Last week I introduced you to the one-of-a-kind psychological thriller known as Doki Doki Literature Club (DDLC). This game continues to haunt me in a variety of ways. The developer and his team really did an amazing job with this game — the art of poetry and writing, the code in the game, the programming of characters, the direction of the story. So many topics that comes from this game, including mental health.
I won’t be getting graphic, but this game exudes perfection (as close as possible, anyways) in regards to traumatizing its player through interacting with the characters and plot development.
After Sayori kills herself, the game narrates your feeling as the main character; it then just says “End” with a black screen before restarting. You’re sent to the game menu to start a new game, though something is off …
When you first started the game, all four girls are present and completely visible aside from Monika — her legs from the waist down being the only thing out of sight. Tiny details like that are extremely important in games like this because they serve a significant piece to the puzzle no matter how small it may seem at first glance.
So the game restarted. You’re at the opening game menu once more, ready to start a new game, but Sayori is pixelated. She isn’t recognizable in the least. The “New Game” option is replaced with a box font, meaning each letter is now just a square (signifying something “glitchy” with the game’s code).
The developer did this on purpose, but who is manipulating the code? This game isn’t connected to the internet, which adds to the horror of this technological nightmare. The game is DESIGNED to put you on edge and to make you believe whole-heartedly that this game is very much alive — and it just might be …
This is where the second act comes in. You start the game and it begins just like the first act … except whenever they mention “Sayori” her name is glitched out. The game seems to have a spaz attack and resets with a new beginning. Sayori is completely erased, something you learn as you play.
Instead of Sayori bringing you to the club, this time it’s Monika. You are already put-off by the game and its characters, but Monika seems to have some creepy feature about her. Not just myself, but others who play the game (recording themselves playing) speculate the same thing. We just can’t put our finger on it though.
The game eases you back into the sense of romance and love, a sense of safety. You interact with the three remaining girls, but it’s just not the same. They don’t remember Sayori as there isn’t any mention of her at all. This is where you learn much more about the other three girls vying for your affection.
The rules are still the same, though the reaction is far more obscure than the first act. Reading through Yuri’s poems, you learn that she likes to cut herself. Monika, a popular girl according to the narrative, adds to this by confessing to us (as the character, or maybe even as a player breaking the “fourth wall”) that Yuri likes to cut herself. If you study her word choice, she’s manipulating you to stay away from her. It’s only natural (you suppose) that Monika is just trying to spend more time with you. Of course, like the warning before beginning the game, you brush it off as such.
You eventually catch Yuri doing what Monika said, only for the game to once again glitch out. It “rewinds” and reintroduces the scene once more with different dialogue.
There’s one particular poem of hers that is beautifully (and horrifically) symbolic to her affliction; her addiction to cutting. While this might be a hard topic to grasp, to imagine, to bear through, there are (primarily) women and girls throughout the country who cut themselves as a means for coping.
A website raising awareness and gathering statistics, teenhelp.com, states that about one-third to one-half of adolescents in the United States have engaged in some type of self-injury. Of those teens, about 70 percent of teens have made one attempt at suicide and 55 percent of them have made multiple attempts at suicide.
A big portion of teens said that they do it to relieve tension or stress. We see this in Yuri, learning that she has a fascination or obsession with knives. She has a poem about a raccoon. The first line: “It happened in the dead of night while I was slicing bread for a guilty snack.” Guilty snack …
She tells of a raccoon just outside her window. She observed that this was her first time noticing her strange tendencies as an unordinary human. She writes: “I gave the raccoon a piece of bread, my subconscious well aware of the consequences. Well aware that a raccoon that is fed will always come back for more.”
“The enticing beauty of my cutting knife was the symptom. The bread, my hungry curiosity. The raccoon, an urge.” Later, she says that “we’ve gotten quite used to each other,” and that the raccoon’s hunger is growing. “A rush of blood. Classic Pavlovian conditioning. I slice the Bread. And I feed myself again.”
It may not seem like a poem (because I broke it up to summarize it), but the developer knew exactly what he was doing when this poem was created SPECIFICALLY for Yuri. He uses a raccoon and feeding it bread as a metaphor to really deep emotional issues and cutting. The poem is precise in navigating the emotions and feelings, also in conveying that at an empathetic level to the reader (you).
How could you ever be prepared for something like this to happen in a game? Yet, there are many who couldn’t ever be prepared for something like this to happen in real life — learning that a loved one of yours in their teens likes to cut to find relief. The trauma of this from a game might be a good tool for those who simply can’t relate.
And we’re only at the tip of this horrific iceberg …