“Failure is not an option.” It’s a mantra we’ve had repeatedly rammed down our throats since the dawn of gaming — sometimes using those exact words — but is it really true?
Well, in the case of most games, yes — “failing” whatever task you have been set usually results in a Game Over screen (or, in more recent titles, particularly on console, an automatic reload from a checkpoint).
But in the case of visual novels, failure is often not only an option, it’s sometimes outright desirable to seek it out, if only for a certain sense of perverse pleasure in seeing characters suffering anything from a mild setback to extreme tragedy. The emotional engagement endemic to the medium means that sometimes “bad endings” can be even more striking and memorable than the good ones.
This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular READ.ME column on visual novels. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.