Where Are all of the Slice-of-Life Video Games?

Slice-of -ife tales are all over the place, it appears. The overwhelming majority of all sitcoms, 4-panel comics, romance and comedy TV reveals, are simply that. So are a number of books and anime, to not say something about actuality TV and IRL livestreams. We appear to be enamoured by the concept a bit of media may present us life as it’s, particularly when that piece of media has all of the expertise and cash behind it as a Netflix unique. And whereas the obsession with realism that dominates the present media panorama goes far past this one style, it’s plain how a lot the recognition of the slice-of-life story has influenced trendy storytelling.

Apart from video games, that’s.

Searching for slice-of-life videogames, you gained’t discover greater than a handful that many can acknowledge. Just a few, the preferred of the bunch, are going to be both work simulators, such because the farm-life sims Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley, or regular-life sims, like Animal Crossing and the conveniently named The Sims. In the meantime, the huge, overwhelming majority of the video games on this listing are going to be visible novels.

The rationale for this may appear apparent: slice-of-life tales, to their core, are about comedy, romance, or interpersonal drama – all stuff that few in style video games have in heaps, and even fewer are literally constructed upon. However simply as with each norm, and simply as necessary as that norm, right here lies a vital exception. In truth, there are a number of exceptions, and their title is Journey Video games: Sayonara Wild Hearts is a wild Music Video/Arcade Sport hybrid the place you assist a woman rebuild her damaged coronary heart; Kentucky Route Zero is about how we select our pact trough life, explored with magical realism; the “Ben and Dan” collection, of Ben There, Dan That! fame, is all about telling tongue-in-cheek jokes and toying with the tropes of level and click on adventures. Our three core parts, romance, drama, and comedy, are all right here, but none of these video games may very well be referred to as slice-of-life. In the meantime, you’d be laborious press to discover a single relationship sim that isn’t a slice-of-life.

Tales this mundane actually appear to be incompatible with a sure “game-ness” that visible novels, simulators, and interactive fiction typically don’t have fairly as a lot of: in comparison with even essentially the most right down to earth motion video games, just like the miserably correct medieval life sim Kingdom Come: Deliverance, visible novels have far more dialogue, extra characters to develop a relationship with, extra letting your thoughts wander over what you’ll do subsequent weekend, passing time earlier than your work day is over. It’s not that video video games don’t wish to be slice-of-life, or that they don’t wish to be relatable. They only don’t wish to run the danger of trying mundane, of not showing like a videogame ought to.

Picture: Nintendo

Not many know that the time period “slice-of-life” comes from the French “tranche de vie”, initially coined to explain the way in which the stage of Antoine’s Residing Theatre was arrange throughout their naturalist performs. Antoine would construct the scenography for a steady by bringing chickens and hay on the stage; he would insist that the general public really feel the heat of the bakery’s oven, and scent the rotting flesh hanging from the ceiling of the abattoir. Unsurprisingly, opposition got here rapidly, with many believing that this fashion was not simply unpractical, however basically incapable of capturing the depth of contemporary life, its deep and delicate essence misplaced in a sea of particulars. Symbolists writers, just like the poet Maeterlinck, argued that this internal life could be higher expressed by means of dialogue with out actions, by means of the poetics of “depth and stillness”, and and not using a actual stage preparation, letting the general public paint their very own image of the world after listening to the actors’ phrases.

The relation between XIX century French theatre and the fashionable slice-of-life could be oblique at finest, wager there may be not less than one main level of connection between the 2: they each intention to be significant whereas remaining mundane, elevating the tiny ups and downs of regular routine to the distinctive stage of significance that one would instinctively give them, had they skilled them in precise day by day life. We see this within the latest Visible Novel/Relationship Sim My Candy Zombie!, from Tsundere Studios, the place the dramatic distinction between the worry and the thrill inherent to constructing a brand new relationship is exaggerated by the invention that your new buddy and housemate is an precise zombie.

