When was the last time anyone could say a game about romancing various anime girls in clubs changed their life?
As of this past week, I can officially be one of, what I can only assume is a handful of people not fully immersed in anime based games, who has said that. And no, I’m not saying it ironically either.
So if you aren’t aware , or been living under a rock, the game Doki Doki Literature Club designed by Team Salvato, has taken the internet by storm. DDLC was developed by a man, who made tournament friendly mods for Super Smash Bros, by the name Dan Salvato. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t done any other video game related work, and based on his Reddit AMA he left a desk job in 2016 to work on projects like DDLC so I just assume he hasn’t done anything more.
That being said, his intro onto the video game scene being DDLC has to be one of the most fantastic ways to get attention. Before the five of you who read this try to reach for the “But Jay…” comment sticks, let me tell you all why this game happens to be a diamond in the rough of the free game/indie environment and how simple concepts can make a major impact on any given person.
Only Scratching The Surface
DDLC starts off simple enough, and we’ll start at the beginning of the Steam Store description. The Steam page for the game comes across as a happy go lucky anime dating game, that is until you reach the bottom where the text reads in bold text “This game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed.” I mean how can cute looking school girls cause any kinda of disturbing imag-
Anyway, other than that, the description just talks about the various girls in this literature club, and just that we should spend time with the character reading the description, Monika, when we play. Now that wouldn’t raise many eyebrows because, many video game devs like to play the “Ooooh how meta it is that our character is upselling our game?!” So we don’t look at it too closely and download the free game.
The first run is rather benign, up until I’d say the final act. Throughout the run, you feel the love (as well as poetry) in the air, getting to pick the girl you wish to woo out of the three choose-able girls. Natsuki, Sayori, and Yuri. You get to interact with the previously mentioned Monika off and on but oddly you can’t actually date her. Most people wont think much of it and just brush it off as marketing once again.
Each girl and their respective interactions seem lighthearted enough, you catch a glimpse at some of their inner demons or home life but it’s easy to brush off. “Maybe I will be the change she will need and her life will be better for me coming into it.” This thought could easily dismiss any of the possible disturbing ideas lurking beyond these text boxes. Then… we hit the final act.
Ahead there be… SPOILERS
As the game goes on, you realize your good friend, Sayori, has two things going on with her. 1) She isn’t just a friend, she has feelings for you 2) She has major depression. One scene towards the end, just before you finish you three “dates” with the other girls, she confesses the latter. You offer your help and basically tell her you will help her. You go on with the other girl and afterwards she comes forward again and confesses her true love, which you have the option to reciprocate or friendzone her. Either way the game plays onto the next day and you go to school, the club president, Monika, talks about what went on between you and Sayori and simply hints you should have checked on her. At this point you start seeing that Monika has known things that she truly shouldn’t know. You also get a peak at Sayori’s poem for the game’s penultimate School Festival. It’s a long stream of “Get Out, Get Out, Get Out” then a blurb at the bottom that seems more ominous than anything else you’ve encountered thus far. Terrified for Sayori, the MC rushes out the door and back to her place, and like the day before, you enter her house, knock on her room door. With no response, you enter to find….
Sayori hung herself, obviously giving into her depression. The text that follows basically holds a huge amount of weight, talking about no do overs, it not being a game, and that somehow it was your fault. After a moment of taking the blame, the game suddenly starts getting weird, then subsequently it just ends. You get redirected back to the main menu to find an oddity or two. Where Sayori once stood on the screen, her sprite is now glitched and noticeably has pieces of Monika’s sprite glued on hers. You can start a new game, albeit through the weirdly coded new game button.
To fast forward, the second playthrough is glitchy and dark, some of the interactions that were once lighthearted soon become something menacing, where all the while Monika serves as the instigator, she also seem safe from the broken game, but the remaining two girls are constantly acting weird, insulting one another, saying dark and creepy things, and sometimes speaking in programming codes. Then inexplicably each one has their worst qualities amplified, resulting in Natsuki openly shouting about her dad beating her, then ending her story line with a desperate attempt to get the play to help her and Yuri but only told in a poem form, to then only revert back after the poem is read before she demands you only “play” with her, glitching pixels over her eyes and then breaking her own neck and charging the screen. Yuri, well she “accidentally” reveals she cuts herself, the game rewinds to have Monika cover the section up, then Yuri becomes obsessive and will start becoming lewd and dark. Soon she confesses her love, which you can reciprocate or deny, either choice results in her stabbing herself and you stuck in the club room all weekend with skippable gibberish that in the history tab shows the Steam page description of the game.
