The Playful Function of Paratext in Visual Novels: The Case of Doki Doki Literature Club!

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Abstract

Doki Doki Literature Club! (Team Salvato, 2017) is a deeply ambiguous independent game: although developed by an American game designer, it uses all the conventions of Japanese visual novel; although presented as a classic dating sim and as a cute high school romance, it gradually reveals itself to be a psychological horror game; finally, although DDLC regularly asserts its status of “video game”, playing it actually consists in unfolding a linear story, and the device continuously denies player agency by preventing him or her from making meaningful choices. In doing so, this interactive work (which is at the crossroads of several media influences) questions the conditions of the playing activity and the distinctions between play and other reading practices. If we define playful actions as marked by contingency (Malaby, 2007), by the possibility of choice-making (Salen and Zimmerman, 2004), by uncertainty and risk-taking (Henriot, 1989; Bonenfant, 2013; Hurel, 2017), how can we describe play in games – like visual novels – where the interactivity is minimal and where the manipulation of the device is not a gameplay issue (unlike in other games, where the player's actions may succeed or fail)? Starting from these questions, this paper will show that, in Doki Doki Literature Club!, the contingency is actually moved out of the strict game device’s framework to be located in its paratext (i.e. in all the texts external to the device, but serving as “thresholds” framing the work; see Genette, 1997; Consalvo, 2007; Fiadotau, 2015; Švelch, 2017; Rockenberger, 2014; etc.).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2018
EventMechademia Kyoto conference 2018: "Manga Nexus: Movement, Stillness, Media" - Kyoto International Manga Museum, Kyoto, Japan
Duration: 25 May 201827 May 2018

Symposium

SymposiumMechademia Kyoto conference 2018: "Manga Nexus: Movement, Stillness, Media"
Country/TerritoryJapan
CityKyoto
Period25/05/1827/05/18

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