Are Visual Novels Considered Video Games?

Today, I just beat 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors. It was absolutely brilliant. I don’t want to talk about the game too much though. I plan on do a full video review of it, most likely next week. However, there is something I do want to bring up.

The game has a fabulous story, which is something I seek in great video games. However, this “game” would be considered more of a visual novel than a game. According to MobyGames.com, this is the definition of a Visual Novel.

Visual Novel: Also called NVL games, “digital novels”, and “choose-your-own-adventure games”: games in which the story is told through text overlaid on a background representing the scene being described. The player’s input is confined to periodically making choices which might affect the direction and outcome of the story. Mostly regarded as a branch of Japanese adventure, but Western examples exist as well.

Many people who frequently “read” visual novels (Ex. /jp/ on 4chan) would consider (insert noun other than ‘video game’ here) like 999 or Katawa Shoujo visual novels rather than games.999 is heavily text driven, besides puzzles you need to solve. There is certain a game aspect to 999, but the text portions are just as important. I guess the question that is on my mind is…
Are Visual Novels considered video games?

I know this is a very subjective topic, so odds are I’ll never get a definitive answer. Nevertheless, I’ll leave you with this quote from Kotaro Uchikoshi, the director/writer of 999, to give you guys something to think about.
“I believe visual-novel games don’t belong in a game store, but in a bookstore – although that might bother some of the game stores who like to sell my games, so perhaps I should rephrase it: games stores can certainly sell visual novels, but they should also be sold in bookstores. The visual-novel genre should not be fighting against major RPG/action-adventure games that developers spend billions of dollars on.”

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8 thoughts on “Are Visual Novels Considered Video Games?”

  1. I agree, even though it maybe a RPG style of gameplay the plot of the game in sense determines whether or not it should be treaded as a VN with Multiple outcomes per the way you read and interact with it.

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  2. I’m with jcphotog. I’ve always understood “video game” as a interactive video. One you an watch AND input things that either progress or change the story.

    VNs in the most basic interactive form, progress with the user choosing A or B. If the person chooses A, then X happens. If the person chooses B, then Y happens.

    That’s essentially how all games work in a nutshell. It’s just the way of choosing A or B is different and in some cases more extravagant for one game over another. Same with the outcome of Y and X being portrayed differently.

    I think people can question “Is a VN a Video Game?” But they also have to ask “Is games like Uncharted and Heavy Rain a Video Game?”

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  3. It really depends on the kind of interactivity permitted by the visual novel. If the only interaction the player has with the visual novel is to make decisions in order to determine the story path, then I’d say no, it is just a visual novel.
    However, there are visual novels that incorporate other elements, such as puzzles and point-and-click gameplay. The Ace Attorney series, for example, does this quite well, challenging the player’s logic and knowledge in order to solve different cases. In my opinion, visual novels that involve players more through interactivity could be classified as video games as well.

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  4. Of course they’re video games, just a different genre from the ones that are the most mainstream and popular, ie Action games and RPGs. Maybe ‘subgenre’ is the most accurate way of describing VN’s.

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  5. Very thought-provoking. Don’t have an opinion to proffer yet, but just thought I’d give a shout out to the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel and say Dark Horse has made animated videos of their comics and they look pretty sweet.

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  6. The only time I “read” visual novels is when they’re actually kinetic novels. If somebody is only “reading” visual novels instead of actually “playing” them, then they might as well just watch the visual novel being played on youtube or something. Whether a visual novel is a game or a digital novel all depends on the open mindedness of the individual.

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