Katawa Shoujo
August 9, 2010 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Romance Game Monday: Katawa Shoujo is a free dating game that is in progress, but the first act is available for download on all major OSes and in several languages. Why is this on MetaFilter, when there are other free visual novels? Well, this one is made by a Western team that originated on 4chan's /b/ after Dojinshi artist Raita made a sketch of disabled school girls.

Reactions have been mixed.

The fanart (SFW) communities have taken a shine (NSFW) to the characters.

For those who have not heard of eroge visual novels such as this one, the basic concept is that you select dialog choices to result in different endings. You generally end up dating (and becoming intimate) with the girl you were the nicest towards. And it's served up with anime/manga-style graphics, including the parts with sexuality (although the makers of this specific one have chosen to make it optional to play through and view).
posted by mccarty.tim (23 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh, fie. It's now Tuesday in my native time zone as I post this.

Anyway, my personal opinion is that the game kind of fetishizes the disabilities in a creepy way, although from my brief play-through it could have been much worse. Didn't want to frame the post that way, though!
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:29 PM on August 9, 2010


Just wanted to make sure everyone understands this: all of the girls in this are profoundly handicapped. Read the character descriptions.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:34 PM on August 9, 2010


Why is this on MetaFilter?...

[it] originated on 4chan's /b/... fetishizes the disabilities in a creepy way


I haven't clicked the links but I don't think either of those things was listed in the "what makes a good post" literature.
posted by sanko at 9:36 PM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Disabled MeFite here, I'll check this out tomorrow and weigh in. Thanks for the post!
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:40 PM on August 9, 2010


Man, that triggered a memory...I followed this for a while, more out of boredom than anything else. /b/? really? I would've figured more for /a/, or maybe /jp/...

Anyway, I don't actually remember much about the bit that I saw myself, other than xylophones and heart conditions, and I'm still not sure whether the former came from the game itself or a totally unrelated YouTube video that I looked at afterward.
posted by KChasm at 9:41 PM on August 9, 2010


I think this is completely fascinating. The reactions to it are really telling about the person forming the opinion.

My immediate reaction to any dating sim is low-level revulsion, but then I remind myself that I have been known to spend my days writing fanfic about fictional teenagers. Who am I to judge?

This one in particular is pulling a lot of interesting people and their myriad worldviews out of the woodworks to share their thoughts, and is providing a impetus for disabled gamers to speak up about representation and fetishization. It's also showing, once again, that 4chan is capable of some pretty compelling things if the inspiration latches hold strong enough.

I have no intention of playing this game myself, but the fact that it's as slickly produced with as much heartfelt input as it appears to have in the writing and character interactions pleases me. If 4chan can get together to make something like this, then that's a good indicator of their continued ability to express themselves creatively and productively, instead of just churning out the same old extreme noise.
posted by Mizu at 9:52 PM on August 9, 2010


The focus seems to remain on the personalities of the girls in the story and the way they cope with their unique challenges, rather than lavishing unnecessarily on their disabilities. Judging by the demo, the theme is Hisao’s struggle to accept his condition, and the ways relationships with his disabled classmates help him accept himself. That level of sincerity, or at least the aim at it, is not uncommon in visual novels, although attention to narrative doesn’t usually satisfy critics of the erotic material.

This is true, h games can have a lot of messed up stuff in them but they can be very poignant at times. I haven't played this but it sounds a lot like A Drug That Makes You Dream, in that it's about girls that have serious personal problems.
posted by sickle cell moon at 9:54 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The setting is a school for disabled kids - is that still extant (or the norm) in Japan? I realize that disabled people in Japan are much more likely to be segregated away, hidden, or otherwise not integrated into society, but I'm only aware of that in the abstract and don't really know how it plays out in practice. (One of the disability-related organizations I belong to became the topic of a Japanese photojournalist who ended up doing some really fantastic work over a period of a few years, and published in Japan to apparently rave reviews once the initial "wait, you're publishing a book with pictures of disabled people" reaction died out.)
posted by spaceman_spiff at 1:51 AM on August 10, 2010


Wow, it looks like they've done a really professional job so far.
Their staff page makes it sound like they started on /a/, which makes more sense. This is far too unaggressive to have come from /b/.
posted by lucidium at 3:13 AM on August 10, 2010


So this is like, Leisure Suit Larry at the Special Needs School?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:53 AM on August 10, 2010


What bothers me about this game about disabled kids is that there is a subculture in ecchi/hentai anime (the porn-side of anime (animated) and manga (comic book) media) that is called guro. I entreat you not to Google this term unless you have a very strong stomach. In guro anime/manga, part of the taboo that folks who like it seem to find exciting is the mutilation (sometimes not painful, just surgical) or hurting (can get very sadistic) of the almost always female participants.

There are subsets and subcultures for guro anime/manga that are even more upsetting to experience/describe (unless it happens to be your fetish, I guess), so I won't delve.

It can be more difficult for some folks to apply moral judgments to what is obviously fictional (because it's drawn, not photographed or filmed) storytelling, but my glancing (as in the Internet shows you things you wish you could forget sometimes) acquaintance with guro anime/manga tells me that it's not for me, and I'm extremely uncomfortable around it.

I don't quite feel comfortable soundly condemning the genre (from a freedom of expression/tolerance point of view), but I do think it's extremely fucked up.

