CW: Discussion of agoraphobia, depression, and suicide.
I think it’s safe to assume that some of us, myself included, view games as more than just entertainment. The gaming medium has a near and dear place in my heart, and many of the games I’ve played have shaped who I am as a person. While I’ve only started reading visual novels in the past few years, they have quickly become one of my favorite types of games. Digital Seclusion is a visual novel, and it is also about visual novels.
Digital Seclusion is written from the perspective of an unnamed character, who lives secluded in a small room that he formatted as a shrine to 90s visual novels. Our protagonist is reclusive in almost sense of the word, from the lack of sunlight, to the aversion to any social interaction, and his tendency to avoid going outside as much as possible… I connected with our protagonist right away.
If you have read a lot of my past work, or know me personally, you may know that I suffer from intense agoraphobia. While it’s thankfully not as bad as in this game, it could have been if only a few things were different in my life. Particularly, if I never came out as trans, or learned how to cope with my mental illness in a healthy way, I would probably be in the same situation as this game’s protagonist assuming I wouldn’t have just killed myself before then. It is because of this that this game hit me on a personal level.
Our MC, much like myself, runs a blog where he writes about visual novels. Unlike myself, he sticks to untranslated 90s visual novels for out of date Japanese computers, and even has these older computers specifically set up so he can read them. He has the money to afford this shit because his parents died and he collected their inheritance. The MC is someone who, quite literally, only lives to explore this niche of his, and has no other reason to live.
Digital Seclusion is a lot like Actual Sunlight (which I really need to post my review of at some point) in that there is this dreary, unsettling atmosphere around a depressed protagonist who sinks further and further into their own world. While Digital Seclusion does share a lot of fascinating information on older visual novels, and has definitely got me curious about some of them, it is far more than just a history lesson on visual novels.
This game’s art design resembles the pixel art of a lot of PC-98 visual novels, and it makes excellent use of sprites and music from the various games that it talks about. They not only help introduce new readers to these new games, but they also are used to great effect for story purposes. It was also a nice touch how many plot points tend to emulate that of the same games that our main character is so passionate about.
I don’t want to go into too many spoilers, but the atmosphere of this game drew me right in, and I was hooked from the start. There is this dark, dreary, yet strangely soothing atmosphere that perfectly captures the mood of this mental illness. Without trying to spoil the game, I’d just like to say the following. There is a recurring motif in the comparison between suicide and sexual lust. Both of them involve someone surrendering to their carnal emotions, and can become overwhelming. Many people also mistakenly believe that it’s the solution to their problems. Considering that I literally used this motif in A Goddess’s Will, I think it goes without saying that It’s something I actively feel. In the MC’s case, this motif literally takes the form of his favorite female anime characters. Quite a morbid take on the whole waifu phenomenon if I do say so myself.
Overall, I highly recommend Digital Seclusion. Not only is it free, but it is a highly immersive and captivating title that anyone who has struggled with serious depression can relate to. And you also learn some neat shit about 90s visual novels as well. Anyway, next review is Maggot Baits. I know a lot of you have been looking forward to that one.
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