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Not suitable for the easily disturbed: Sonic nonlinearity and disruptive horror in Doki Doki Literature Club!

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The extent to which disturbing video games incite real-world violence has been a source of intense debate since the late 1990s following school shootings across the United States. In 2017, the release of Team Salvato’s Doki Doki Literature Club! (DDLC!) signified a major shift in independent game developers’ approaches to creating a violent horror gaming experience: the developers include the use of nonlinear sound (e.g. frequency jumps, non-standard harmony, noise/chaos) and local-level melodic transformations to complicate player immersion. In this article, I argue that the game’s music is one of the greatest sources of horror. The game music in DDLC! works as both an immersive and a disruptive agent that shapes the player’s gaming experience. Though the game is a work of fiction, the emotions and reflections of the player prompted by the violent acts within are real ‐ the player’s experiences of horror, fear and terror are visceral.
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Keywords: Doki Doki Literature Club!; horror; indie games; metafiction; musical disruption; sonic nonlinearity; video games

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000122993507Northwestern University

Publication date: August 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • The Soundtrack is a multi-disciplinary journal which brings together research in the area of music and sound in relation to film and other moving image media. A complex cultural, technological, industrial and artistic phenomenon, sound-with-moving image is a rich area for analysis, investigation and speculation. We encourage writing that is accessible to audiences from a diversity of intellectual backgrounds and disciplines as well as providing a forum for practitioners. The Soundtrack's aim is to nurture this new and expanding area of academic investigation in dialogue with soundtrack producers of all kinds.
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