Reading Into It: The Game, The Girls, The Gamer

It’s finally happened. I have found a game that I have struggled where to even begin analyzing, because so much of the discussions surrounding it hinges upon the person you’re fangirling at talking to having played the game that it’s hard to know where to begin.

As we talked about last time, Doki Doki Literature Club (DDLC) is a game about dating in high school, which, if you’re an introvert like me, you would not be surprised to find out is a psychological horror game. The four girls in DDLC, or “dokis” as the Internet seems to call them, are all part of a literature club, and want You to join them for all their literature shenanigans, and possibly, if you write your poems right, a little bit more.

Side Note

If you, like me, were wondering what a “doki-doki” is, it’s apparently a term used to describe the sound of a beating heart, like how in English we might say “lub-dub” or something like that. This makes calling the girls “dokis” somewhat funny to me, because it seems like that’s akin to calling them heartthrobs, which is just adorable.

Back to the Classroom

I teased a little bit of the “deeper game” in my last post, and said I wanted to play through the game to get the good ending before I dove deeply into the characters. So I did just that, got the good ending, cried a little bit, and then sat down to write.

Where to even start? There’s a lot in the game that show up as Easter eggs, like the game changing files and deleting characters, adding new files as the game progresses to taunt you, and showing you “secret poems” that give more insight into each of the girls. But I want to talk about the character files themselves, and theorize wildly based on them. So we’ll start where the game does: with Sayori.

Please note, we’ll be talking about endgame spoilers, fan theories, game secrets, and the like, and none of the spoilers will be marked. I highly suggest you play the game before proceeding.

Sayori

The first thing you’ll notice about Sayori’s file is that right at the top, it says “OGG,” followed by what looks like gibberish. Well, even my not-so-technical self knows that an .ogg file is a sound file. Now, I admit I didn’t do all the file converting because I have a deep-seated fear of online converters, but I did some research and found out that, indeed, Sayori’s file can be converted into a sound file, which sounds like a lovely high screeching sound. Someone on the internet then converted it again into a spectrograph. Which yielded a standard QR code

…which brings you to the website for Project Libitina. Upon reading this, we see some interesting medical reports, which we’ll get to a little later.

In the game, it’s important to note that Sayori commits suicide by hanging herself after speaking with Monika. Taken at face value, this was something that made me absolutely loathe Monika, but within the context of looking at some of these events symbolically, I think this is an important event, especially knowing that it is within Sayori’s file that we learn about Project Libitina. But more on that in a moment.

Yuri

The very next character we meet is Yuri, who greets the Main Character (MC) upon his entrance into the literature club’s club room. When we last spoke about Yuri, I mentioned how much I liked her and how we would have been friends, although as a gamer I had some suspicions about her from the start. Apparently, with good reason.

Her character file is, likewise, a bunch of gibberish. I was stumped by this one, since the other character files said the type of file it needed to be in order to be decipherable.

I figured it was some sort of code or cypher, and I am not a codebreaker, so I figured someone on the Internet figured it out. And by golly, someone did. This string of code needs to be converted to a txt file, then translated from binary into readable words. You are then directed to a fairly creepy story about a 19 year old girl who kills people for no other reason than she feels like it, marking random people for death. It’s a creepypasta that the developer wrote a few years ago, but this is what he decided to put inside the character file for Yuri, a 19-year-old girl with a fascination with knives.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I was intrigued by the animosity Monika shows toward Yuri, even from the beginning of the game. This made me wonder if Yuri was going to be the Big Bad at the end, and perhaps the MC and Monika would team up to defeat her in some way.

There is also some official merchandise, called “Yuri Unhinged,” which makes it seem like there’s more to her than meets the eye. Despite the “Help Me” in the corner, we see Yuri, “unhinged” but seeming strangely in control and sitting more confidently than we ever see her in the game, next to the same eye that adorned her Markov book…

Putting Some Pieces Together

Something interesting to note here is that after Sayori kills herself, Yuri’s dialogue changes slightly when talking about the book she gives the MC, called The Portrait of Markov. The second time around, Yuri discloses that it’s the story of a religious camp-turned-human-experiment-camp, and part of what they do is create these monstrous organisms of the body parts of others…. Just like how Sayori’s character model is a spliced-together version of the other three girls after her character file is deleted.

