Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

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Reikun
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Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#1 Post by Reikun » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:42 pm

Whenever I talk to people who don't know anything about VNs, I'm always confused as to whether I should say VNs are games or not. Most VNs don't actually have an extra gameplay element (like mini-games), and many do actually have very nice stories.

I've heard people on this forum call certain VNs "a good read," but when unlocking paths or getting different endings we call it a "play-through."

So, does one read a VN, or play a VN? Or both at the same time? :?
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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#2 Post by Applegate » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:46 pm

I consider a Visual Novel a story, so I never refer to them as 'games'. Consequently, I read VNs: I don't 'play' them.

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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#3 Post by Raindrops » Mon Feb 06, 2012 5:23 pm

I would say, since VNs have choices, that I 'play' VNs as opposed to 'reading' them. If I'm reading a supposed VN, then I would assume that there are no choices, apart from the odd one or two throughout the whole game, and I would refer to it as a KN.
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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#4 Post by papillon » Mon Feb 06, 2012 7:14 pm

I say play because of the restrictions the medium places on the experience and the state of mind that puts me in. I can't read a VN like I'd read a book or a bit of web fiction, I can't control my progress through the story as easily, flip back and forth between favorite bits, etc. I'm progressing through a designed experience. The fact that I am reading most of the time is secondary.

Most video games include at least a little bit of reading. Watching fansubbed anime includes reading, but most people would still say they're watching it rather than reading it, even though they're clearly doing both. I'm reading the text that I'm typing right now, but reading isn't the primary activity I'm engaged in. :)

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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#5 Post by Sapphi » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:36 pm

papillon wrote:I say play because of the restrictions the medium places on the experience and the state of mind that puts me in. I can't read a VN like I'd read a book or a bit of web fiction, I can't control my progress through the story as easily, flip back and forth between favorite bits, etc. I'm progressing through a designed experience. The fact that I am reading most of the time is secondary.
Here's something I've been wondering related to this - would you feel more like you were reading a book if the text and pictures were laid out differently (i.e., one part of the screen a "page" of text and the other side an illustration which changed in relation to the story)? Do you think in some instances it would would be a preferable format for KN stories over the traditional NVL format?
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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#6 Post by papillon » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:48 pm

Here's something I've been wondering related to this - would you feel more like you were reading a book if the text and pictures were laid out differently (i.e., one part of the screen a "page" of text and the other side an illustration which changed in relation to the story)? Do you think in some instances it would would be a preferable format for KN stories over the traditional NVL format?
I'd still say I was playing it, because I'm still trapped inside a computer program experiencing things at the programmer's whims. :) Some people might be more inclined to call it an interactive storybook though.

(And in fact, I'm doing something *sort of* like this for the NVL sequences in one of my projects - instead of translucent blackness over the whole screen, it covers only half of it. THis is partly because the whole screen would be unreadable in widescreen anyway, and I'm not making only half-screen illustrations to go along with it.)

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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#7 Post by Llair » Wed Feb 08, 2012 2:05 pm

papillon wrote:I say play because of the restrictions the medium places on the experience and the state of mind that puts me in. I can't read a VN like I'd read a book or a bit of web fiction, I can't control my progress through the story as easily, flip back and forth between favorite bits, etc. I'm progressing through a designed experience. The fact that I am reading most of the time is secondary.

Most video games include at least a little bit of reading. Watching fansubbed anime includes reading, but most people would still say they're watching it rather than reading it, even though they're clearly doing both. I'm reading the text that I'm typing right now, but reading isn't the primary activity I'm engaged in. :)
That lack of control makes me feel like I'm reading rather than playing though. Most visual novels let me make decisions that determine how the story progress, but I can't control how the character is going to do something. Like in Fate/Stay Night, I couldn't control how Shiro fought in the combat scenes. The VN held my hand and told me he did this, this, and this.

There are some games, like Heavy Rain and Fahrenheit, that feel more like interactive movies, but usually games give you the ability to control what and how you want to do things. Every gamer is different, but I personally would feel frustrated when playing an rpg game if I was told what equipment to use, what skills to level up, and how I am going to fight a boss. I don't want to be Llair, the reckless warrior who hacks and slashes his way to victory. I want to be Llair, the resourceful fighter who does unconventional things that may or may not work.

I probably said too much, and I apologize. >_<
As a summary, I feel the main difference is that even though VNs have interactive elements, I'm being told a story, and when I'm playing a game, I'm actually making my own story and experience.

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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#8 Post by Kylock » Wed Feb 08, 2012 3:21 pm

Llair wrote: As a summary, I feel the main difference is that even though VNs have interactive elements, I'm being told a story, and when I'm playing a game, I'm actually making my own story and experience.
My problem with that argument is that the difference between, say, Fate Stay Night and Skyrim (or whatever RPG you choose) is the degree of control you have. Yes, there is vastly more control in Skyrim than your average VN but it isn't *universal* control. I can't decide to attempt a triple-back flip while tossing a dagger laced with a combustible poison that screams "Death to My Foes!" much as may want to. (Or without modding it in...)

