When I started this blog, I had the general idea that I was going to keep it separate from my "Real" life. By which I mean that the people I encourage to read it (and by "encourage to read" I mean that I have a link in my forum signature) are not those I interact with face to face. I've never been particularly ashamed of my geekdom, hell I'd shout it from the rooftops, but I also know that a lot of folk don't want to hear about it, for one. For two, there's a few things I really enjoy that are...difficult to explain to normal folk*, and I'd honestly rather not go through all the trouble. Trying to explain why I enjoy Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha or Mahou Sensei Negima without coming across as a huge pedophile/pervert** tends not to work the entiere time. However, I still try when I'm feeling optimistic.
But This? Dude, I'm not gonna even bother. Katawa Shoujo is an Original English Language Visual Novel. Visual Novels, for those of you not in the know, are a rather odd form of video game. Essentially, there's no game. Even in the rare case of the games where you are fighting monsters (the most famous of these being Type-Moon's Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night. If you want to see them without bothering with downloading/patching/whatever, check out Seorin's Lets Plays for added snarky commentary. You've got to be a Goon to see the Fate/Stay Night one for a while), you don't actually control anything about the combat. There's no party management, no level growth, no FPS action, nothing. You sit back and read what's going on, and occasionally you're offered a choice. In essence, I think something like 95% of these games are dating sims. Boy is pushed into a situation with inordinate numbers of attractive single women, player makes various choices that hopefully lead to boy picking one girl, boy has a substantially high chance of getting laid and/or falling in love. If he's really lucky, he can pick the harem ending and mack on all of 'em. Depends on the game, really.
Aaaanyways (I have a ton of work to do, I really should keep this brief), Katawa Shoujo was spawned in the dark, dank sewers of the internet called 4chan. Ok, Ok, 4chan's not that bad. /b/ is the board that gets all the attention, but there are a fuckton of other ones, and from what I've seen, most of them are your fairly typical internet board, just bigger. I still don't plan on visiting (largely because I've got enough to distract me for one, and for two I don't like anonymous posting), but they're not the true evil. As this product proves. Anyways, a few years back, some japanese doujin artist posted up a brief page with several girls with disabilities- one blind, one deaf, one chick with burns on half her face, a girl missing her lower legs, and a girl with no arms. He mentioned that if someone made a dating sim about this, he'd be on it like white on rice. Somehow /a/, the anime board, got enamoured with the idea and actually put serious thought into the entire concept. They formed their own boards to discuss the idea, and, as of a few days ago, posted the first act, which they say is roughly 15-20% of the game.
So this is a game about disabled people. Your main character's got arrythmia, so he can't do too much strenous physical activity, or take a hit to the chest, or else his heart will explode. He ends up at a special school for folk with various problems, and from there, he meets several girls. There's the tsundere-esque deaf, mute chick and her bubbly friend who try and rope you into the student council (consisting solely of the two of them). There's the legless track girl*** who doesn't let anything, not even her conspicuous lack of feet, slow her down, and her friend, the enigmatic, absolutley crazy painter with no arms. There's the serene, aloof, kindly blind chick, and her friend, a girl with burns on her face from a terrible accident who's so shy and scared of people that she makes early-Negima Nodoka look extroverted. You take the dude through his first week at the new school, up to the school festival, where you either get to hang out with one particular girl (in essence, I assume, selecting her "path" and eventually getting to the whole dating/sex and whatnot) or you fucked up royally and go get drunk with your blind, misandrist roommate and then fall to your death. I did that the first time out of a couple of mistakes, and grumbled a bit that I wasted so much time.
And you know what? This is really good. I admit to not having played a visual novel of the high school dating sim variety (closest I've come is watching the first season of "Clannad"), but I really liked playing it. I admit, some of it's the whole wish fulfillment thing that comes from the scenario of having a large number of attractive anime girls to pick from whom you know are going to fall for you eventually (I've been single for YEARS, man.) , but the writing is really good- funny at times, the art is great, and they handle the plot with seriousness and realism. And the girls are really cute, too. Shizune, the deaf girl, has an awesomely cute tsundere vibe coming off of her, but my god, despite the burns, Hanako is so goddamn Moe that it hurts at times. You just want to pick that girl up, give her a great big hug, and say something to the effect of "You're beautiful. I love you." and then go take her off to a carnival or something and have fun.
And with my enjoyment of this game, I'm realizing that I am turning into one of them. A stereotypical moe fanboy. The sort of sexual pervert who has an unrealistic view of women, and who, as a consequence, is never going to get any and lives in his own little fantasy world, and not to mention is ten kinds of creepy. When you stare into the abyss for too long, it stares back, man. I need to be careful about this.
*On a random tangent, I find myself using the word "Folk"- singular- as an all-purpose substitute for "people". I think I picked it up from Firefly.
** I am quite obviously not a pedophile, but I'd probably be lying to myself if I said that none of the whole "nekkid bits" of Negima were ever appealing.
*** Honestly, that isn't very surprising. I've read an article about how a dude with no legs was banned from racing in the Olympics- and not the para- or special Olympics, because his mechanical legs gave him too much of an edge. Take from that what you will.