The Intended Experience: How Best To Enjoy Your Media

Intended

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.

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Anime

Anime

– 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.

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Video Games

video games1

 – 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.

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Visual Novels

muv luv

 – 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.

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 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!

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About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
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28 Responses to The Intended Experience: How Best To Enjoy Your Media

  1. I miss having a pair of proper headphones. Mine broke about a year ago and I feel my petty ipod earphones don’t do the soundtracks justice. Plus they make my ears sore. So for now I’m just relying on computer or tv speakers.

    • Silvachief says:

      Headphones might just be the best things ever (okay, maybe not, but still!). Mine are falling apart but i’ve had them for so long I just don’t want to give them up.
      I hook my laptop up to my TV pretty often but the laptop’s speakers themselves are pretty terrible >.<

  2. Thai says:

    I’m glad to know im not the only one who consult a walkthrough instead of the “choose your adventure”.. I think its an after-effect of my first visual novel Clannad. But still I find it puzzling how to see all the route so I always consult the walkthrough first and ALWAYS follow the recommended reading order. It was a life-saver for Rewrite and Little Busters

    I can’t agree more when you say that the adult content is not what makes a visual novel. Honestly I just skip it since it really just stupid most of the time..

    • Silvachief says:

      I don’t think I could have finished Clannad without a walkthrough =P I agree that the reading order is important for Rewrite and Little Busters. If there’s no recommended order I usually make sure to start with a character I like and then finish with a character I like so that I can get interested in the story and then finish on a high note.

      I understand why H-scenes are included…but going without them would make it much easier to appeal to a wider audience. Having said that, I think that any translation should give the option of both all-ages and original copies.

  3. Lazarinth says:

    I probably break every single one of these rules at some time or another. For instance my Umineko doesn’t go full screen when I play it, not much I can really do about that. Books are awesome in that default method of reading them generally takes up 90% of your focus anyway, unless you skip certain chapters.

    • Silvachief says:

      I think I already knew that, but i’m still disappointed T_T
      I hate it when I can’t get visual novels to go full screen. Changing my laptop’s resolution helps a little, but it’s not quite the same.

  4. Kai says:

    Yea, like Lazarinth said, not all visual novels support full screen, lol. Actually, the only visual novels I played in full screen so far is Grisaia no Kajitsu, Rewrite and Ikikoi. The others doesn’t quite support such a huge resolution, so they ended up looking stretched (for the 4:3 ratio screens) or just simply jaggy/blurry.

    And indeed, I wouldn’t be able to handle watching anime without full screen xD I do stream on some rare occasions, but one thing I dislike about streaming anime, other than my slow internet speed, is the ads always popping out of nowhere. Kinda annoying, lol.

    • Silvachief says:

      I hadn’t realized how wonderful my laptops awkward 1440×900 resolution was XD I do have to deal with black stripes on the sides on occasion but it’s better than having everything on my desktop distracting me.

      I’ve never been a massive fan of streaming (though i’ve never tried the official streaming sites, admittedly) just because of the horrific quality of most series you can find online. Coupled with ads and some really weird video hosting setups, I usually just watch what I can get my hands on offline.

  5. Lambda says:

    Personally, if I want to do something in the middle of an anime marathon, like checking tumblr or facebook or looking something up, I do it during the ED. The animation’s more forgettable and I can no longer just speed through shows in the same way I used to… I need to split it up somehow. I also use Ad Block so I don’t get ads in the middle of streaming…

    …Headphones tend to put to make me uncomfortable after a while, and visual novels never full screen for me, so I can’t do that. I also don’t think it’s a huge problem if you don’t want to hear the voices, to be honest. If they actually detract from the VN because your priority is finishing it/the text itself then it’s better to just turn the voices off. (I was actually looking forward to FSN’s h-scenes because the voices would stop and I could read at the pace I actually wanted and that’s a bad sign).

    I have to say I’m the exact opposite on the ending-beginning front. Typically a beginning/the concept grabs me and then I’m burnt out and bored or pissed by the final route… I read the first parts at a much quicker pace than the ending. The choose your own adventure aspects of VNs are some of my favourite parts, but typically I need to look up a walkthrough anyway unless it’s short. I also save at every choice. There’s no way I’m doing all that again.

    My opinions on h-scenes: sure, in VNs they probably aren’t really the point of the story and easy enough to ignore. If they use h-scenes as a crutch, though? If the only bad thing happening to the girls is rape, though? When there are more than 4 h-scenes in a row? I chuck it/just stop reading. I really don’t need an attempted rape to give a character amnesia when hitting her head would’ve done the same thing.