And I worry that this game might be delving into that territory, or at the very least consumed by folks coming to the work from this territory.
posted by kalessin at 5:15 AM on August 10, 2010


And I worry that this game might be delving into [guro], or at the very least consumed by folks coming to the work from this territory.

Of course it is. No judgment from me at this time, though.
posted by zeek321 at 5:23 AM on August 10, 2010


Of course it is.

But lots of things are covertly (blatantly) sexual. This happens to be non-normative sexuality. Hmm.
posted by zeek321 at 5:38 AM on August 10, 2010


spaceman spiff: "I realize that disabled people in Japan are much more likely to be segregated away, hidden, or otherwise not integrated into society"

I dunno about that. Non-integrated, perhaps, but certainly non-hidden. I saw a lot more disabled people working in America than I have in Japan, but I've seen a lot more disabled people in general in Japan than I did in America. I suspect it's just because the society is far less car oriented and more pedestrian oriented, so you see more people in general, and a wider cross-section of society.
posted by Bugbread at 6:19 AM on August 10, 2010


I decided to check this out. It is horrible. Not because of content, because of presentation. I spent 25 minutes clicking through single sentences. It's wordy and of course the early stages are exposition, but really now, this is just garbage. I spent 25 minutes essentially reading 3 pages of text while looking at clip art of a hospital room and a school exterior.

There is nothing really happening but it's all presented visually as if there were something happening. At first I thought it was a deliberate attempt to be boring because the character says he's bored in the hospital. But then there's a scene change and he is presumably excited to get to the new school and meets new people, and it is just as wordy and boring with almost nothing visual happening.

Is this typical of this genre of games?
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:39 AM on August 10, 2010


So just to double-check: I'm female, and straight, which means that this game has nothing to offer me, correct?
posted by ErikaB at 10:17 AM on August 10, 2010


Is this typical of this genre of games?

You mean, clicking through sentences with a static background and maybe a character sprite in the foreground?

...Yeah, actually.
posted by KChasm at 11:15 AM on August 10, 2010


spaceman_spiff: The setting is a school for disabled kids - is that still extant (or the norm) in Japan?

Whilst working in junior high schools in Japan, I saw both disabled children integrated into the mainstream classes and in their own separate classes.

I also spent time in two yougo-gakko (literally something like "nursing schools"). One was for severely physically handicapped children and ranged from primary school up to the end of sixth-form. The other had children who had mental problems, described in general as "shyness" by one teacher there, and was a week-boarding school. Both were very nice, positive environments. In fact, they were some of the nicest schools I have ever visited, in any country.

All these experiences were only in one large city, but certainly they were still around there.
posted by fizban at 1:06 PM on August 10, 2010


I played through it, and came away pleasantly surprised; the game has a degree of restraint and empathy for its characters, which I wasn't expecting. The writing is essentially "literate young adult", with nothing that strikes me as exploitative, and only one image I saw in the entire first chapter could be construed as risque. The pacing is quite slow,with quite a bit of time between choices, but this was really well done, considering the community from which it sprang, and I'd encourage people to check it out.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 2:00 PM on August 10, 2010


You mean, clicking through sentences with a static background and maybe a character sprite in the foreground?

...Yeah, actually.


No, I meant clicking through sentences with the same static background for like 20 minutes at a time. This seems like the least efficient way to present text ever. I mean seriously, there are sections in the beginning where a character repeatedly presents her line, "..." (including the quotes) to indicate she is saying nothing, and you have to click through that again and again. Is this intended to be deliberately infuriating?
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:01 PM on August 10, 2010


No, I'm pretty sure it's genre thing. Granted, it's been a while since I played any visual novels, but everything you're saying--yeah, that sounds just about right, especially the "dot dot dot" and the "click for every sentence" thing.
posted by KChasm at 7:09 PM on August 10, 2010


These games are a subset of visual novels. It's meant to be more immersive than straight text: the authors have the ability to partially control the pace at which you consume the information (rather than you speed reading / skimming) and the ability to add some level of visuals / sounds to flesh out the experience.

It's like the book vs movie argument - they both have different strengths and weaknesses for you to appreciate. The visual novel genre falls somewhere between the two -
posted by xdvesper at 8:05 PM on August 10, 2010


No, I meant clicking through sentences with the same static background for like 20 minutes at a time. This seems like the least efficient way to present text ever. I mean seriously, there are sections in the beginning where a character repeatedly presents her line, "..." (including the quotes) to indicate she is saying nothing, and you have to click through that again and again. Is this intended to be deliberately infuriating?

Ha ha, yes all of that is very much the status quo in h games. They are really really text-heavy and most of the gameplay involves clicking through text line by line. It's kinda a thing in Japanese games in general, I've played a lot of mainstream JRPGs that had pages and pages of unskippable dialog text.

In guro anime/manga, part of the taboo that folks who like it seem to find exciting is the mutilation (sometimes not painful, just surgical) or hurting (can get very sadistic) of the almost always female participants.

Watch most hollywood horror movies and they do the same thing for the same reasons, they just have more of a separation between the sex parts and the violence parts. The purely non-sexual violence in a movie like Saw which is supposed to be exciting for the audience is creepier in my opinion because getting off on just violence is weird to me, but part of it may be that since I'm a dude I am less bothered by fictional violent sex because I don't have to worry about rape in real life.
posted by sickle cell moon at 8:41 PM on August 10, 2010


« Older You Dirty Chicken Plucker   |   "We reject as false the choice between our safety... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments