I happened to be looking at blog statistics the other day and stumbled across an interesting google search that led someone to The Geek Clinic. It got me to thinking about how I might answer their question, and this is the post that came out of it.
“How best to enjoy a visual novel?”
When someone creates something, whether it be an anime, a video game, a visual novel or a book, they intend for their creation to be experienced in a certain way. I have immense respect for the people that craft the stories I love, so it’s incredibly important to me that I experience them the proper way out of respect for the creator. For me, every medium has its own set of rules that I must follow to get the full amount of enjoyment out of the time I spend with it. Maybe it’s an odd sort of obsession, maybe it’s just my preference, but today I want to share how I think you can achieve the Intended Experience.
[Disclaimer]: While these are presented as rules I understand that everyone has their own viewing preferences and are in no way inferior for having them. Probably.
– Full screen. No exceptions. I’ve seen a number of people watching shows with their window minimized and ads flashing everywhere, and I just don’t understand it.
– Both earphones/headphones in. Some series have different audial input for right and left speakers, so don’t miss out on it. I prefer headphones that cover your ears. Surround sound works surprisingly well without speakers.
– Whenever you start a watching session, no matter how many episodes, watch the OP. Then watch the ED when you finish. Unless you’re not too keen on them, in which case it’s okay. The idea here is that it hypes you up for what’s going to happen in the coming episode. A warm-up, if you will.
– Don’t multitask. Yes, you probably can get a general idea of what’s going on while you write or read something else, but you absolutely cannot get the full enjoyment out of a series if you watch it that way.
– …look past fan service? I don’t know, this one’s odd for me as well. Just be aware that even shows with horrendous amounts of feminist ammunition can be worthwhile and enjoyable.
– You absolutely must not under any circumstances play a story-heavy/atmosphere-heavy game without sound. A friend of mine played Portal muted and didn’t get what all of the fuss was about. Well no wonder.
– Don’t freak out about 100% completion on your first playthrough. Chances are that if you plan to do that you have time for an extra run, so don’t miss the forest for the trees and end up burning out.
– Actually play the game. I don’t care how good the Youtube presenter is, it’s impossible to feel involved in what’s going on if you really aren’t involved. If you really have to, watch the Let’s Play afterwards.
– Once again, full screen and both earphones in (though headphones are preferable). The visual and audial components of a VN are arguably more important than in any other medium, so make sure you experience them in the best way possible.
– Listen to the voices. Admittedly, this is where I fall down. At least appreciate the tone of what’s being said and the way each character speaks; those voice actors inflate the price of visual novels hugely so you should probably make the most of their performance. I think it helps you feel more connected to the characters, as well.
– Give them a chance. If I had a dollar for every time I didn’t like the start of a visual novel and went on to love the ending I’d have…well, not very much. But that’s just because I haven’t read a huge amount to begin with!
– Ok, so here’s where looking past adult content becomes a little more firm. Unless you’ve picked up a Nukige (and if you have, you won’t care about this anyway), the sexual content of a visual novel is not its focus. If I had a dollar for every time I’d enjoyed other aspects of a visual novel with an R18 rating…well, I still wouldn’t have very much, but it would be at least fifty times greater than the amount from the previous point and growing with every new VN.
– Look up a walkthrough first. Visual novels will often have either a recommended reading order or “hidden” endings. You don’t have to follow the guide, but be aware of the best way to experience the story. I personally don’t care too much about the “choose your adventure” aspect of visual novels; I just want to enjoy them as much as possible.
As mentioned earlier, those are just the ways I like to experience the things I love. There’s no “right way” to do it and everyone has their own style. So what does everyone else do? Do you think I’ve missed out something important? If I like it, I’ll add it to the list!