Let’s be honest to ourselves once more: we’re getting nowhere simply talking about how we should respect the history and culture of visual novels.
And besides, I know too well from blog statistics that reading an article does not at all translate into someone playing the visual novel, let alone negating their biases.
Again, I won’t deny the value of writing and reading articles analyzing visual novels. This isn’t some article saying farewell to my oeuvre after all. But I’m more interested in proposing something bigger and more beneficial.
Coming up with solutions and proposals isn’t easy, which is perhaps why we’re so inclined to talk about “respect”. But for a critique to be complete, it is necessary to show what’s missing and fill in the blanks.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of what Len and I have come up with:
1) An actually useful visual novel database
Wouldn’t it be nice if VNDB was actually a visual novel database that ethically records data about visual novels?
I don’t want to go on a long tangent about how VNDB has become the worst thing on the planet, but it is of utmost importance that alternatives or reforms are made to this site.
Most glaringly, we need to remove deadnames and real names for translators and staff members who go by aliases. Let staff, not some rando, choose how they present. Leaving this be adds to the toxicity of the community and makes the visual novel space more unsafe.
There is much to improve on what already exists: we need to be more exhaustive with our staff credits, provide consistent guidelines on spoilers and sensitive content, allow titles exempt from VNDB to return, and more.
A visual novel database should actually be a basic resource for anyone who wants to look into visual novels, not just a labyrinth of sexual content tags.
2) Dev-Friendly Databases and Repositories
At the moment, information about visual novels is fragmented between communities. And even if you’re able to enter into such communities, you’re supposed to use Discord’s terrible search feature for past questions. There’s no easy space to look up info, not to mention how nerve-wrecking it is to pose a question. And if Discord dies, all that information will die too.
We need archives and the such to record frequently answered questions and more. Allowing developers to research things by themselves without having to enter a dozen social circles first is a boon to all, especially for experienced users who are sick of answering the same old questions from them. Writing up something that people can point to seriously helps a lot.
There’s many ways we can do this. We can take the r/AskHistorians approach and build a wiki
that links to resources, FAQs, and users specializing in fields. A database that collects pertinent and hard-to-find information (like an actually useful VNDB) will work wonders too. An example: the VIPRPG database
is flawed, but it properly archives the titles it has. Can’t forget the likes of MobyGames and IMDB too.
We should also be thinking about more specialized databases for visual novel developers. A UI database for example would be handy. Examples of title screens, option menus, and how the visual novel reads will be useful to UI designers. Bird Graphics Book Store
is not exactly a database, but it chronicles graphically interesting Japanese book covers. Fonts in Use
is another database that collects fonts in everyday usage. These databases could work as a moodboard for developers or allow us to connect to staff members too, as is the well-known case with Sakugabooru
This way, we wouldn’t be working from scratch or feel lonely in our endeavors. Games are a collaborative effort and we should embrace that. Sharing our knowledge is beneficial for everybody.
And who knows, we could make an account like depths of wiki
recording some dank UI stuff we’ve found in visual novels. The PC-98 Bot
has definitely introduced many people to visual novels for sure.
3) More Open Spaces
It’s difficult to open up a blog when all the platforms aren’t friendly to people starting out. Likewise, writing a post may sometimes feel like you’re screaming into the void.
And while Discord communities are useful, there’s the aforementioned risk of closure and you are still required to find the “good” spaces. These obstacles are not inviting to new people.
We can certainly aspire for something bigger. For example, we shouldn’t put forums off the table just because they’re old; there’s still a good chunk of communities living in this “outdated” mode. More websites, zines, and newsletters dedicated to visual novels and their communities would be incredible.
And it’s important to get more developers, translators, and critics interviewed too. Doesn’t matter if it’s Japanese, English, Spanish etc. We should know about how they’re making these games and not merely respecting their right to exist. I’m thinking something like a visual novel version of Gamasutra but better.
4) Write About Us, Even When Nothing’s Happening!
Lastly, there are journalists, bloggers, and video content creators among us who could write about our work and interview people within visual novels – even when things aren’t chaotic on social media.
We shouldn’t just be interviewing people when Steam censors our visual novels. Interviewing visual novel people should be a common sight! I guarantee most of us in the visual novel scene are salivating at the idea of getting interviewed or a column to write in, myself included.
While I recognize the difficulties of writing in an industry that favors the deity of SEO, neglecting to even comment about visual novels makes it even more of a self-fulfilling prophecy. We become more marginalized as a result, so any small mention seriously helps a lot.
But at the same time, I don’t want visual novels and their creators to be merely a picture of despair thanks to Steam. We have stories we can tell because we’re just game devs, critics, and fans. You journalists have this power to platform us, so please use it. It doesn’t matter if you belong to a major platform or just a small blog read by ten people; we love to talk about visual novels.
Because we don’t just respect the scene, we care about it.