Monday, April 02, 2018

Doki Doki Literature Club

Doki Doki Literature Club

Warning! Spoilers follow for Doki Doki Literature Club and The Beginner's Guide

There's a content warning at the start of Doki Doki Literature Club which is, on some level, a spoiler. It's not unusual for visual novels to touch on heavy subject matter, but to call attention to it before the title screen does stick out.

Up front, I feel like I need to say that this is a game worth playing, if you can get past the anime/VN presentation. I don't remember the last game that surprised me with its audacity this profoundly, let alone this often (and all in a package that I saw end-to-end in a little over four hours). Its density of ideas and the quality of its execution, within a medium that's uniquely suited to tell this story this way, is hugely impressive.

It will help if you have some familiarity with harem anime or other visual novels (both their general content and mechanics, even if you've not played any others; you've got to be willing to meet the genre halfway on its long periods of clicking through and reading dialogue). There are common tropes and archetypes it uses as shorthand - the childhood friend, the overly familiar upperclassman, the reluctant new club member - that not only make the opening 30 to 60 minutes much more efficient, but which set up expectations that can be exploited later.

I've been unpacking what the game means since I finished it earlier today, both its "message" and my interpretation of it, and the closest game I can think of, philosophically, is Davey Wreden's The Beginner's Guide - albeit coming from a radically different angle.

Last chance to turn back.