Breaking the fourth wall?

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ark99k
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Breaking the fourth wall?

#1 Post by ark99k » Sun Aug 10, 2014 1:08 am

What do you think when a vn character acknowledges the reader? It is cool, good, bad, or does always depend on the story's theme?
Is this a technique that should always be avoided in visual novel?

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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#2 Post by Taleweaver » Sun Aug 10, 2014 6:55 am

ark99k wrote:What do you think when a vn character acknowledges the reader? It is cool, good, bad, or does always depend on the story's theme?
Is this a technique that should always be avoided in visual novel?
There are VNs revolving entirely around the concept. Most never touch the subject. Me, I've used the concept in ADRIFT (Hinami's pretty much my version of a fourth-wall-breaker).

It probably depends on what you're trying to accomplish.
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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#3 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Sun Aug 10, 2014 11:29 am

ark99k wrote:What do you think when a vn character acknowledges the reader? It is cool, good, bad, or does always depend on the story's theme?
Is this a technique that should always be avoided in visual novel?
Depends on the mood, tone, and story.

Take Ferris Bueller's Day Off for example. That movie would have worked okay without the 4th wall breaking asides where the main character talks directly to the audience, but the 4th wall breaks enhanced everything. Because the film focused on how friendly, charismatic, and clever Ferris is, it helped to make the audience feel like one of those friends being charmed.

This technique works best when the work is at least slightly comedic. But visual novels are uniquely poised to break the 4th wall because the protagonist is often narrating to somebody in the first person anyway. I've often said, if you are using 1st person narration, you need to decide what the context is. Is the narrator writing all this in a diary? Being interrogated? Telling a story to a friend? Or entertaining an audience?

To go back to the Ferris Bueller example above, it is established in the film that Ferris likes telling fanciful, exaggerated stories that make himself look good. It is an easy leap to imagine that the film itself is Ferris telling an exaggerated recap of his day off to a group of people he trying to impress. For instance, even though Ferris is the narrator (and so shouldn't know what goes on when he isn't there), every scene without him in it still has the characters talking ABOUT him and doing something to make him look cool.

The context is going to determine the tone the 4th wall breaking takes - a narrator being interrogated (the audience takes this role) is not going to be friendly when they directly address the audience. That's going to effect the audience's sympathy for the main character. So just be sure you are using the technique consciously and deliberately.

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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#4 Post by MaiMai » Sun Aug 10, 2014 2:07 pm

There is an example of fourth wall breaking in a visual novel. In Yo-Jin-Bo the Bodyguards, the male love interests often made pop culture references and cracks towards each other despite the Japanese medieval background the setting takes place in. Another visual novel, Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi, heavily relies on the fourth wall breaking element for its story.

So yeah, it can be done, but you need to know how you're using it. "Shouldn't always" are two words that are unneeded when you're creating anything, that's just limiting your opportunities.
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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#5 Post by SundownKid » Sun Aug 10, 2014 2:25 pm

The vast majority of times, it is just annoying and reeks of bad writing and trying to pander to the audience. For example, one game I remember had some fourth wall breaking pop culture references is Crimson Gem Saga, but it just felt lame and uninspired. If it is used VERY tactfully, it can be humorous. And please try not to use pop culture references unless they are small and fit into the story. Like "Remember, don't feed him after midnight." or "This car can only go up to 88 MPH."

An example of one kind of fourth wall breaking I think could be funny, is where it's not really acknowledged as such but almost seems like a slip of the tongue by an actor:

Person 1: So are you going to get this battle on already?
Person 2: But then everyone watching won't have a chance to hear my plan!
Person 1: What are you talk-
Person 2: As I was saying, I'm going to take over the world...

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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#6 Post by E-night » Sun Aug 10, 2014 3:07 pm

Ferris Bueller? Friendly? Actually Ferris Bueller is a good example off where I found 4th wall breaking annoyed me, because I disliked the character (I identified so much more with the best friend and sister) and just wanted him to shut up and get to school already.

I personally prefer story telling where the characters go to the fourth wall and hang a lampshade on it, but doesn't break it (because breaking it often takes me out of the narrative).

In video games and Vn's it means it typically means games where the mechanics are parts of the story. For example
Virtue's Last Reward where save/reload is important for the story

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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#7 Post by Kokoro Hane » Sun Aug 10, 2014 6:07 pm

It really depends on the story. Sometimes, breaking the fourth wall is fun for comic relief, but you need to execute it well. Try to weigh the seriousness of your project whether it will fit or not. Also, with the pop culture reference thing SundownKid mentioned, I think making references isn't a bad thing, but you need to weigh the seriousness of your project. I think when making free VN projects, you have more freedom to be experimental, maybe not worry of the quality of your writing sometimes. You can just let the words flow, even if it is chaotic like that. Commercial projects, I think take more care in how you write them. So whether to break the fourth wall or reference pop culture you really need to think if it is nesecessary.

So, overall, it depends on the story, and how serious the project is, and maybe even whether it is for fun and free or you plan to sell it.
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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#8 Post by LVUER » Sun Aug 10, 2014 8:12 pm

Well, there are games who completely breaks 4th wall... IMO, all those game aren't that good but that doesn't mean you should completely avoid that technique (though you don't have to deliberately use it either). Some great games also some times use it, only on occasions though.