    • Silvachief says:

      Watching the OPs and EDs is probably the least important “rule” i’ve got up here. I generally watch each a few times and only continue to watch them if I really enjoy them (and some I can’t help but watch, like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IH4nbdnWWIo).

      I find that headphones give me the best sound experience, and mine are really comfortable! I can understand disliking them if they’re not though. Until posting this I hadn’t even considered that so many people can’t get visual novels full screen…it’s normally the first setting I look for when I start a new one. I personally enjoy the voice acting in visual novels because it helps me feel more connected with the characters, Thankfully, if it’s something you don’t enjoy, many newer VNs have to option to turn off the voice alone.

      I usually start off interested in whatever new story i’m reading but that peters out if nothing happens within the first few hours or so (Grisaia started to get old by the time it finally got to its routes). Then whenever the character routes get into their story i’m usually gripped until the end (unless I don’t like that particular route). I guess I don’t like the idea of accidentally getting an ending i’m not after, it seems like a waste of time to me. Also, i’m worried i’ll miss something important by not following a recommended path. For instance, I never would have known about Kira Kira’s fourth ending if I hadn’t been using a guide.

      I think most of your points are fair and I would feel the same, though there are some exceptions. Tomoyo After, for instance, had about 30 minutes of consecutive H-scenes followed by 20 hours of great story that I wouldn’t have seen if i’d given up at the start (which I did, originally). Because our conversations on Muv-Luv were so scattered, I think its worth asking again what you thought of Alternative’s H-scene?

      • Lazarinth says:

        The style of that ending reminded me of a more up beat version of that touhou Bad Apple music video.

      • Lambda says:

        I always end up watching the OP, so I guess I follow that rule more than you do… When it comes to EDs I do the same, though. After the first episode or two I stat multi tasking during the ED. It’s easier. The anime I ended up watching the ED a lot for was Polar Bear’s Cafe. They eventually get enough variety (I mean there’s even one for Panda’s mom??) and they’re all interesting enough…

        It’s less ‘can’t get fullscreen’ and more like ‘if I press the fullscreen option there are still ugly black bars and the screen still looks puny but somehow the text is harder to read’. Oddly enough, the only VN I’ve had properly fill the entire screen was OELVN Pizz’Amore…. I’m always in awe of the sheer number of options that VNs come with, though.

        Ah, I know what you mean. It’s typically easy once you’re far into a heroine’s route (like got to the main problem). Then I finish it in about a night. It’s just getting there… I’m the type that prefers the destination, I guess. When it comes to endings, so long as I don’t do a Bad End, I don’t care… Although if there’s a recommended order I’ll look that up. If it’s a chara-ge or something similar, I prefer to show myself through the choices and see who I get (playing Tokimemo blind was fun)

        [Spoilers for MLA. I’m Sorry]
        Alternative’s h-scene is actually starting to form a pet peeve in VNs that I didn’t even know it was possible to have: consensual scenes right after noncon ones (the next game I played followed this pattern too). The game just got me riled up and angry and now they’re sharing a tender moment? Better placing needed. Although I like that it genuinely felt like a part of their relationship and served a purpose and the undertone of sadness was well done… If I were to talk about the actual h, though, it was about at Extra level (I’m ambivalent towards it).
        If we’re talking the BETA scene, that scene was utterly effective because it was disgusting and made me incredibly angry, which was the point. Poor Sumika… Especially when she started talking about how she called out Takeru’s name to delude herself into thinking Takeru took her first time instead of the BETA…

    • Kai says:

      I think I kinda disagree on the voices, though you might be comfortable without the voices still :p

      When I just started out, I also thought finishing VNs without voices would make my marathons that much faster. But in the end, the experience just isn’t the same. It’s one of the reason I regretted not getting the voice patch for FSN when I played it. I also played the first few parts of ef without the voices, though I switched it back on a little later. Ever since then, I haven’t been switching voices off :p

      • Lambda says:

        I played FSN with and without the voices and I don’t think I felt that special the second time… Of course, we’re talking ~4 years apart here so who knows? I actually always play with voices on, but I was thinking of capitalizing on my habit of giving all my energy in the first dozen or so hours of reading by giving more of the story in that time. It’s not about marathoning, it’s about finishing within the month I downloaded it (I’ve been playing Ayakashibito since April because I out and out dropped it at points and picked it up, played a route and then dropped it). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not having the voices off if you give voices to the characters yourself in your head (or out loud, if that’s your thing). It’d be the same thing as a book. The only VN I’ve been able to judge on acting quality/get the nuances of the VAs has been English dubbed, after all. I get where you’re coming from, though. Certain VNs can sell based on the seiyuu cast alone, so voices can definitely add to the experience.

