyone will want to have that sort of choice, because some of you might just want to have a simple linear story to read. That’s their preferences, and in some way, this kind of result is also intended from the writer since it will convey a bigger meaning to the story overall. Because of that what I will say to you all a visual novel is a…

Conclusion: It’s a Fun Way to Enjoy Some Fictional Stories

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc | © 2016 Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

To conclude, a visual novel is an exciting experience for those who wanted to live fully in a story of that game. Because in this genre you can be yourself or a character that might be related to you or even a new character that you feel kind of cringe. Whichever is it, being able to feel that you’re the main character who live day to day in this world by interacting with other character is the point of immersion that you are in this world.

A visual novel packs the experiences of a novel into an interacting branching story that personalized from the player choices. But it can also be a way of showing more what the writer wants to tell to the player. From the sound of the world (wind breezing, the noisiness of a school, to the ambiance of a library) to the sound of the character makes the world much more believable.

For me personally, reading a visual novel is sort of my escapism from this reality, because I can be another person who might be more successful than I am or also a normal person. But in this game, I can learn more about interacting with others and what’s the result that I might encounter. You could say it kind of a trial and error to respond to many different kinds of people. As I’m not a great talker, to be honest.

Thank you for reading my opinion, see you in the next articles.

Written by Cakra Bhirawa | The Writer is a Computer Engineering Undergraduate and this article is intended to express the writer opinion regarding reading a book and reading a visual novel | This article is a personal view of the writer and do not represent any sides from the writer workplace/community

References:

  • Dani Cavallaro (2010). Anime and the Visual Novel: Narrative Structure, Design and Play at the Crossroads of Animation and Computer Game. McFarland & Company, Inc
  • Patrick W. Galbraith (2011). Bishōjo Games: ‘Techno-Intimacy’ and the Virtually Human in Japan
  • Get In The Robot. (23 March 2019). Youtube. What Are Visual Novels, and Why Are They a Thing? - Why, Anime? | Get In The Robot [seen 19 June 2021].
  • KAORI Nusantara. (29 January 2020). Winter 2020 Anime: Nekopara — KAORI Nusantara
  • Key. (2007). Little Busters!.
  • 5pb. (2009). Steins;Gate.
  • Liz-Arts. (2016). Memory’s Dogma CODE:01.
  • Neko Works. (2014). NEKOPARA Vol.1.
  • Spike. (2010). Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.

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Cakra Bhirawa

An ordinary person who loves Japanese pop culture and game. You may also visit my website at https://tjakrabirawa.com/