Thoughts And Fan Art For Doki Doki Literature Club
Natsuki and Sayori illustrations I created, placed on in-game backgrounds from Doki Doki Literature Club. Backgrounds were created for Team Salvato by Laszlo Neserd.
Fan art post time! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been posting some fan art for the indy game Doki Doki Literature Club. For those of you who haven’t played it, I’ll warn you that this post is filled with spoilers about the game. If you’re interested in a unique story telling experience, head on over to Steam (Doki Doki Literature Club! on Steam) or Doki Doki Literature Club!’s site and give the game a download. It’s free and takes about 3 hours to play.
Okay, now the spoilers start. Last chance to turn back.
Before I talk about Doki Doki Literature Club, it’s important to talk about what interactive art is. In a way, all art is interactive. An audience turns on a movie and watches a series of images that move by really, really fast. They are consuming that movie, but at a very low level they are interacting with it.
Snapshots of the process for creating the Sayori fan-art: thumbnail, figure sketch, line-art and full colored sketch. For these I tried to match the colors to the in-game art for Doki Doki Literature Club.
Art is known for being consumable experiences. Interactivity is more of an afterthought. An audience views Picasso’s Guernica, listen to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, or read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird. You experience these pieces of art, they inspire feelings and actions in you and that’s the end of the transaction. Maybe, if you really liked what it did to you, you come back again and again. Maybe it will inspire you to create something new. But you can’t paint over Guernica—or at least, that would be a generally horrible idea.
Now, interactive art has popped up a few times through out history. Im my humble opinion it started booming in the digital age. Computers could facilitate interaction on a much larger scale. Video games were one of the first big mediums that allowed this.
Now, you’ve probably played a video game. If not, how did you manage that? It’s almost 2020, come on. I know you’ve at least played Super Mario or Minesweeper or something. Anyways, the level of interaction a gamer has with a video game is much higher than other forms of art like movies or books. The actions a gamer takes will usually influence the story they experience and the feelings they’ll take out of it. People cannot experience a video game without interaction—it’s kind of how they work.
Interactive art mediums can provide experiences that traditional media cannot. Flash back to the 1990’s. Computers and gaming consoles were becoming a common thing in homes. Visual novels, a sort of digital comic book that you can interact with, grew as a fiction medium. Dating sims were born as the pulpy romance fiction of the visual novel world.
With dating sims, you didn’t have to just read a story about the sordid love affair between the broad chested, but down on his luck firefighter and the beautiful, but under appreciated school teacher. Now you could be that firefighter! Now you could be that school teacher! What’s more, you could navigate a simulated dating experience where you could try to win the hearts of any number of romantic interests.
These sorts of stories flourished in Japan and to a lesser extent in the USA. The doe eyed school-girl amine style were the norm. Naturally, that all sounds like kitchy pulp humbug. To be honest, often times it was. It wasn’t known for being fine art, or even art. (I mean, maybe erotic art, but that’s a completely different blog post.) It was something more like old penny dreadfuls, cult-classic B-movies, and horror zines—cheap, consumable and a worth little more than a short burst of feel-good endorphins.
Then one winter day in 2017 DOKI DOKI LITERATURE CLUB comes, looking all pink and cute and harmless and just burns everything to the ground. The internet lost their collective minds.
The title screen for Doki Doki Literature Club features from left to right: Sayori, Yuri, Monika and Natsuki. You play as the protagonist who is seeking to date any combination of these characters, if you dare.
Doki Doki Literature Club (or DDLC for short) is a narrative wolf in sheep’s clothing. It burst onto the scene in 2017 when Team Salvato, the game’s creator, decided to hit the indie scene with a saccharine-pink, sickeningly-sweet flavored wrecking ball.
There are five characters in the story. The first four are the dating options; Natsuki the tomboyish manga fan. Sayori your childhood friend, Yuri the reserved poet and Monika. I won’t say much about Monika, she’s just Monika. She’s the most popular one in class. The one everyone wants to hang out with if they were just cool enough to talk to her. The smartest, greatest heartthrob a dating sim protagonist, the fifth character, could hope for. That’s you. You’re the hapless classmate that stumbled into the literature club in the hopes of wooing one of it’s members.
I don’t mean that you’re playing as some character in the game. You’re the fifth character.
DDLC ends up selling itself as a dating sim, an interactive piece of wish-fulfillment. It lures you in with cute characters and pastel cuteness. Once the veil is dropped, it is an interactive psychological thriller. You’re the protagonist and there is, well lets call her an entity, that wants to keep you playing. Forever. So you could say things go bad here too. You have to defeat the entity. How? By digging into your own computer. You have to interact with this story or else you can’t experience it. It turns the room your in into the set of the story and damn if I didn’t get an erie chill while playing this.
If art inspires emotion and action, DDLC is undoubtedly interactive art. The disgust, anxiety, fear and paranoia you feel are more immersive than if you saw the same story presented as a movie or a paperback book. It takes full advantage of the medium to weave it’s dark story. When the entity starts talking to you, you look over your shoulder, just in case. When files go missing on your computer, a place you though was safe and outside of the narrative, you feel the anxiety that maybe you did stumble into something sinister. Like the entity that comes packaged up in DDLC, interactive art is not going to be stopped easily. It’s popping up more and more, in places that would have never expected it before.
Have a good example of interactive art? Leave a comment and let me know. I’m on the hunt for good stuff. Want to get a higher level of interactivity with me and my site? Join my mailing list and get the important news about new art. →