Obscura wrote:I guess it's not necessary to rebrand VNs if the term "visual novel" ends up becoming more popular, but at the moment, if you're using Western-style art in your game, I think calling it a "visual novel" and nothing else dramatically limits your audience to a handful of people. (I think the case is different for those using anime-style art--since your audience is probably more familiar with VNs.)
In this day and age, people are interested not only in what genre or format a creative work is, but also its content. You don't just market something as a VN, you market it as a VN about XYZ. In that sense, I think that the attractiveness of genre terminology is less important than we may think. The main thing though is that I'd suggest not trying to develop fifty different names for the same thing, or one name for fifty different things. I don't think art is a suitable way of distinguishing genres, insomuch as style. RPGs for instance, can contain all sorts of different artistic styles, yet are all considered under the same umbrella. It's not about the art, it's about gameplay. If there were more VNs with Western-style art, this would hopefully become less of an issue.
The non-trademarked genre name for CYOA-style works is 'gamebooks'; it is in essence, the inversion of a visual novel, in that it is a story containing a game rather than a game containing a story. but there is obviously a clear link between the two. For me, there are a few points of differentiation where I believe genre divisions should be based:
1. Is the main focus on a work with long pieces of detailed narrative and a small number of distinct 'branches', or a well-branched game with its narrative divided into smaller chunks linked to difference choices in the game? "Japanese-style" VNs tend to the former, while Gamebooks are a pre-VG example of the latter. The more emphasis on the writing and 'novel-lke' aspects of the work, the more I'm inclined to refer to it as a 'Visual Novel'.
2. Does the work incorporate gameplay systems and variables which the player can use to direct his/her choices within the game? This is where I see Visual Novels crossing over with other genres such as Social Simulation games, RPGs and their derivatives (eg; raising sims). The important thing is that these systems have to be abstracted. In 'Long Live The Queen' (shout out to Hanako
), the skills and skill ranks that influence events influence the narrative, are unseen from an in-character perspective, even if they greatly influence in-game events. This can also be a point of deviation for 'Dating Sims' that use 'relationship values' and other similar mechanics as a crucial element in gameplay.
3. Does the work revolve around puzzles and exploration, rather than a particular narrative or story, and/or events are largely conveyed visually rather than via text? This is where Adventure Games come into play. Like Visual Novels, they have a coherent story to them, which can sometimes be just as detailed or intricate. But the style of play is different. This is more obvious with 'point-and-click' adventures than the older text-based games, but they both deviate on this point.
If it passes these three arbitrary (and subjective) 'tests', I would refer it exclusively as a 'Visual Novel'. But as you would probably notice, the boundaries above are porous and often crossed in the interest of developing a good game, or maximising its appeal/commercial viability. Even so, this niche is once that justifies a unique name. I reckon that recognition of the term 'Visual Novel' - and the term's specificness is such that no alternative is really necessary. What might be useful though, is a word for games that transcend
the boundaries of the genre, but still draw heavily on VN elements.
But if we do decide to replace the term VN, I would suggest 'Interactive Visual Fiction'. It would lead to some wonderful puns for those making eroge games.
a term now only known by hardcore nerds
OUCH. I loved reading those as a kid. Suddenly, my childhood has turned me into a hardcore nerd. lol
Nah, I think that the disappearance of the gamebook has been a case of the medium not being as attractive in the current world. They only became associated with nerdiness because of declining popularity amongst the general reading audience, not the other way around. I think the same can be said of Visual Novels; it's a niche audience, because of changes in the way people play games. 'Rebranding' is therefore ineffectual unless the gameplay style itself is different.