Though it’s slight, there may be an inconsistency in what we simply noticed: inside videogames, the slice-of-life stays within the area of visible novels, a style whose defining attribute (and most criticized side) is an (over)reliance on textual content. For essentially the most half, this textual content is dialogue spoken by the characters, both in dialog or as a monologue, and it’s typically delivered by means of static character artwork that’s sitting on a static background. Identical to in precise novels, and in some types of theatre, it’s the viewers’s job to mix these totally different components right into a cohesive complete: to offer the characters an actual voice and to see them one another, not staring immobile on the participant however freely transferring and performing collectively. Given what we all know, Visible Novels ought to be a horrible match for slice-of-life tales, particularly when in comparison with the absolutely explorable environments of open world video games. However these aren’t good both: their downside, as explored earlier than, is as an alternative an unwillingness to point out and elevate day by day life, and there can’t be a slice of life with out day by day life.

Let’s think about, although, what kind of sport we would wish to seek out that digital simulation of life. First, we’re not speaking in regards to the small, relaxed lifetime of Animal Crossing, or the unwilling parody of the American suburbs that’s The Sims, however of lifelike, over-detailed replicas of life, perhaps a bit exaggerated in some elements, in videogame kind. We’re not speaking about MMORPGs or digital worlds like Second Life both. This final one, specifically, explains all of it, proper in its title: digital areas don’t attempt to symbolize life in a digital setting, they create the area for an additional one, a Second Life, to exist beside the primary. And simply residing is definitely not the identical as performing slice-of-life.

Picture: Itch.io

One peculiarity of Antoine’s Residing Theatre, one that originally doesn’t appear to suit nicely with the positivist, naturalist perspective of the theatre, is that actors, there, would typically improvise their traces, and will freely converse with the general public. The rationale for this was that life, on the Residing Theatre, wasn’t represented within the story the actors performed, or conjured up within the minds of the general public: a bit of life, the tranche de vie, was as an alternative mounted on the stage itself. As such, a powerful connection between the duplicate of life, the actors and their stage, and the general public, which may depart the theatre and stay alive, would have allowed the false lifetime of the play to return alive by means of the viewers.

However like with the unique critics of naturalism, after considering that we may convey to life, not less than on a display, whichever occasion, exercise, or human expertise we all know sufficient about, we began to comprehend that this, too, doesn’t make life. For one, life is a narrative. It’s inside and introspective. To see life by means of another person’s eyes, or to see their setting delivered to the stage with them, means nothing if we don’t know whose eyes these are and if it isn’t them that inform their story.

One Night, Hot Springs
Picture: npckc

In One Night, Hot Springs, a brief Visible Novel from solo developer “npckc”, the setting is barely current to permit the protagonist to seek out her place inside it, and to convey battle between her and her buddies. The identical may very well be stated for the plot: when this story is lowered to the primary story beats, it barely seems like a narrative in any respect. One Night time, Scorching Springs is, in brief, the story of three buddies who determine to go to a Japanese scorching spring. They speak, they bathe, they sleep, and the subsequent day, they depart. That is what occurs on this story, however from that description alone you may’t inform what the sport is about in any respect.

That’s as a result of far more significance is placed on the protagonist’s perspective, on her personal expertise of the story and on what makes this her story. What I haven’t instructed you is that Haru is a trans lady and that one of many buddies she’s going to the new springs with doesn’t know that, and that Haru doesn’t understand how this different woman will react. She doesn’t merely act as a response to her setting, and her motion alone doesn’t make her story. The inner drama contained inside her personal self, and the flexibility of visible novels to convey her internal life, are what makes this mundanity really feel significant and insightful – what makes this story really feel like a slice of her life.


Antoine created, for its stage, exact recreations of actual places as a result of his positivist upbringing introduced him to consider that the actions of anyone particular person have been pushed by their setting, which then needed to be introduced on stage as a part of the characters themselves. However there may be far more to what strikes us than the fabric world surrounding us, one thing that the majority video games are ill-equipped to take care of. Visible Novels are an important match as a result of they rely closely on dialogue, letting the characters themselves categorical their story, as a result of they will skip the boring a part of life with out wishing it away, and since they permit the participant to construct their very own image of this world. Doing this, they can discover this “depth and stillness” of contemporary life in its mundanity.

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