Novel Ties

In 2018, I wrote a regular column about interactive fiction and visual novels.

Novel Ties: Rakuen’s Ambulance-Siren Song

Laura Shigihara is a composer whose music has appeared in dozens of games, including To the Moon. Shigihara’s 2017 game Rakuen tells a completely new story of her own using RPG Maker as the game engine. Writing Novel Ties is such a pleasure, because I love the kinds of games I get to write about. They’re well written and charming, but they’re also generally lower cost and less reliant on hardware and flashy graphics. And their creators are as varied as you’d expect from comparable genres of wri

Novel Ties: Christine Love’s Emotional and Literal Kinbaku

Game developer Christine Love in some ways embodies the disconnect between visual novels and triple-A franchises. Her beautiful, provocative games challenge players with extreme situations, power dynamics, and questions about gender and identity. Following visual novels and other narrative games can give you a distorted sense of what gamer zeitgeist is up to. At E3 this year, a non-sensationalized same-gender kiss in a triple-A game trailer set Twitter on fire, but everyday flirting between peo

Novel Ties: Hanako Games’ Slice of Ren’Py

Indie developer Georgina Bensley, the founder of Hanako Games, said in 2008 that she always wanted a career in games but felt the field was too crowded. Instead, she worked in a library until circumstances and the rise of indie game culture and technology enabled her to take the risk and make games full time. Hanako Games was born in Bensley’s bedroom. Note: It’s hard to discuss the history of Ren’Py, visual-novel culture, and the ’90s craze for “girl games” without falling into strong gendered

Novel Ties: The Wordy World of Fallen London

Novel Ties: The Wordy World of Fallen London If you were a certain kind of person in 2009, your life slowly, and then quickly, filled up with mentions of Fallen London. But that’s only the very beginning of Failbetter Games’ story. The game lived partly on Twitter, spawning quixotic out-of-context tweets that spread like the swirling parachutes of a ripe dandelion. Its lush, grim setting set the stage for all of founder Alexis Kennedy’s subsequent work, and the world of Fallen London continues