Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#31 Post by Sapphi » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:17 pm

Deji wrote: If anything, I think WVN - Western Visual Novel would be better, though it doesn't really look/sound very good >>;
I almost agreed and then I remembered we also have people from the Philippines, Indonesia, Russia... are those also Western creators? How about just "GVN"... Gaijin Visual Novel :lol:

Personally, I can't think of a better term than "Visual Novel", but I wouldn't mind if someone called my work OELVN because it has a nice old-school ring to it.
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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#32 Post by Blue Lemma » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:51 pm

"Western Visual Novel" makes me think the characters are going to strut around with six-shooters strapped to their hips ^^
Sapphi wrote:How about just "GVN"... Gaijin Visual Novel :lol:
Might as well just lock the thread now because no one's going to come up with something more perfect ;) :lol:
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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#33 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:56 pm

Obscura wrote: I personally wouldn't call that a visual novel. (And I doubt the developers would want to either, if they want to attract a larger audience.)
That's kind of the whole point. It is important to label things in such a way that they attract a market and are easy to find. From a marketing standpoint, the term "visual novel" is really dreadful, not the least of all because it isn't intuitively descriptive. People that search for "novels" are going to be searching for actual books. "Visual novel" just sounds like a picture book. A long picture book. But people are only familiar with that concept as "comics" or "graphic novels". I guarantee that most people you randomly asked on the street, "What do you think a visual novel is?" would describe a comic book or graphic novel.

And the term is creating a niche genre within a niche genre. I find it so silly and short-sighted when people in the community get into arguments over what constitutes a real visual novel - or they'll say, "but is has GAMEPLAY" like that's a four-letter word and disqualifies the work from being called a VN.

Everything targeting the same audience should have the same term, and it should be a term that attracts new people to that audience. The mechanics of the individual works don't really matter. It is more important to be easily found by those that would have an interest in the subject matter and style, regardless of mechanical workings at play.

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure is a term that has been around in the West since the 1970s and immediately conveys the experience on offer to almost anyone on the street. I'm not suggesting we adopt the term, but it is something a large number of people Google and know about, so it is a good term to use in your description so people that no nothing about visual novels can find your work through searches.

There is no reason for our genre of game to be "niche". And it ISN'T niche, so long as it isn't called a Visual Novel. The Walking Dead game by Telltale showed that an enormous number of gamers and critics LOVE a game where you basically stand around having conversations and making dialogue choices to advance the plot. Aside from a few button mashing minigames (maybe 1 or 2 per 3 hours of gameplay) that was all there was to the Walking Dead, and it got rave reviews and rewards.

When something else can take the same mechanics of your niche genre and appeal to a larger market, you have to examine what you may be doing wrong. When Mass Effect 2 shipped, it came with an "interactive comic" where you made choices to determine what had happened in the first game. People loved it. People that are probably searching for "interactive comics" in Google and have no idea "visual novels" are what they are looking for.

I don't have any revolutionary suggestions to replace the term, but it IS important outside of what we call our "niche". Something like "Story-Adventure-Game" doesn't solve the marketing problem, but it does sound less sedate than "visual novel".

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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#34 Post by SusanTheCat » Fri Jan 25, 2013 3:10 pm

LateWhiteRabbit wrote:Choose-Your-Own-Adventure is a term that has been around in the West since the 1970s and immediately conveys the experience on offer to almost anyone on the street.
We should remember that Choose-Your-Own-Adventure is a trademarked phrase currently owned by Chooseco.

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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#35 Post by papillon » Fri Jan 25, 2013 3:13 pm

yeah, I was about to say. I use that phrase in conversation but can't use it for marketing. That's why lots of other books had to come up with their own terms like "which way" or "pick a path" and the whole genre eventually got generalised to "gamebooks", a term now only known by hardcore nerds :)

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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#36 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Fri Jan 25, 2013 3:23 pm

SusanTheCat wrote: We should remember that Choose-Your-Own-Adventure is a trademarked phrase currently owned by Chooseco.
papillon wrote:yeah, I was about to say. I use that phrase in conversation but can't use it for marketing. That's why lots of other books had to come up with their own terms like "which way" or "pick a path" and the whole genre eventually got generalised to "gamebooks", a term now only known by hardcore nerds :)
I was aware. But that's why I said we shouldn't adopt it, but making reference to the term or wording is something that we should be using in our descriptions to bring Google hits. And similar wording is going to convey the experience on offer to a wider variety of people. Something as simple as using the sentence, "In [Game Name] you'll choose your own path through the story ...." so those three words "choose your own" are going to register in a Google search. Adding the word "adventure" anywhere on the page is going to seal the deal in drawing interested audience eyes to your work.

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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#37 Post by PyTom » Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:05 pm

Although I think we can tweak the terminology a bit, the problem is not so much what we call visual novels - it's that we tend to lead with "Such-and-such is a visual novel."

And that's kind of silly, as it emphasizes the mechanic - or lack of mechanic - over everything else about it. Star Wars, In and Out, The Birth of a Nation, and Waiting for Superman are all movies - but the audience for each of them is very different. And while there are some people who are interested in movies as a hobby or as a profession, I think that the bulk of the movie-going audience only sees movies in the genres that interest them.