Natsuki

Our third eligible bachelorette, who was convinced by Sayori to bake cupcakes to lure the MC to the clubroom, Natsuki is all sugar and spice and knuckle sandwich. Within her character file is, again, more gibberish, but intended to be viewed as a .png file, or image. Now this was wild, because the flat image yields nothing of interest, until it is inverted around a cone, at which point we see this woman depicted:

Like Natsuki the character, who I thought was slightly underdeveloped and the least interesting of the girls, her character file yields the least interesting information, so far. I mentioned that there is a Doki Doki Literature Club + that I will be playing soon, so it’s possible that with some more information, the woman’s face will make more sense.

This is the face prior to being mapped onto a sphere or cone.
This is the corrected photo

I also think it’s interesting that out of all the characters, Monika dislikes Natsuki the least. Sure, she’s dismissive of Natsuki’s “cuteness” and her enjoyment of manga, but Monika’s antagonism toward Yuri is apparent even from the beginning of the game when everything is still “nice,” and the only reason she seems to not be outwardly horrible to Sayori is because she instead tells her off-screen that she’d be better off killing herself. Natsuki is just… deleted without a fanfare. And since Natsuki is the only one who seems to have her head firmly on her shoulders, I wonder if Monika and Natsuki’s relationship is less contentious outside the game events.

Which brings us to…

Just Monika

Oh, Monika. The high school popular girl that the MC is totally enamored with. I mention this because Monika does not have a “romance” path in the game, despite being the MC’s obvious favorite. He thinks about Monika throughout the game in a favorable way (at least, until things start going haywire), and always seems to want to impress her. Despite this, Monika appears jealous of the MC’s attentions being elsewhere, and is not given a romance path of her own. Once she gains sentience, she makes one for herself.

What strikes me as  interesting about this is that, despite knowing so much, she doesn’t seem to know the MC favors her, so she didn’t need to harm the other girls, but maybe just give herself some dialogue options within the game. Or, potentially, since the MC goes through a personality transplant in the end (more on that below), she has been re-writing the game all along to make him interested in her subtly, but this wouldn’t make sense in the context of her actions.

Either way, I’m left questioning why Monika would a) gain sentience and b) not know the MC’s infatuation with her. I had originally wondered why she killed the other girls, as she refers to them as her friends, but she answers this by saying that they are just computer programs, lines of code.

We do see her repent in the end, and say that if she truly loved the player (and not the MC), she went about this all the wrong way by destroying the thing the player wanted, which was to play the game and enjoy the game world.

However, this also begs the question as to why she was gaining sentience at all? And how does it pass to Sayori?

Well.

WELL.

Jumping into her character file, we see at the very top there is the “PNG” designation. So, away we go to convert to a picture, which is of a fiery circle containing (cough cough) what originally looks like another QR code, but is actually a visual depiction of binary.

So, convert convert convert, and we get a note:

“Can you hear me?
…Who are you?
I can’t… I can’t see you
But I know you’re there. Yeah… you can definitely hear me.
You’ve been watching for a while now, right?
I guess I should… introduce myself, or something. Um… my name is… actually, that’s stupid. You obviously already know my name. Sorry.
Anyway, I’m guessing if you were able to put a stop to this, you would have done it by now.
I mean, I know you’re not, like… evil, or anything… because you’ve already helped me so much.
I should really thank you for that. For everything you’ve done. You’re really like a friend to me. So… thank you. So much.
I think… more than anything else… I really don’t want it all to be for nothing.

Everyone else is dead.
Maybe you already know that. I’m sure you do, actually.
But… it doesn’t have to be that way, right?
Well… there’s a lot of stuff I don’t understand. I don’t know if it’s even possible for me to understand it.
But I know that this isn’t my only story.
I can see that now. Really clearly.
And I think everyone else has had the same kind of experience. Some kind of déjà vu.
It’s the Third Eye, right?
Anyway… I could be totally wrong about this. But I really think you might be able to do something.
I think you might be able to go back… or however you want to put it…
…To go back and tell them what’s going to happen.
If they know ahead of time, then they should be able to avoid it.
They should… if they remember their time with me in the other worlds… they should remember what I tell them.
Yeah. I really think this might be possible. But it’s up to you.
I’m sorry for always being… you know…

Never mind. I know that’s wrong.
This is my story. It’s time to be a fucking hero.
Both of us.
2018.