- I forget the name but there is a DS game where you (yeah, YOU) control a character in a game. At the end of the game, that character wonders if it's you that makes him so great at fighting. And a side character in the game also completely aware of your presence.
- Kill Switch also tell a story about you (again, YOU) who use a special device that can hack into a brain of a special agents... and start killing people.
- Virtual On. All those robots are controlled from far away, using special machine... yeah, those arcade game machine you're using right now.
- Various Super Robot Taisen that feature Virtual On robot. Those V-On robots are controlled by YOU, a human from another dimension... and all characters from the game aware of that fact.
- Metal Gear Solid. Otacon can read your memory cards, your playing habit, and your controller input. He can even disable your left controller port...
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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#9 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Sun Aug 10, 2014 8:33 pm

SundownKid wrote:The vast majority of times, it is just annoying and reeks of bad writing and trying to pander to the audience. For example, one game I remember had some fourth wall breaking pop culture references is Crimson Gem Saga, but it just felt lame and uninspired. If it is used VERY tactfully, it can be humorous. And please try not to use pop culture references unless they are small and fit into the story. Like "Remember, don't feed him after midnight." or "This car can only go up to 88 MPH."

An example of one kind of fourth wall breaking I think could be funny, is where it's not really acknowledged as such but almost seems like a slip of the tongue by an actor:

Person 1: So are you going to get this battle on already?
Person 2: But then everyone watching won't have a chance to hear my plan!
Person 1: What are you talk-
Person 2: As I was saying, I'm going to take over the world...
It's important to remember that breaking the 4th wall doesn't have to include any pop culture references. Breaking the 4th wall is merely the act of the characters acknowledging the existence of the audience. In many movies this can be as simple as a character making eye contact with the camera. Done correctly it can be a very powerful thing.

I find cases like your example annoying more often than not. It's like the writer trying to have their cake and eat it too, by breaking the 4th wall, but not really. It reminds me that there is a writer putting the words into these characters' mouths, and flattens any dimension the world had. Where, if the character themselves just turn and acknowledge I am in the room with them, I still believe in that character.
E-night wrote:Ferris Bueller? Friendly? Actually Ferris Bueller is a good example off where I found 4th wall breaking annoyed me, because I disliked the character (I identified so much more with the best friend and sister) and just wanted him to shut up and get to school already.
I've never met someone that disliked Ferris Bueller ... but okay. :shock:

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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#10 Post by SundownKid » Wed Aug 13, 2014 9:04 pm

LVUER wrote: - I forget the name but there is a DS game where you (yeah, YOU) control a character in a game. At the end of the game, that character wonders if it's you that makes him so great at fighting. And a side character in the game also completely aware of your presence.
- Kill Switch also tell a story about you (again, YOU) who use a special device that can hack into a brain of a special agents... and start killing people.
- Virtual On. All those robots are controlled from far away, using special machine... yeah, those arcade game machine you're using right now.
- Various Super Robot Taisen that feature Virtual On robot. Those V-On robots are controlled by YOU, a human from another dimension... and all characters from the game aware of that fact.
- Metal Gear Solid. Otacon can read your memory cards, your playing habit, and your controller input. He can even disable your left controller port...
That first game would be Contact. However, I'm not sure if I would consider it breaking the fourth wall, since your inclusion in the story from the very beginning (similar to Baten Kaitos II) would make it more like participatory theater. I wouldn't consider any of those breaking the Fourth Wall since you were within that wall to begin with. (Well, except for Metal Gear, that is definitely fourth wall breaking).

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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#11 Post by SHiNKiROU » Wed Aug 13, 2014 9:49 pm

I can only think of breaking the fourth wall in comedic, non-serious contexts. However, there is a trope called Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The characters are talking something making sense perfectly in in-universe context, but the reader can interpret it as breaking the 4th wall.

Common examples of leaning on the fourth wall involve characters using words to talk about fiction to talk about reality: "I'm not a villain!" "You're a two-dimensional character!" "What if we are in a TV show?" "I think we are in a car commercial".
It's plausible for people in real life to compare real-life situation with fictional plot and use characterization terms to describe people in real life.

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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#12 Post by Ishvke » Thu Aug 14, 2014 3:00 am

I love 4th-wall breaking in works that are heavily focused on comedy. Using it in calmer/relatively comedic moments in more serious titles, though, is not something I enjoy; overall, I hate it everywhere else, especially in the more serious titles.

Although to be fair, most people who use 4th-wall breaking tend to write the more comedic titles to begin with, so that's not really something worth worrying about.
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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#13 Post by Asceai » Thu Aug 14, 2014 3:27 am

Ishvke wrote:I hate it everywhere else, especially in the more serious titles.
It was already mentioned in this thread, but Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi definitely counts as a serious title that would not work at all without it and is awesome because of it.

Although I guess I can't name anything other than it, so I guess that's the exception proving the rule =P

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Re: Breaking the fourth wall?

#14 Post by Ishvke » Fri Aug 15, 2014 8:05 pm

Asceai wrote:
Ishvke wrote:I hate it everywhere else, especially in the more serious titles.
It was already mentioned in this thread, but Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi definitely counts as a serious title that would not work at all without it and is awesome because of it.

Although I guess I can't name anything other than it, so I guess that's the exception proving the rule =P
Lol oh I didnt read any of the other posts.
I'll try it out if I can find an english patch
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