The borders of definition: Visual Novels

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The borders of definition: Visual Novels

Post  rockmanll on Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:28 pm

(Damn, dat title tho)

So a few days ago I had a discussion with a friend of mine, regarding if Visual Novels should be considered novels are not. His argument was flawed and I don't think the conversation is worth bringing up, but the topic itself really got me thinking about what a visual novel is and at what point does it become something else. It inspired me to come up with a range of questions I'm going to post here.

Is a Visual Novel a Book (Novel)?
Is a Visual Novel a Video Game?
Is a Visual Novel a Movie (Motion Picture)?
What does a visual novel need to be a visual novel (Is it the art assets, multiple choices, music, ect.)?
What is a Motion Picture?
If you give a visual novel the option to play character voices and automatically continue to the next page without user interaction, is it now a Visual Novel or a Motion Picture?
Can a visual novel be a Motion Picture, at the same time can (Saying yes here and at #1 means that you're saying a novel can be a movie, but does that make sense?)?

I consider Visual Novels to be Video Games, my definition of a video game being an interactive experience that you control through either a GUI or TUI, but I can't accept saying something is both a movie and a novel. At the same time, if you use the character voices as the main source of experiencing the Visual Novel's story and use the text the same way you would subtitles on a movie then why wouldn't it be considered a movie? Not all VN's have a choice system, so you could have it set up to where it would play through the entire story without one interaction from the 'Player' (Going back to my definition of a video game, the VN would now no longer be considered one). Consequently, the VN at this point is nothing more than a movie with subtitles so would you consider that a novel and if not then what's the difference between the two?

tl;dr Books can be Movies, but Movies cannot be Books. I can't find an answer I agree with by myself, so now it's your turn to try.

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Re: The borders of definition: Visual Novels

Post  Ceresbane on Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:39 pm

As a person who contemplates language and semantic quite often I take a liberal stance in word definitions.

I only take the most literal definitions of the word and from there I consider all iterations that go exactly to that definition as the category it goes under.

Film-requires a video camera of which it records live events, with the use of props and camera tricks and etc.
animation-requires narrative told from a frame by frame basis.
visual novel-tells its narrative heavily on the text with visuals acting as aid.
A novel/prose/short story/ficton-A purely textual media.

What you should consider is that stereotypes are not definitions.

A brony is not a ponyfag who clops to porn. They are not all nice and follow the delusional philosophy of love and tolerance. A brony is someone who likes my little pony. No one can deny that definition or challenge that, other variations however are easily within scrutiny, especiall when the basic definition is lost or mutated.

In terms of visual novels being a game? That's just a stereotype. The visual novel media has gained popularity as a game genre, but it is not inherently a game.

A visual novel is a visual novel.

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Re: The borders of definition: Visual Novels

Post  rockmanll on Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:00 am

Ceresbane wrote:
In terms of visual novels being a game? That's just a stereotype. The visual novel media has gained popularity as a game genre, but it is not inherently a game.

A visual novel is a visual novel.

There are two points I want to bring up, let me put it like this.

Text+Images, is it a Visual Novel?
Text+Images+Character Voices (I know both Fate/Stay Night and Clannad have this), is it a Visual Novel?
Text+Images+Character Voices+Automatic Transitions, is it a Visual Novel?

What's the difference between Text+Images+Character Voices+Automatic Transitions and a slideshow-esc motion picture?

Ceresbane wrote:
In terms of visual novels being a game? That's just a stereotype. The visual novel media has gained popularity as a game genre, but it is not inherently a game.

This is the second, to you what is a Video Game and why do you not consider Visual Novels to be one? I said in my first post that I consider an interactive experience to be a video game (Oh god, now I'm questioning the borders of what is a video game. Damned to another restless night) but I'm curious why you don't consider VN's to be video games and where that would leave franchises like Ace Attorney that are often considered both VN's and Video Games.

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Re: The borders of definition: Visual Novels

Post  Ceresbane on Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:24 am

rockmanll wrote:
Ceresbane wrote:
In terms of visual novels being a game? That's just a stereotype. The visual novel media has gained popularity as a game genre, but it is not inherently a game.

A visual novel is a visual novel.

There are two points I want to bring up, let me put it like this.

Text+Images, is it a Visual Novel?
Text+Images+Character Voices (I know both Fate/Stay Night and Clannad have this), is it a Visual Novel?
Text+Images+Character Voices+Automatic Transitions, is it a Visual Novel?

What's the difference between Text+Images+Character Voices+Automatic Transitions and a slideshow-esc motion picture?