In the end, you find out Monkia has orchestrated it all, that she began to tweak with the programming because she didn’t get to spend time with you. However it isn’t because she was programmed to rebel, or designed to fake sentience because it would be cool plot wise (well i mean technically….), but because she had been aware she was in a video game the whole time, that she was aware of the player outside the game and felt it wasn’t fair that the other girls had options to date but not her. And yes, it sounds like the feigned sentience is just used as a cheap gimmick but you’d honestly be surprised at how deep Team Salvato worked on this idea.
Dan Salvato designed a simple game, it is a basic game on the surface and could have simply been a romance sim with no tweaks. But then you start looking closer at the game and all it’s associated files and you start seeing a dark and intricate lore that spans not just DDLC but a possible Horror tie in to be released this year.
The best place to start is when Monika starts to take control and delete the other girls from the game. Actual DOS code shows up the top left corner showing her actually going into the files and deleting their character files. But the character files are label as a type of file that can’t be read, unless you use different means in which to open them. One of the girls requires a text editor which reveals a code written in Base64 which when translated shows a creepypasta written by Dan. The other reveal images, all of which require backwards hoop jumping to find hidden meanings, one of which reveals odd imagery of white haired women who look practically monstrous, another leads to a website that acts as a medical examiners chart about a girl and activating a “Third Eye” power, and the last one, a note.
This note talks directly to the player, assuming they know who is writing the note (Most assume Monika), and talks of how the other girls and her had interactions in “other worlds” and how this isn’t her “only story”. The note details how the other girls are dead but they don’t have to be and mysteriously mentions the Third Eye. It starts to become more of a mantra towards the end, basically Monika stating she can save everyone and well the last quote seals the deal.
- Yeah. I really think this might be possible. But it’s up to you.
- I’m sorry for always being…you know…
- Never mind. I know that’s wrong.
- This is my story. It’s time to be a fucking hero.
- Both of us.
The thing with hidden easter eggs, random files with code that just so happens to translate the same continual theme over and over again? It’s never just a coincidence.
The Third Eye is not only mentioned in these hidden files, it has a place holder in the actual game. Yuri, the more disturbed after being tweaked, during both playthroughs mentions and gives the player a book titled “Portrait Of Markov” and is described as having a ominous singular eye in the center of the book. The Third Eye symbol is tied to another hidden Base64 translated poem from Yuri during the breakdown of the game, which when translated talks about Opening Your Third Eye.
I could go into more detailed theories people have already made online, but all signs point to a much, much darker game coming from Team Salvato and that this isn’t the only run for the girls.
Truly Deceptive and I like it
Games are a perfect way to tell stories, the perfect medium to get ideas, feelings, and other assorted messages across to people of any mindset, if you allow it to anyway.
Dan Salvato knows this, and put love and effort into DDLC to craft a much larger, probably over arching story that will take place in another game very soon. The switch up from simple romance sim to nightmare fuel was subtle at first, and then once it did hit you in the face, it did so with class and grace. Getting you invested with the characters in a short space of time and then dropping the floor out from under you does wonders, and all the while leaving breadcrumbs for you to follow, leading you deeper and darker down the rabbit hole till you find yourself putting pins on a cork board going from a picture of Monika to a picture of all the other girls.
DDLC made me think, it kept me moving, and it gives me hope for the game that may possibly come sometime this year.
It also got me interested in learning coding/programming, because if the theme of something so simple slowly unfolding into something you could never expect kinda gets me excited. Excited to both see more of the same and to try my hand at making something bigger than myself.
Dan Salvato, you got me thinking, and now I just can’t stop and I have to thank you for that. So it is safe to say, Doki Doki Literature Club Changed my life. And I feel all the better for having the chance to play this game. No.. I’m better for having the chance to experience this work of are.
Once Again Thank You.
Always Need References
All information was gathered by Reddit User MitHost, so if you feel the need to look as deeply as I did, follow the link here
Also I’d take a gander at The Game Theorists who made videos diving SUUUUPER deep into this just as much as the Reddit page with the following videos.
Also note I am trying to keep a regular posting schedule of Monday’s and Friday’s. Hopefully I will be able to stick to it by coming up with decent enough content. If you come up with any ideas you’d like explored, tweet me @ReedicusRex