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Old 2011-03-31, 10:34   Link #1
ClannadDango
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Join Date: Apr 2010
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Tips on giving lecture on Visual Novels

I have only recently found out about visual novels and I am already in love with this storytelling medium. I was surprise to find that not academic or scholarly article has been written on this medium so I have started writing one for my Japanese History of Art class. As well since there was open space I have just signed up for a panel for an upcoming anime convention next week where I will give a lecture about visual novels to an audience that may be unfamiliar to the medium. I have an outline in mind as well as key points and issues I would like to address but I would like to hear from people have played visual novels what make topics would you like me to address and in what order should I present this lecture.

Here is what I have in mind. I will first introduce the four main mediums of storytelling (film, television, literature, and graphic novel) and address the pros and cons of each. Then I will use that as the bases for introducing the visual novel, where I would like to address misconceptions about the medium and provide facts people may not know. Here I would like to discuss the layout of a visual novel with the use of sprites, artwork, background music, etc.

Then I wanted to shift into a brief history of the visual novel, how the medium shifted from plotless dating sims to more emotional, thought provoking elements, and well focused plots. This of course starts with To Heart which inspired Tactic’s ONE, whose creators then formed Key which created the Holy Trinity of visual novels (Kanon, AIR, Clannad). These big three are of course considered the “Watchmen” of this medium which created a big shift in the community, introduced the crying game genre, as well as inspired the later visual novels.

Here it gets jumbled as I would like to talk about the significantly important visual novels and how Key has inspired them, like Higurashi, etc. As well I would like to address other important visual novels like Ever 17, Cross Channel, Umineko, Saya no Uta, Narcissu, Yume Miru Kusuri, etc. Recurring themes and elements of visual novels including forgotten past, time loops, emotional content, etc. Fan translations, fan created visual novels, the Western World’s view of visual novels. Important players in the industry including the companies (Key, KID, 07thExpanison, Nitro+, etc) and people (Jun Maeda, Ryukishi07, Romeo Tanaka). Here I will probably like to end by discussing Rewrite and how important this is for the visual novel medium, in which the top “gods” of the industry are all working on this work together.

I wanted to end the presentation by showing them a visual novel I am creating to show that this is something anyone with dedication could create then finish by playing the first part of Clannad to give the audience and understanding of the format of the visual novel.


Any suggestions, inputs, or advice you would like to give me? Thanks before hand for you help.
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Old 2011-03-31, 12:30   Link #2
Vexx
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Sounds to me like you've pretty much have substance in all the bases so my comments are mostly generic.

The length restriction of the presentation is probably going to require you to substantially trim down the scope of your speech. As fan, you are trying to include all the little elements of the topic that fascinate you -- but would swamp or bore a non-initiate. I'd pick a couple of examples to highlight - (e.g. Clannad (personal relationships), Higurashi (fantasy, mystery)) and simply note there's a vast array of settings and sub-genres to explore outside of those. You also haven't noted the RPG-visual novel genre ... like Utawarerumono which incorporates both visual novel elements and gaming action sequences).

Basically... scope creep will get you so be brutal in reduction. I made the mistake in 7th grade of trying to give a report on "World War Two". I gave it... it consumed half the class period and included a dozen posters. I got an A but my teacher and I had a long long conversation later about "control of scope" that stuck with me
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Old 2011-04-05, 00:27   Link #3
ClannadDango
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Okay thanks for the input. I am working on my powerpoint and speech now for the panel on friday.
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Old 2011-04-05, 03:23   Link #4
0utf0xZer0
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Somehow I forgot I was going to try and contribute to this. A couple brief comments:
-First, the way I understand it Leaf published a few plot oriented VNs before To Heart, which were moderate successes. To Heart, however a) much lighter in tone than its predecessors and b) a "breakthrough hit". I've always had a bit of trouble getting a handle on this transition though, simply because there's not a lot of English speaking fans who are familiar with the titles in question and how they compared with each other.
-Second, do you make any mention of the impact of the "route/path" system? In most works the impact is somewhat limited, but in a few its a very critical component of the storytelling. Ever 17 would make a great demonstration if not for the fact you'd be dropping massive spoilers for one of the greatest VN endings ever.
-Third: I get the impression you're concentrating on technical mechanics, but since you're using Key stuff you may get asked about moe characters. You might want to think about how to respond - personally, I might explain that (at least for me) the appeal of many VN characters comes from their routes and the related romantic developments more so than initial appearances, but that's just me. And hope you don't get asked about H scenes.
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Old 2011-04-05, 09:45   Link #5
Akito Kinomoto
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I was kind of hoping someone would touch up upon this, but just a little nitpick:
How were Higurashi and Umineko inspired by the likes of Kanon and Air? Or, in other words, where's the link between a murder mystery and moelodrama?

And as far as H-scenes go, don't those normally come with the option of not being seen? Oh, and be sure to drop it in somewhere that Clannad was released with an all-ages rating. I know that blew -my- mind when I found out.
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Old 2011-04-05, 10:59   Link #6
ClannadDango
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Akito_Kinomoto View Post
I was kind of hoping someone would touch up upon this, but just a little nitpick:
How were Higurashi and Umineko inspired by the likes of Kanon and Air? Or, in other words, where's the link between a murder mystery and moelodrama?
Here's the quote from Wikipedia:
Ryukishi07 of 07th Expansion wrote in 2004 how he was influenced by Key's works during the planning of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.[52] Ryukishi07 played Key's games as a reference, among other visual novels, and analyzed them to figure out the reason why they were found to be so popular. He figured that the secret was due to how the stories would start with ordinary, enjoyable days, but then a sudden occurrence would happen leading the player to cry due to the shock value. He used a similar model for the basis of Higurashi but instead of leading the player to cry, Ryukishi07 wanted to scare the player with the addition of horror elements. In this way, Ryukishi07 wished to be in some way associated with Key who he described as a "masterpiece maker".[52]
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Old 2011-04-05, 11:02   Link #7
Usami_Haru
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Akito_Kinomoto View Post
And as far as H-scenes go, don't those normally come with the option of not being seen?
Nope, surprisingly I have yet to see a single eroge which comes with this option (some translators includes this in their patches, which is good).
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Old 2011-04-05, 14:18   Link #8
Random32
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You can skip them individually normally, but I don't think its common to see an option for no ero scenes.

there are often version without them though
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Old 2011-04-05, 23:46   Link #9
Raiga
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No mention of Type-Moon?