  6. fire says:

    Lack of fullscreen never really bothered me, but I agree unreservedly about the voices. In the most critical scenes, you can hear the raw emotions from the characters’ voices. When reading Comyu recently, I was content to just sit there and listen to Kagome speak during the climactic scenes of the novel. A thousands things and one, not necessarily revealed through mere words, can be discovered from listening to the character speak – feelings and conviction, outlook and intelligence, personality and strength.

    Though the written component of the visual novel is still, by far, the most important, a visual novel still has visual and aural elements. One of the reasons why I think G-Senjou was so fucktastic was that its music was incomparably good, and characters like Maou had perfect voice acting.

  7. fire says:

    Actually, perhaps tangentially, I’ll like to add that being literate in the language in which the story was written almost certainly improves your enjoyment of it.

    I gather (from your comment on Aaeru’s 2013 blog post on learning Japanese and your own blog post “Weekly Ramblings 2”) that you’ve had similar thoughts and are learning Japanese? How has it been?

    I’ve actually recently started myself, using Aaeru’s method, with a little modification: 1) Memorizing the meaning of Kanji + 2) Memorizing kana + 3) Memorizing vocabulary + 4) Reading Tae Kim’s grammar guide + 5) Reading VNs and painstakingly, with a dictionary and grammar guide on hand, iteratively improving your Japanese.

    • Silvachief says:

      I’m steadily moving along with my Japanese. I’m actually planning to head to Japan for four weeks of medical training (we can pick any country) in 2016, so I have a pretty big incentive to learn the language!

      I’m currently sitting at a little over 1000 kanji/vocab words learned but my grammar is still relatively basic. Verb conjugation is a major hurdle that I don’t have the time to overcome at the moment >.< I've got a 3 month break at the end of the year, which is when i'm planning to really buckle down on it.

      I'm pretty confident about the methods i've picked up. If I were to advise anyone on how to go about learning i'd say to start off by learning Hiragana and Katakana. I personally like (read: love) Memrise and use it for Kana/Kanji memorization; it's very easy to use and has nice features like audio files for each word (and it's free). Anki is an alternative that many seem to like, though i'm not too fond of it. I can fit in learning an extra 25 words/kanji a week but you can move as fast as you have time for as long as it won't burn you out.

      For grammar I like Tae Kim's guide and refer to the Amaterasu guide when i'm confused about something (http://amaterasu.tindabox.net/guide/). Just recently though i've discovered an app called Human Japanese which is great for building grammar from the ground up. It's more like having a teacher than a textbook just because of the tone it's written in. It's most useful if you already know the vocab they use.

      My final step will be painstakingly grinding through Japanese visual novels. I've already tried it once with a group of learners and my need to perfectly translate each sentence was a major issue XD I think i'll get a better foundation of knowledge before I try that again. It's probably the best way to learn though if you want to develop an idiomatic understanding of the language.

      • fire says:

        Did you find memorizing the meaning of kanji to be as difficult as it is (infamously) supposed to be? I’m actually curious as to how difficult/time-consuming learning kanji is. I happen to have mandarin as a second language, so learning kanji has thus far hasn’t been too tough. The main source of frustration for me is that Chinese kanji pronunciation is very different from on-yomi (let alone kun-yomi) pronunciation, so my knowledge of spoken mandarin is almost close to useless. That said, should I be expecting already being somewhat familiar with kanji to significantly reduce the amount of time I need to commit to learning Japanese?

        Incidentally, when you say that you feel the need to translate each sentence perfectly, do you mean “understand the meaning perfectly” or “translate into English perfectly”? If the former, I sympathize with your perfectionism! If the latter – isn’t it the case that you shouldn’t be seeking to translate back into our native English, since you should be seeking to

        On another note – has learning Japanese whilst at university been a hassle? Does it in any way affect your ability to concentrate on your studies? I’ll actually be flying to the UK come October to begin my undergraduate studies 🙂 , and I suspect that juggling both university (lectures and tutorial essays and exams) as well as Japanese might be more challenging than expected.