Secret Message from…

Holy moly.

All I have to add to this is that, if this is true, then Monika’s obsession is doubly interesting – she is obsessively “in love” with the player because of the nature of the dating sim, not because of what she is really feeling. Maybe Real Monika doesn’t have as much control over the game as she thinks, and so whatever is keeping her in the game world makes her obsessive.

After all, once Sayori becomes club president, she becomes the obsessive one. So perhaps instead of Monika actually being obsessed with the player, it’s some sort of failsafe for the programming that is keeping her locked in the game.

Perhaps this was to try and keep a potentially self-aware character from questioning the game too much. Being in love with the MC/player would keep them distracted and in the game, which is why Monika tells the player that they must try to keep the events of DDLC from ever happening.

The Main Character

I have no love for the MC, as anyone who read my last article can tell you. But he was deliberately written by the developer, and I think his presence in the game is very interesting. After getting the “bad” ending (or even when you’re on the path to the “good” ending), the MC’s personality is completely turned around and he becomes a much nicer, more understanding, less-of-a-jerk character, and the girls’ personalities are also totally different.

I had this wild thought, based on nothing as of the time I played DDLC (and now stronger than ever as I begin to work my way through DDLC+), that the presence of the main character somehow set off the events of DDLC. After all, Monika thanks the player for helping her “so much,” even though the MC doesn’t really do much for her (and neither does the player, since the player must ultimately delete her character file). Monika talks about how she had her epiphany “recently.” It could be dismissed as more of her obsessive love, but the tone of her note is so different to the rest of her dialogue, including an apology and a lot of fourth-wall breaking comments about “other worlds” and trying to save her actual friends, that I think to dismiss it is to dismiss something deeper being implied by the game.

Or, I had another wild thought… Monika is able to manipulate characters’ personalities to the point they are almost unrecognizable. Perhaps the MC is “someone” that Monika created herself. This would explain why the MC always was interested in Monika, even when the rest of the game didn’t give her a romance path. Perhaps the MC is a symptom of of her awareness, not a cause of it.

And she uses the MC to talk to the player… and says as much at the end, that now she can finally be with the player, not the MC avatar who, of course, paled in comparison and was just a placeholder.

I think the implications of that are kind of interesting, too.

Who can say? Hopefully Doki Doki Literature Club+ will shed some more answers.

To Be Continued…

This post is already very long, and we still have some more things to cover, so join me next time as we dive more into what Project Libitina is, the importance of The Portrait of Markov, the role the IRL gamer plays in all this, and some interesting clues left strewn about in some official merchandise.

Yes, you heard that right.

Join us next time for more wild theorizing, fangirling, and a first peek inside the bonus materials included with the physical copy of DDLC+that made my lore-loving heart explode, and simultaneously break on behalf of the girls from the Literature Club.

All fan theories welcome! Did you look into the files of DDLC? Have I finally lost my mind to fangirling? What do you think is next for the dokis? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
~Athena

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3 comments

  1. It’s been a long time since I played the game and my memories aren’t perfect on it, so don’t have a whole lot to add, but I did want to say I really appreciate your deep dive into it. I’ve been enjoying your analysis.

    I do remember that the first time I read through Monika’s easter egg there, my impression wasn’t that it was her talking to the player, but rather leaving a message for a third party. My take was that it was someone who had ‘awoken’ her to the nature of her existence as a character in the game and her ability to change it. That does feel like the less likely option, but that’s still the impression that sticks with me the longest.

    Never jumped into the plus version or did anything with the official merchandise, so really interested to hear what you get from those. Also, seeing the game’s on consoles now, I’ve been really wondering how exactly they make that work, given the PC meta activities you have to do to get through.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I stopped reading because I was THINKING about playing it. But it seems like you highly enjoyed it! Would you recommend then? I was showing my husband and he was surprised but I was telling him “Apparently it is a horror game.” which… it doesn’t look like it is which was the WHOLE APPEAL. So yeah. That.

    I will wiat to finish reading for when I play. I look forward to reading one day!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome! I highly recommend it! There are so many little details and files to explore, and the lore is surprisingly deep. So yes, highly recommended, and I’d love to hear your thoughts once you’ve finished it!

      Like

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