Doki Doki Literature Club screenshot of one of the characters talking to the player.

📚 Disturbing Doki Doki Literature Club

Everything below the trailer is a spoiler for Doki Doki Literature Club. If you haven't played it, go do so first. It's a free game anyway.

I thought I had Doki Doki Literature Club figured out before even starting it. A cheerful visual novel game will simply turn dark and your choices will have gruesome consequences. Of course that only proved to be correct up until a point.

The game wears the personalities of the literature club members you're joining on its collective sleeve. You can easily spot the mental conditions, but the game tip-toes around calling them out on it directly. In doing so it marvellously tries to lead you by the nose. "One of them will break, it'll have repercussions within the group, then outside the group, you feel bad, done."

But no, the mental states are a cover-up for the fourth most intense state of one of the girls: extreme obsession. The game slowly breaks the fourth wall, as the character in question starts to alter the game to be with you.In replaying it you'll bump into the alterations, combined with what-if scenarios, until the game/character finally breaks and it all comes tumbling down.

It's a bit of a reverse Her-moment. Instead of the user falling in love with the game, the game falls in love with the user. It's easy to see it as a critique upon computers, AI, and the dangers thereof, but it just as easily comes across as commentary upon the players of the novel-story genre itself. Caricatured as social outcasts falling in love with fictional characters and going out on a limb to be closer to that which they cannot reach. In that respect, Doki Doki Literature Club flips the table quite deliberately and confronts you with the weirdness that can come from such an obsession.

Based on that alone, it certainly was great to be playing through. The slow realisation that something is amiss, only for it to be replaced with something grander entirely, topped off with a nice football shot through the fourth-wall window, made it all the better.

It's not disturbing per sé in my opinion, but it does come very close to making you feel uncomfortable. Maybe that's because the adult side of the visual novel genre in itself already makes me slightly uncomfortable. So encountering the twist made me mentally put it in the "OK to be playing publicly" box.

To be honest, that it came as a relief is the more disturbing outcome of completing this game.