        • Silvachief says:

          I imagine the difficulty of memorizing kanji for each person would vary widely. I personally find that I tend to learn the overall “look” of the kanji rather than the radicals that make it up, so when I have to learn similar looking kanji I stumble a bit. Having said that I wouldn’t say that I find it difficult because of how interesting it is for me; finally learning the kanji for words I hear repeatedly in anime/vns is awesome! I have a friend who speaks mandarin fluently and he often understands the meaning of Japanese sentences even without being able to actually read them. I imagine that with kanji with similar meanings to their mandarin counterparts the memorization would be easier, but those with different meanings would be a great deal harder. Unfortunately, I honestly have no idea whether your knowledge will make the overall experience easier or harder, though i’m leaning towards easier.

          The issue I had when trying to read the visual novels was that I didn’t have a solid understanding of Japanese sentence structure, so translating back into English was the easiest way for me to make sure I understood what each phrase meant when I was discussing it with others. Were I to try it again, I would probably be more relaxed about it and just try to get the meaning on board.

          My particular course is rather full-on and can be stressful, so at the moment i’m putting minimal time into my Japanese study, and if I have an assignment due it goes out the window altogether. I spend about an hour learning new words (about 25, as mentioned before) each Saturday and then about 10 minutes going over what Memrise tells me I need to revise every other day of the week, so I don’t commit a huge amount of time to my learning. Of course, when you consider that I read my new grammar app (Human Japanese) when I get free time during the day (Tae Kim’s guide is too much for me to concentrate on unless I devote a decent amount of time to it) and watch anime/ read visual novels almost every night, I suppose I get a fair amount of exposure to Japanese anyway.

          I would advise you to just do whatever you can without stressing yourself out. If you get into the rhythm of a schedule it makes learning that much easier and makes putting off learning that much harder. If you’re not too overambitious you should be able to get through just fine (depending on your course University is pretty easy, actually, as soon as you get used to it). In any case, I wish you good luck for both your official and extracurricular studies!

          • fire says:

            Thanks for the advice! I’m spending at least 15-30 minutes a day on kanji and kana, and more time on weekends for vocab, so all in all I don’t think it’ll be too burdensome.

            My university course actually demands 2-3 essays a week, as well as for students to defend their essays in tutorial sessions, but I think this is manageable!

            How was Amane’s route in Grisaia? Would you consider writing up a partial review for Grisaia? It’s actually long enough, and the story disparate enough, that only writing a review at the end might be hard.

            • Silvachief says:

              I liked Amane’s a lot more than I liked Makina’s, though i’d be the first to admit that that may just be because I like Amane a lot more than Makina XD It still had some fairly major issues though, as a large portion of the route (and I mean almost the majority) isn’t even in the present day which means that character interactions are incredibly limited. If Makina got a 6/10 then Amane would get a 7/10 in my opinion – though that’s just a very quick estimate.

              I’m not planning to do a partial review as I like to have all of my information in one place and prefer to rate overall experience rather than individual routes (though Rewrite was an exception to this due to how it was written). I’m generally pretty good at getting my thoughts together after long periods of time (Umineko took me ages to finish), so i’m not worried about the review at the end.

  8. Rei says:

    I myself follow this sets of rules for the best experience whether it’s watching anime, playing video games or listening to musics. I guess you missed the music part for this post but maybe you’re not into it so that’s fine haha. I don’t get some people who multitask and watch anime at the same time. The experience and to enjoy something at the fullest isn’t there and yet they can write reviews and such. Not enjoying it the way it was suppose to be is a problem for me.

    • Silvachief says:

      It’s good to find someone who actually seems to follow these XD I guess music wasn’t included because I probably break most of the rules I would post for it! And because, to me at least, listening to music is a more personal experience. While listening to it with headphones is definitely the best, I find it difficult to dedicate my time to listening to music alone. I’ll do it when playing games that don’t rely on their audio (multiplayer, mostly), surfing the net, walking to and from class and exercising (though I haven’t done that last one for a while >.<). The only time i'm solely listening to music is just before bed, as I find it helps me get to sleep.

      • Rei says:

        Haa that is good not to include it then, wouldn’t want you to give advice on something you don’t practically do. Personally I have a good setup for music as well rather than games and anime(different headphones and etc). I just like listening to it while browsing and most of the time just listening with my eyes closed to listen to every details there is in each music. All music have to be 320kbps the lowest for me, if not it’s just terrible to my ears most of the time. I agree that during normal situations like walking or jogging, I don’t actually use a proper setup but as long as it’s good music, I think it will suffice.

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