Ceresbane wrote:
In terms of visual novels being a game? That's just a stereotype. The visual novel media has gained popularity as a game genre, but it is not inherently a game.

This is the second, to you what is a Video Game and why do you not consider Visual Novels to be one? I said in my first post that I consider an interactive experience to be a video game (Oh god, now I'm questioning the borders of what is a video game. Damned to another restless night) but I'm curious why you don't consider VN's to be video games and where that would leave franchises like Ace Attorney that are often considered both VN's and Video Games.


I can define this in 1 word.

Hybridisation.

It's natural instinct to think things belong in their human made concepts and places and only there. But if you look objectively and liberally you will find "pure" examples are pretty rare.


but since you asked for my oppinion on those examples. Dubbing doesn't change the genre of the visual novel, since dubbing is adding something on top of a visual.

And even if it has no interactivity, it is still a visual novel if its narrative is text with visuals as aid.

Just to inb4 any faggotry.

Visual is the adjective, it is the description of the fact.

Novel is the noun, the fact itself. As such when defining visual novel, the noun takes dominance over the adjective that only acts to describe/specify the noun.

That should cover pretty much the whole first question.


second

hybridisation, a visual novel CAN be a game and as such a genre for it has developed. But visual novels are not purely games.

The definition of video game is that it is a game (meaning player interactivity) of which it is in the form of video media. By which case it is involving a screen.

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Re: The borders of definition: Visual Novels

Post  Guest on Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:37 am

It's a novel with extra visually stimulating aspects, simply enough.

The reason I, for example, wouldn't class Fifty Shades of Grey as a novel is the fact that, though (very) poorly written, it does its job. Erotica, porn, whatever you want to call it. It's a book you read for erotic stimulation. For that very same reason, h-games, I feel, shouldn't fall under the same umbrella term.

Some do, arguably, have game elements in them, I've not played it myself, but I hear there are minigames in Little Busters, for example. I would always use the term "play" rather than "read" when referring to VNs, both to distinct them from a Graphic Novel, and the fact that you do, indeed have form of (albeit small) interactivity. Most people don't use Auto, and you will click (or press space) to go forward, or you'll make a decision, or whatever.

They're an individual art form than what you've listed. As for what one can class a game as... well, that raises questions with the Persona series and iDOLM@STER, but I'd say they both hold elements of each.

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Re: The borders of definition: Visual Novels

Post  gekiganwing on Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:41 pm

Some years ago, I would have defined RPGs as video games without action gameplay, but with turn-based combat. I've long since realized that comparing everything to Dragon Quest or classic Phantasy Star is rather limiting.

Not long ago, indie group Winter Wolves was reflecting on 2012. One of the things they said was wondering whether Telltale's Walking Dead series should be considered graphic adventure games. To quote: "...you spend 80% (if not more) of the gameplay time doing two things: reading dialogues/story and making choices..." Maybe they should be considered as potential models for western visual novels.

Xenasis wrote:As for what one can class a game as... well, that raises questions with the Persona series and iDOLM@STER, but I'd say they both hold elements of each.

Persona 1 (made in 1996) is basically an easier, teen-focused version of the main Shin Megami Tensei games. In other words, it's a dungeon crawler RPG with themes of apocalypse and friendship, but it's not as brutally difficult as most of SMT. By the time you get to Persona 4 (2008), there's a much heavier focus on narrative, and some romance options.


Last edited by gekiganwing on Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:43 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : corrected error)

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Re: The borders of definition: Visual Novels

Post  Guest on Sat Jan 05, 2013 11:20 am

gekiganwing wrote:
Persona 1 (made in 1996) is basically an easier, teen-focused version of the main Shin Megami Tensei games. In other words, it's a dungeon crawler RPG with themes of apocalypse and friendship, but it's not as brutally difficult as most of SMT. By the time you get to Persona 4 (2008), there's a much heavier focus on narrative, and some romance options.

Ah, I'm honestly no expert on the series. I've not played them myself but I know a guy who's really into them.

On the question of western visual novels, or things that are close, Mass Effect is worth noting. I'm playing it right now (picked it up in the sales), and, betwixt the shooting, there is a LOT of dialogue and decisions to be made. The article mentions To The Moon, a good example of a completely story based plot.


It's certainly an interesting point, but for the most part, I'd say a VN would be the setup you see in, well, VNs. Be they ADV or NVL, they're still, in my mind, distinct from, say, Mass Effect, though they clearly inherit elements.

It's strange to see the western world picking up more on a Japanese genre. Maybe some professional western VNs will come out soon!

