I recently found a link to a Youtube video with a translation of a scene from a recent Visual Novel. I already mentioned how this particular medium is well suited for these kind of tricks like metafiction and fourth wall breaking.

This one is a good example (beware sexual themes and general meanness):
Part 1Part 2

It’s Part 2 where the interesting stuff happens. Visual Novels are quite often relatively simple “dating sims” where you follow a scripted story and only get to make an handful of choices through the whole game. Usually these choices can be about choosing which one of the girls offered you want to date, and so you branch out from the main plot into a specific, parallel “route” somewhat dedicated to that one girl you picked. And then these games often demand to be replayed so that you go through every route/option and sometimes unlock a “true end” with more mysteries and revelations.

In this case the metafictional play is that one of the girls suddenly drops the pretense of the story and starts talking directly to the “player”. Becoming somehow “aware” of herself as a character and knowing that the player previously went through a different “route”, declaring his “love” to a different character. So she breaches the timeline where she’s trapped in as a fictional character and confronts *the player* on his own choices. The scene is powerful because it actually reaches for a deeper truth: the player is a liar, he promises true love to every girl. Then she goes wild and takes control of the game itself by “rewriting” the script and disabling the possibility to save the game or even “quit”. Like some kind of AI gone mad.

There’s nothing too original about all this, but it still plays with interesting aspects. Metafiction is powerful because it is deeply linked to “truth”. It’s the frame, the condition we are actually in. The game here merely “plays” a reality, and it becomes creepy because it cuts some of the safe distance between fiction and you. When the character starts speaking to the player, and on the basis of true affirmations, it not only breaks the fourth wall, but it threatens to close that distance. Move one step too close.

Metafiction isn’t just one silly trick in the Postmodern deck of cards, but the laying out of the structure we can’t escape. If fictional characters are trapped within their medium, “real” human beings are trapped in their subjective world. You can’t reach outside the same way a character ideally can’t break the fourth wall. Fiction being real, and reality being fiction is just the original sin, the premise of everything. One box within the other. The idea of “self” as something you can observe as if who observes is also the object of observation SPAWNS all possible variations on the theme. Fiction is just the same pattern, an object you observe that in some ways reflects you. It’s the way the mind works.

So metafiction isn’t just a literary device among many, but it’s the structure that contains everything else. The same way as “writing” isn’t one of many possible human activities, but the one that includes all human experience.

Postmodern “awareness”, or the “great postmodern uncertainty” as DFW defines it, is a very specific and precise description of the kind of world we are currently trapped in. It’s not a trend you subscribe to, it’s the authority of this world.

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