Thoughts: “Playing” vs. “reading” eroge

I’ve noticed there seems to be a group of people who say they read eroge and another group who say they play them. I wanted to do a quick comparison between potential reasoning for people using each term and decide which fits the genre best.

Let’s just ignore the fact that the -ge stands for game since a lot of people in the English translated community call them visual novels. I’m going to focus on their properties, not their names.

Defense for “reading”: Eroge have a lot of emphasis on the text, and  basically the only thing the audience does is read. So they’re basically like books or manga — they’re read.

Defense for “playing”: Eroge have text, pictures, sound and usually at least some interactivity, therefore they’re akin to games and are played.

I’m part of the latter group. In case you haven’t read my previous “Thoughts” article, I wrote about the defining characteristics of eroge and why we play them. Voices, in particular, are a significant contribution to my enjoyment of the genre. So if we exclude interactivity for now, including voices, pictures, and text makes eroge close to foreign subtitled movies. Do people say they read them? No. They watch them.

So now let’s add interactivity — choices. If our baseline of text, voices, and pictures equals watching, we already eliminated reading as a potential verb. Adding interactivity would logically bring it closer to  traditional video games, which includes text, voices, pictures, and interactivity. We say that we play traditional video games, therefore it seems to me that we should also say we play eroge.

Some people may argue that the interactiveness is weak, but it’s still there. It’s still an important aspect of the genre. Most people probably want to decide which path they’re going to end up on and the order they play them in.

Yes, there are exceptions to every example I provided. There are movies and eroge without sound. There are eroge without choices. But in general, most modern eroge and movies fit my description. Instead of focusing on the outliers, focusing on the most common example makes sense. And from what I’ve argued, “playing” eroge makes more sense.

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5 Responses to Thoughts: “Playing” vs. “reading” eroge

  1. Micchi says:

    I’m on the ‘playing’ side since not only do you see it (like a book), but there are sounds too. Although the experience is similar to reading a book, for the story. Unless you’re Hemi.

  2. Asceai says:

    But if you only play the route of the heroine you like, what’s the difference between Tenshin Ranman and one of many good VNs that lack choices altogether? I mean, it’s not as if you had much choice while playing the game if you were only going to read one route.

    I think the ‘reading’ and ‘playing’ groups are the same. VNs are a medium you execute to gain insight and entertainment, whether that is gained from the variety of choices (especially in things like France Shoujo where the choices you make are very important and have a very obvious and continuous effect on the story – very few of the choices you have to make are obvious at all), the scenario or writing (in 神ゲー like イマ and 何処行く), the art and atmosphere in extremely visual stories (such as ef and eden*), the gameplay in titles like the 戦女神 games or a combination of some or all of these. I don’t think there is a large fundamental difference in the way people enjoy VNs.

  3. Reikon says:

    @Micchi: Well, books aren’t the only type of media that people enjoy for the story. Movies and (rarely) normal games can have good stories too.

    @Asceai: But I chose to only play that route. Without interactivity, I could have been forced to play other routes first. Interactivity allows me to provide some feedback. Just as in games, your interaction dictates what your experience will end up being. In an open world game like GTA, someone could just run out blowing stuff up. Their experience would be vastly different from someone who followed the story. Each method of playing would be like a route in an eroge.

    And I think you’re misunderstanding me. I’m not arguing people enjoy them differently. It’s something much more simple: what verb should be used what talking about enjoying it. I simply went through the logic behind each argument and tried to determine what I thought was most appropriate.

    Arguing how people enjoy them depends too much on the person and is beyond the scope of my abilities. It’s like that for any type of recreation. People enjoy them differently and what they get out of it varies.

  4. Moriken says:

    Use the verb you want ^^
    I happen to use both…although the act of reading definitely dominates the visual novel experience…

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