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Re: The borders of definition: Visual Novels

Post  gekiganwing on Sun Jan 06, 2013 8:41 am

My knowledge of Persona 1-3 is relatively limited. Unfortunately, my knowledge of the Shin Megami Tensei multiverse (there's dozens of games made over the last 25 years, and less than half have any translation) is even more limited. If you want to learn more about them, read articles on Wikipedia, TVTropes, or HG101.

...Anyway, if you look into the history of graphic adventure games and interactive fiction, you'll find a surprising number of story driven video games. I don't know how popular they were. But I do remember that they were quite rare on consoles. Computers were remarkably expensive until recently, and not many physical stores sold computer games. Even today, it's difficult to find a store that has more than a few PC games in stock.

A few independent creators are selling their VNs written in English. If you're not familiar with the indie scene, be sure to look into it. Hanako Games was probably the first active group. Winter Wolves followed, along with Zeiva Inc, Sakura River, Red Panda Games, and a few others.

I would like to see more VNs that can't be categorized as romance stories, dating simulations, or porn. Yes, a decent number already exist. But even if they're not considered commercially viable, I hope to see people creating more general fiction VNs.

If you look through the Visual Novel Database, and browse games released in the 1980s, you'll find a few serious stories, a few worksafe stories, and pornography. According to a 2005 article on the history of porn games, there were few if any 18+ VNs that had interesting narrative until the 1992 game Doukyusei.

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Re: The borders of definition: Visual Novels

Post  Potentialing on Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:06 am

To me, the most simple visual novel features a story with some plot substance (I can't imagine anything shorter than a short story), is electronic software, and has pictures of a scenery to go along with the story (that, or the characters themselves, or both).

Planetarian is a wonderful example for this. It has a substantial plot, is software, and has images and music that accompany the story as it is being read. (Music isn't necessary for a visual novel, but it sure does help a lot.) There is no player interaction in the story other than scrolling the dialogue, so I wouldn't classify visual novels needing interaction.

... but this inspires me to pitch an idea-an electronic story with absolutely no images and only written text and music-would that still be considered a visual novel, or is that already its own genre?

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Re: The borders of definition: Visual Novels

Post  rockmanll on Thu Jan 10, 2013 4:52 pm

Potentialing wrote: ... but this inspires me to pitch an idea-an electronic story with absolutely no images and only written text and music-would that still be considered a visual novel, or is that already its own genre?

I think at that point it would be just an eBook with an OST, I wouldn't call it a visual novel because it has nothing visual.

As for my opinion on the topic, I don't want to admit it but I'm more leaning towards the "Visual Novels aren't inherently novels or video games". I mean a video game still has to be a game, and a VN without any choices just isn't a game it would be like saying that typing a word document is a game. At the same time if a VN focuses too much on things outside of the text it can stop being a novel but continue being a Visual Novel (I wouldn't call Melty Blood a novel even though it has it's own page on VNDB).

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Re: The borders of definition: Visual Novels

Post  Potentialing on Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:29 am

rockmanll wrote:
Potentialing wrote: ... but this inspires me to pitch an idea-an electronic story with absolutely no images and only written text and music-would that still be considered a visual novel, or is that already its own genre?

I think at that point it would be just an eBook with an OST, I wouldn't call it a visual novel because it has nothing visual.
That's true, I completely agree with you there.

rockmanll wrote:At the same time if a VN focuses too much on things outside of the text it can stop being a novel but continue being a Visual Novel (I wouldn't call Melty Blood a novel even though it has it's own page on VNDB).
If the game in question focuses on the gameplay more than the novel aspect, it'd most likely be called whatever genre the main gameplay is. I think that the "visual novel" part would just be a sub-genre, but it would have to give both visuals and a story with enough content. I guess to distinguish it from just being an RPG, it would need to have portrait art, and all interactions being text-based? (e.g. no walking around after talking to people)

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All of the above

Post  Big Bad Wolf on Tue Nov 26, 2013 7:56 pm

I think Visual Novels are all of the above.
Some are like a game where you can manipulate the direction or pacing of the story.
The VN is delivered through text, making it a Novel with visuals acting as either support or anchor, giving it Visuals. We can combine these and basically consider it an advanced Picture Book.
The endings, no matter how many, are firmly set and the paths down them are all meant for a specific ending, we can call this a Movie production as the story is set, path to ending. The varied routes are alternate movies with differences.
Visual Novels have aspects of each, the closest you could get to a single answer would either be game or novel, but even those two choices will switch between each other due to differences among visual novels.

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