by Michael Nusspickel
Multi-modal art has been gaining popularity among artists for the past decade, and it would be hard to argue that video games aren’t a means of creating a multi-modal experience for an audience. Within the genre of video games exists a niche sub-genre that logically should be the answer to many writer’s problems with choosing a medium, but it has barely been noticed (if at all) outside of the gaming community: the visual novel.
Visual novels are novels that use visual and audio cues alongside text to communicate their content. A mix between graphic novels, video games, and pure prose, the visual novel allows a writer to have a product with visual art as an integral part of the storytelling but without sacrificing one’s prose for it. Text is delivered through speech boxes, backgrounds and characters are drawn, and sound and music add to the experience. Visual novels offer everything a graphic novel does, but with the ability to ignore a graphic novel’s layout limitations on word count. They originated in Japan but have been around for well over a decade at this point, so the question becomes: how come they haven’t caught on with Western writers?