I'm steadily approaching 50 posts on this blog. I have a Google doc with an alphabetized list of the words I've used just to avoid repeats and it's really getting on in length. It's kind of...amazing? It's hard starting new routines. I'm trying to give myself credit where it's due, though. 40+ daily posts is a lot. Good job, me.

Two new visual novel demos came out in the last few days that I'm looking forward to playing through: Heart of the Woods and Infurubia. I'm trying to make more time to play visual novels again because I feel like...to be a good writer, you have to read a lot. It follows, then, that to be a good visual novel writer, you should probably play some visual novels. You have to respect the medium and the groundwork laid down by those who came before you. That's why I'm always a little wary of new visual novel devs who wax poetic about how they're doing something totally new or how everyone else is doing it wrong. It always turns out that they've only played, like, one visual novel. How can you glean an accurate representation of the medium that way?

I've heard the phrase "kindness coins" thrown about a lot[1]. Usually it's in the context of real people. As in, "putting kindness coins into someone's slot until you can get into their pants." Lately, it's started being applied to visual novels. As in, "it's sociopathic to be able to put kindness coins into this character until you get into their pants." I don't think that's quite the right way to look at it, though.

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When you play a visual novel, you are not actually the main character. ...I know, what a concept, right? You read from their POV most of the time, yes, but you are not them. You are, in fact, an omniscient third party. When you choose options to progress the story, the character is (usually) not thinking to themselves, "What do I say to get into this person's pants?" It's just that you, as that omniscient third party, are deciding what kind of story you'd like to see. Nobody (well, almost nobody) thinks to themselves, "Gosh, do I say the intelligent thing, the charming thing, the excited thing, or the sexy thing to get this person to like me?" At most, I'd say people tend to worry more about phrasing and timing. When should we say this? Is my language too harsh or not harsh enough?

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I think that's the beauty of interactive fiction, especially romantic games. How many times have I read a manga and thought "Man, I wish she'd ended up with that other love interest instead"? Far too many. That's why, when I discovered otome games for the first time, it was like this great big world had opened to me. I no longer had to watch as the heroine got together with the guy I didn't like. I now had the power to pair her up with (almost) whichever love interest I wanted! That eventually turned into me wanting to make my own games where players get to do the same thing. I am so attached to my characters that I'd love to make all sorts of different couples happen. That's all there is to it. It's not that you're chasing down each love interest like you're adding notches to a bedpost, but that you're getting to read a bunch of different stories—with different outcomes—about the characters you love[2].

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I don't write visual novels while trying to make the games an accurate, 100% true-to-life representation of falling in love. I don't think it's possible to truly gamify feelings that way. If someone made a visual novel about how I fell in love with my boyfriend, it would have no choices and would show four months of very boring scenes[3].

But fiction, games...they're about the imagination, about exploring different possibilities in a world that we can't access in real life. ...And yeah, maybe that world has sociopaths in it at times. But it's no less amazing and ought to be respected.


  1. Not to be confused with this great game by that title. ↩︎

  2. And if people do treat dating sims like they're adding notches to a bedpost, like...what's so bad about that? Whatever makes you happy, I say. ↩︎

  3. From a player's POV, anyway. I mean, 99% of the scenes would take place inside the bookstore, with just 1 or 2 in a cafe. Love is weird and hard to explain to those outside it. ↩︎