So what it seems to me is that we're arguing a game is defined by how interactive it is, which rubs me the wrong way. Visual novels are an interactive, limited though it may be, medium with clearly defined rules the whole system of which is designed to convey something. Similarly, Skyrim is a medium with clearly defined rules in an interactive system that tries to convey something.

I've never been comfortable with trying to so narrowly assign names to things, mostly because by defining something you're partially limiting what it could be (or could be perceived to be) which can be harmful for the medium as a whole. (Which isn't to say I'm against labeling things, just that we should remain flexible in the naming.)

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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#9 Post by papillon » Wed Feb 08, 2012 4:39 pm

I probably said too much, and I apologize. >_<
Pfft, you're doing fine, no need to apologise! :)

Really, VNs are neither games nor books by traditional definitions, and the harder you try to push them into one category or the other the more it'll be obvious that it doesn't fit.

I say 'play' because it best fits the frame of mind I'm in when I'm dealing with a VN. That doesn't actualy have to do with whether it's a game or not, and other people may have entirely different mind settings when dealing with them.

And, of course, how interactive a VN is and how much you are being told a story vs exploring a story on your own varies wildly by writer.

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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#10 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Wed Feb 08, 2012 5:53 pm

Kylock wrote: I've never been comfortable with trying to so narrowly assign names to things, mostly because by defining something you're partially limiting what it could be (or could be perceived to be) which can be harmful for the medium as a whole. (Which isn't to say I'm against labeling things, just that we should remain flexible in the naming.)
But naming conventions also set expectations, which can be important. I know a lot of people that have tried VNs and been turned off of them because the VNs were defined or labeled as "games". Then they finished the VN and said, "That's the most boring, do-nothing game I've ever played! It was nothing but reading!" Because the VN was labeled a "game", they were expecting gameplay.

But really, "reading" a VN isn't accurate unless it is a Kinetic Novel. And VNs vary wildly in amount of choices and interactions available. Some do rightly qualify as games in the traditional sense. Others have so little choice they may as well be kinetic novels.

But I agree with Papillon that I can't really consider myself to be "reading" VNs. They are too different from a book or other reading medium.

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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#11 Post by Kylock » Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:46 am

I guess I wandered a bit too wildly from what I meant to say which is really: it's really hard to nail down all VN's into one term, so it's probably better to just keep the definition fluid. Just like a book can be more or less "sci-fi" a VN can be more or less a "game."

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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#12 Post by Reikun » Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:12 am

Awesome, guys! These are great things to consider :C I personally say I "play" VNs because when I have to read it doesn't feel like reading?? Like when you have to read quest explanations or dialogue in rpgs, sometimes there's quite a lot of "reading" to do, but it doesn't feel like reading?
papillon wrote:Really, VNs are neither games nor books by traditional definitions, and the harder you try to push them into one category or the other the more it'll be obvious that it doesn't fit.
I agree with this completely! This is why I was asking if VNs could be considered games in the first place xD Because the more I thought about labeling a VN as a "game," the less like a game it seemed to be :/ Is there a way VNs can be described so that the average person will understand what kind of experience you get out of playing a VN? I hate comparing them to choose-your-adventure books for the reason LateWhiteRabbit said about expectations coming from naming conventions. Back when choose-your-adventure books were somewhat known, they seemed to be associated with children's literature and dorkiness >___> Which brings us back to papillon's point about the category becoming more unfitting the more you try to categorize it...
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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#13 Post by SusanTheCat » Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:36 pm

We keep talking about VNs, what about KNs?

I wouldn't say "read a KN" but I might say "watch a KN" like "watch a movie" or even "play a KN" like "play a DVD".

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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#14 Post by Llair » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:10 pm

Reikun wrote:Is there a way VNs can be described so that the average person will understand what kind of experience you get out of playing a VN? I hate comparing them to choose-your-adventure books for the reason LateWhiteRabbit said about expectations coming from naming conventions. Back when choose-your-adventure books were somewhat known, they seemed to be associated with children's literature and dorkiness >___> Which brings us back to papillon's point about the category becoming more unfitting the more you try to categorize it...
Interactive multimedia novels sounds good although it does sound a little "geeky".

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Re: Reading a VN vs. Playing a VN

#15 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:31 pm

Bioware made a sort of visual novel to bring PS3 player's up to speed on Mass Effect's story prior to Mass Effect 2, and let those player's make choices that would effect their Mass Effect 2 character. They called it an "interactive comic", which everyone seemed to understand just fine. Most people understand that "comic" means "pictures with words you have to read", and "interactive" means you can make choices.

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