Blog Post #3

This weeks module was incredibly fascinating to me as an artist and writer myself. Particularly, the idea of digital storytelling is so interesting because it can be used in many ways. For example, visual novels – the Japanese answer to Choose-Your-Own-Adventure – have become incredibly popular throughout the world. These are games that make use of manga visuals, music, and text to tell stories that branch into multiple paths. The genres can range from romance to cosmic horror. In addition, the idea of web novels has become popular as well. This is another form of digital storytelling where indie creators will make use of the internet to tell a story. They are usually updated daily or monthly and have visuals, maps, etc. I’m actually writing and drawing an ongoing one myself that is called “Red Shift”.

https://tapas.io/series/Red-Shift2/info

With all that being said, tinkering around with Twine has been interesting. I can think of many people who would absolutely make use of this program: players of D&D, visual novel developers, writers, comic artists, etc. I did a small sample with it using my novel but since the technical activity calls for a historical story, I’ll be finishing the activity with something else.

On another note, I found The Oregon Trail to be interesting if not a bit odd. It’s always tricky when creating historical games simply because it’s easy to embellish the facts or tweak it to make it a bit more fantastical. But at the same time, games like these can be utilized in the classroom to teach students. There’s actually one I played recently that is just called Pre-Dynastic Egypt. It’s well written, factual, and the graphics are gorgeous. I know that when I was a kid, games weren’t considered educational and the ones that tried to be educational were typically shunned by kids. That is definitely changing nowadays haha!

8 comments on Blog Post #3

  1. Hi Emily! Thanks for sharing the information regarding Japanese visual novels! I have never heard of them before. I will definitely have to check one out! Do you have any suggestions?

    I agree with your assessment of Oregon Trail as being kind of reductive. Having worked on Twine, I think it is really hard to come up with an engaging and informative game that has the right ratio of text to game. I tend to want to include lots of information, but I think that can bog down the gaming experience. I think now, during covid, elementary school teachers are wishing there were more decent ed. games for their students to use in the online ed. system. It is so difficult to keep kids engaged on zoom (and adults too!) Having more games that teach history in a meaningful way seems like something we should be seriously considering moving forward.

    1. Hello, Jayme! I have tons of recommendations when it comes to visual novels but one I always suggest to newcomers is Key’s sci-fi tale “Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet”! It doesn’t have any choices and the story is short yet straightforward. It gives a good impression of how the medium works with visuals, animations, and storytelling. And another that is really fun but very long is “Root Double”! That one has many choices and puzzles to solve. Both games are available to buy on Steam and can be played on the computer.

      And I agree! After Covid, I’m very curious to see how education in general will have evolved. I do feel like there will be more interaction with edutainment haha.

  2. Thanks for providing some information on Japanese visual novels! I also have not heard of these before and it’s very interesting how different these genres can range. I’ll have to check out Red Shift! It is strange how The Oregon Trail is considered a historical game when there isn’t all that much being taught about the history as you play. I agree with how when I was a kid there weren’t many games offered, especially in the classroom to help teach us. I think the most educational games that we got to experience were only ever related to math and learning how to type. It definitely is a hard balance for games being historical but also something that kids want to play and learn from.

  3. I had also considered how this could be a useful tool to D&D players! The branching structure of the story along with the ability to keep track of things like stats and money would make it a prime tool for an unconventional campaign. You could even build in results based on different rolls, although that would wind up being insanely complicated. Instead, it would be more useful to have a branching of events, like after entering a location saying “the end result is you succeeded at this, or you failed at this” and then it can set a new scene for you, with a DM handling the in between. I haven’t played in a while because I just don’t have the time, but I think that would be a really cool experiment for D&D.

  4. Hi Emily,

    I too am interested in the Japanese form that you mentioned. Can you recommend a web site to consult (preferably with an English interface)? I am also thinking of comic books which offer a similar way of breaking up a story. People often think they are only for kids, but comic books also offer different ways of structuring and illustrating a story. I remember my mother wouldn’t let us have comic books when I was growing up, so I used to read them at my cousin’s house. The first time I read Tale of Two Cities, it was in comic book form.

    1. Hello, Kathy! There is an English database that is called VNDB.org but I would be wary of visiting it as there tends to be some… unsavory content. For the lighter side of things, I would actually visit the Steam website! They have published many popular and famous visual novels in English for very decent prices. And it’s funny you mention the Tale of Two Cities comic as I had a similar experience with War of the Worlds!

  5. Thank you for your insight on how digital-born storytelling intersects with digital-born art. I think that these visual novels/web novels could draw upon history. I also believe that creative writing and visual representation calls for artistic license. However, to ensure the history remains educational, I think confining this artistic license to something historically reasonable is important. For instance, in this scenario, the artist or writer should avoid introducing anachronistic objects or phrasing. In fact, as you mention, the Oregon Trail fell a bit flat due to a lack of fleshed out storytelling. (Of course, there are other issues like reductivism in this game, but I know that this was an early game—historic in fact.)

  6. Hi Emily,

    It’s so exciting that you’re working on a visual novel! I haven’t looked at these much, but have done a lot of research on webcomics, and there’s so many interesting ways that the web and social platforms can be used to structure storytelling in non-linear ways.

    -Stephanie

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