Granted I'm no expert on VNs but I have friends who play them and from what I hear F/SN is a pretty darn big name, along with other Type-Moon works...
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Old 2011-04-06, 05:15   Link #10
Khu
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Mention popular anime that were originally visual novels.

WILL. BLOW. THEIR. MINDS.
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Old 2011-04-06, 06:47   Link #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ClannadDango View Post
I was surprise to find that not academic or scholarly article has been written on this medium so I have started writing one for my Japanese History of Art class.
The reason nobody serious writes academic papers about VN's is most likely that doing so would instantly make them perceived as not serious. Really now, the medium (when commercialized) is almost exclusively used for melodramatic porn (explicit or implicit) with generally terrible prose; not to mention your average commercial VN is fucking unbearably long, especially if you want to cover all paths. Even pop culture scholars generally have too much self-respect to write about VN's. Unlike real porn it's sort of hard to write social commentary about it too. Except if you want to write about NEET's, I guess, but that only touches VN's tangentially.

I recommend that if you really really need to write a paper about VN's you should start with theorizing that the reason the VN format is only popular in Japan is that requires so much time and tolerance for bullshit that only a NEET would play them. In the US, they're mostly played by weeaboos (see the paper "The impact of telepresence on cultural transmission through bishoujo games", which goes into a lot of details on the issue).
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Old 2011-04-06, 12:52   Link #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ClannadDango View Post
Here's the quote from Wikipedia:
Ryukishi07 of 07th Expansion wrote in 2004 how he was influenced by Key's works during the planning of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.[52] Ryukishi07 played Key's games as a reference, among other visual novels, and analyzed them to figure out the reason why they were found to be so popular. He figured that the secret was due to how the stories would start with ordinary, enjoyable days, but then a sudden occurrence would happen leading the player to cry due to the shock value. He used a similar model for the basis of Higurashi but instead of leading the player to cry, Ryukishi07 wanted to scare the player with the addition of horror elements. In this way, Ryukishi07 wished to be in some way associated with Key who he described as a "masterpiece maker".[52]
That's a very astute and succinct observation by Ryukishi07, and my respect for him has gone up after reading that. He really honed in on something truly essential to the success of the Key works, imo. And I do like how he took that basic framework and put his own distinctive spin on it by adding horror elements.

I definitely think that it's good to start out a long story by showing the protagonists having ordinary enjoyable days. This, I think, tends to have the effect of making the viewer care not only about the main characters, but also about the main characters' settings, their lifestyle, their friends, their relationships, their family members, etc...

It's also useful to show something very much worth having/defending before you threaten it and/or take it away.
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Old 2011-04-06, 14:07   Link #13
0utf0xZer0
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheFluff View Post
The reason nobody serious writes academic papers about VN's is most likely that doing so would instantly make them perceived as not serious. Really now, the medium (when commercialized) is almost exclusively used for melodramatic porn (explicit or implicit) with generally terrible prose; not to mention your average commercial VN is fucking unbearably long, especially if you want to cover all paths. Even pop culture scholars generally have too much self-respect to write about VN's. Unlike real porn it's sort of hard to write social commentary about it too. Except if you want to write about NEET's, I guess, but that only touches VN's tangentially.

I recommend that if you really really need to write a paper about VN's you should start with theorizing that the reason the VN format is only popular in Japan is that requires so much time and tolerance for bullshit that only a NEET would play them. In the US, they're mostly played by weeaboos (see the paper "The impact of telepresence on cultural transmission through bishoujo games", which goes into a lot of details on the issue).
Well, I agree that the “semi-porn” nature of the medium – along with the fact the frequent use of otaku tropes that don’t make sense to most people - might be a concern in terms of people taking you seriously. However, I think that by concentrating on the medium rather than message originally, the OP has a pretty good handle on this challenge. As for the rest…

I’m pretty sure that I managed to complete at least three commercial VNs in the time it took me to play through Dragon Age Origins once. I don't play J-RPGs but I don't get the impression the comparison would end up being that different.
The reason only weaboos play in the west… well, as mentioned there’s a lot of otaku tropes the average person wouldn’t get. More importantly though, the primary way new VN players get interested is VN to anime adaptations, so the player base if going to get drawn largely from hardcore anime fans anyway. Going into long winded discussions of why the VN medium may provide a greater sense of cultural immersion does nothing for me – the author is making way too much of the first person perspective, the amount of “cultural immersion” one gets from a VN is no greater than from watching slice of life shows. In fact, in my experience it’s the other way around. Most hardcore anime fans are aware of slice of life shows, so an interest in VNs has to be explained by something else.
The observation that VNs managed to be immersive despite the games being an “iconic” rather than realistic form of art is interesting and probably something that’s helpful to newcomers trying to grasp the “culture” of the medium – I keep thinking of the speech Madarame gave on the subject in episode 2 of Genshiken. If the OP is planning to compare and contrast VNs to comics though, he may already have covered this to an extent.
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