everywhere else

western preference

Visual novels have had a hard time making it in the West for a number of reasons. Like Japan, visual novels suffer in the West thanks to their erotica stereotype. Action-heavy games tend to be more popular, like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. It would appear that most people in the US and Europe simply aren’t interested in doing much reading when it comes to their video games. That’s not to say that they don’t enjoy a good story, as many action RPGs like the Fallout franchise contain strong plotlines with the first-person perspective and decision-making ability to give you a sense of responsibility over the course of the game.

translation and censorship

There’s also the issue of translation. Most visual novels are created and produced in Japan without translating the product into any other languages, so a lot of the visual novels that make it to the West have done so through fan-made translations. Platforms like Steam have a habit of heavily censoring any kind of sexual content when officially translating and releasing games, which can be beneficial in making visual novels accessible to an all-ages audience, but it can also compromise the story by removing innuendos and jokes that contribute to the story and character development overall.

The Fruit of Grisaia, Front Wing, 2014
Steins;Gate, Mages Inc., 2009

elsewhere

Outside of Japan and the West there are a few notable visual novel-style games, one being VA-11 HALL-A, with the bulk of the small creation team in Venezuela, and another being Mystic Messenger, a “storytelling messenger game” developed by the South Korean company Cheritz.

recognition in the US

The Ace Attorney franchise is generally considered the first and one of the most successful visual novel series to make it in America thus far, originally released with its English translation in the year 2005. When it comes to visual novels actually made in the West, there’s Hanako Games, an independent game development company founded by Georgina Bensley that primarily produces dating simulators. There are also Canadian visual novels like Analogue: A Hate Story by Christine Love. Katawa Shoujo is also extremely well known in the visual novel community and Doki Doki Literature Club even received mainstream media exposure with accusations that it drove children to commit suicide; articles addressing this were actually referencing the wrong game, showing how little understanding the authors had about the topic at hand. Most of the time they accused Doki Doki Literature Club but were actually describing a South Korean mobile dating sim called Mystic Messenger.

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