Back when we had a dozen visual novels released a year - and most in a similar genre - it was easy to be a fan of "visual novels". But now that we have over a hundred games coming out a year, we need to start breaking things down by genre, and reaching out to fans of those genres. Look at Obscura's kickstarter - I think a big reason for her success is that she expanded the market, rather than trying to market just to existing visual novel fans.

LSF is a place to discuss creating visual novels - and, I hope, will remain that place. But if we're going to take this to the level, we need to find an audience beyond fans of Visual Novels - start promoting our work as a Science Fiction VN, a Paranormal VN, a Western Romance VN, whatever - to fans of those genres, as much as fans of VNs. I don't think we need to rebrand Visual Novels - we need to convince people "this is something you'll be interested in that happens to be a visual novel".
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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#38 Post by Funnyguts » Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:09 pm

Maybe we shouldn't attach ourselves to novels so readily. How about Interactive Puppet Show or Animated Stage Play? (I'm only mostly joking.) I'm fine with VN as a catchall term, but there's more to most works that are created by people on this forum than just the novel part, and thinking about other media might help us get find a way past the naming issue.
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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#39 Post by SundownKid » Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:15 pm

If you want to classify it in video game terms, you can always call it an "adventure story" or something along those lines. However, adventure implies some type of gameplay other than reading text.

Calling visual novels OELVNs is like calling western RPG's "non-JRPGs". The naming convention is just stupid now that these types of games are worldwide.

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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#40 Post by Obscura » Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:34 pm

LateWhiteRabbit wrote:But people are only familiar with that concept as "comics" or "graphic novels". I guarantee that most people you randomly asked on the street, "What do you think a visual novel is?" would describe a comic book or graphic novel.
I'm pretty sure I would use the term "interactive comic book" for any pure VNs I plan to do in the future, or "interactive graphic novel" if the VN has a more serious vibe. And if there's genre mixing involved (strategy or RPG), I'd probably call it an "indie game."

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.)

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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#41 Post by Reikun » Fri Jan 25, 2013 7:35 pm

Obscura wrote: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.)
I'd like to point out that Moacube's Cinders seemed to have no issue with calling itself a "visual novel" despite its non-anime art style.
Cinders' page on moacube.com wrote:Cinders is our fairytale-inspired visual novel, ditching the passive protagonist and banal morals of the original story in sake of a more serious approach.
There's no mention of any other term to describe what "kind" of game it was and people seemed to love it. Of course I don't know how well it did in terms of "typical VN audience" versus "people-not-familiar-with-the-term-visual-novel audience," but it did get a lot of press outside of VN-centric sites.

I don't think the "solution" to the "problem" lies in rebranding visual novels with a different term. I think someone else mentioned this earlier in the thread, but what we need to do it reach out to people who may be interested in playing VNs but don't know they exist. Make games so good they can't help but be featured on large review sites. Show your game to everyone you can and let them see what a visual novel is. There isn't one set genre/gameplay/style for "casual games" but people have a general understanding of what those are. We gotta "own" the name, so to speak. Avoid the stigma if you want the mainstream media to define what a visual novel is or own the name and let the creators show the world what visual novels truly are and what they can be capable of.

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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#42 Post by Taosym » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:43 pm

Funnyguts wrote:Maybe we shouldn't attach ourselves to novels so readily. How about Interactive Puppet Show or Animated Stage Play? (I'm only mostly joking.) I'm fine with VN as a catchall term, but there's more to most works that are created by people on this forum than just the novel part, and thinking about other media might help us get find a way past the naming issue.
You laugh, but I've seriously thought about a VN where the cast is literally hand puppets.

It's the most literal interpretation of the Visual Novel story telling style.

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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#43 Post by CSJ » Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:25 pm

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 :P ), 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. ;)

EDIT:
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.

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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#44 Post by Boomsickle » Sat Jan 26, 2013 1:22 pm

I feel like using the term Visual Novel is the right way to go. Why should we change the name for something that has a long standing reputation and tradition. Although i understand that the western hemisphere might not be able to comprehend it immediately its something that has already started to be slowly fed to them. It seem like we are so focused on how to name it so it doesn't offend anyone outside of japan but by changing the name what would japan think of us? Do they stand by while we copy their style without giving them credit for starting this genre. We can use words to better describe what the western world knows it to be similar to but we should always keep to our roots.

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Re: Visual Novels: Should We Abandon the Term? And How?

#45 Post by Biotikos » Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:10 pm

I feel like using the term Visual Novel is the right way to go. Why should we change the name for something that has a long standing reputation and tradition.
Well, actually, I think that at one side you're right, about the long-standing reputation and tradition part, but then we go to talk about the teminology itself - it's rather not correct, because in VN's one of the most important parts are the interaction, so you're not just "visualizing a novel", you're also interacting with it. Anyway, change the name at this point would be rather useless and even bad.

Anyway, it's my point of view.

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