Recently a 15-yers old teenager committed a suicide after reading the Visual Novel Doki Doki Literature Club. The title’s rather infamous for starting out as a normal cute-as-button story, and then becomes rather nasty in its themes and content. The VN does state that its not for everyone and is not suitable for children, the usual warning for software of its nature.
The news reporting on the incident on the Sunderland Echo reflects how poorly entertainment software, VNs or electronic games, are understood. Age doesn’t really change this, only education does. For example, Sue Kirby, the author, makes her first mistake in the title calling it an online game. Even if we give the leeway that VNs are counted as games, Doki Doki Lit. Club certainly is not online and does not contain any other “players” characters outside the reader, another mistake that’s made in the article.
The article is really all that and not much as else. Some statement from a coroner warning parents to look after their children, something they should already be doing, and neither he or the author describes any rhyme or reason why this should be an issue. Great many who commit suicide have done something before their final deed, be it watching television, listening to music or other activities. Perhaps the title did serve as a some sort of trigger for the suicide, but then its not exactly the driving reason to do so. There must have been something there already, a thought and drive, which has been the true underlying reason. A software doesn’t simply brainwash you do commit suicide, neither do any other sort of media.
Few other sites, like Fatherly, has almost the exact same article up, with no expansion on the topic itself, no research done for better or worse. I’m not even going to go through The Sun’s article on the topic, as their opening thinks it’s somehow negative that Doki Doki Lit. Club doesn’t require any parental checks. Last time I checked, you had to set things up via Steam’s client in Family View rather than title-by-title basis. Then again, it’s available on other sites as well, so maybe this particular kid got it from there rather than using the most popular game platform on the PC. The Sun’s on a witch hunt mode on the title and it shows.
A common theme among all articles is how there’s criticism how the game doesn’t enforce the suggested. How would the game do that? Are we now in need of Adult Gamer license like with the UK’s fap license nonsense and all games need to have it separately or something? Absolute nonsense.
Manchester Evening News at least has some more meat on the platter, an interview with the parents. The father of gives a statement that the game wouldn’t leave the player alone, as it resembles real life through interactions. Perhaps this shows that the teenager didn’t have the best relations outside virtual environment, if he was looking something better in a virtual environment to cope with it.
Jude Holmes from the Public Protection Division urged parents to check websites their kids are using, effectively encouraging them to break their children’s privacy. Smart kid will be able to wipe their history away anyway, or set up different User Accounts. Firewall settings don’t help much, as they’re easily circumvented just as much. Furthermore, we are talking about a title that’s on Steam as well, meaning the parents should be aware of their kids’ Steam libraries to boot. That wouldn’t show up in the browsing history.
Holmes doesn’t seem to be the Sherlock of the bunch.
Credit where credit is due, Manchester Evening News at least does to the research to describe Doki Doki Literature Club as a visual novel and how it functions. Yet, much like other sites, the author describes the horror twist in the game in a negative tone, as if a story within a game, or any story driven media, couldn’t be gruesome and showcase hard topics straight up.
At least nothing is said to directly connect the suicide to the visual novel, outside the parents’ words, but even the stupidest of readers can read the message between the lines. In truth, we probably will never know the real reason why the teen committed suicide, Doki Doki Lit. Club is just an easy target to put the blame on. Not knowing is the worst there is, and if parents aren’t up to their child’s life, there’s very little to go by.
Certain people are easy to be impressed and suggested by the media. The solution is not to cut out connections to websites or similar. There is no such easy solution for the safety so many parental and safety groups want. There are only hard and long solutions that would require parents to know the web environment well enough so that they’d be able to teach their children to become sensible users of the World Wide Web. An ignorant parent who doesn’t understand modern technology, and doesn’t want to learn anything about it, is probably a child’s worst enemy when it comes to the unsafe Internet. Even Andy Burrows, the Associate Head of Child Safety Online recognises this, imploring parents to have regular conversations with their kids, but what the hell are these parents going to talk about if they don’t know what to talk about? Don’t give your photo away online? Not applicable on the modern era of social media anymore, where everybody and their dogs have an account to post personal details for everyone to see.
There are lots of mays, maybes, coulds and mights. There is nothing definitive, but a mob doesn’t need solid proof to hang the accused. This won’t launch a new crusade against electronic games, or VNs for the matter, but it is part of the rising bad media and journalism that’s begun to permeate video games for the recent years, from calling game consumers are toxic to blame them to be reason for political downfalls. A moral panic over violence or adult subjects in games wouldn’t be nothing new, but it would be extremely pathetic.
After all, that makes better news than an objective view on the subject.