Coroner shares concerns that dead 15-year-old “had used an online game called Doki Doki.”

When it was released last September, PC game Doki Doki Literature Club immediately grabbed attention for being a rare example of a Western-developed visual novel, a genre popularized by Japanese publishers that’s sort of a choose-your-own-adventure book in game form. As positive reviews started rolling in, including a glowing one from SoraNews24’s own Scott Wilson, Doki Doki Literature Club began getting even more attention for its mixing of cute anime-style girls and romantic harem elements with a darkly terrifying psychological through-line revealed in an innovative fashion.

Now, though, the game is getting attention of a more negative light, as authorities in the U.K. think Doki Doki Literature Club may be linked to the death of teenager in the town of Sunderland. The local Sunderland Echo reports that schools throughout the city have been issued a warning about the game, which originated from the Manchester coroner’s office, in which a coroner said:

“I believe the information is so concerning that this warrants my writing at this stage to make the local authorities aware of the issue so appropriate information can be disseminated.”

“This has arisen due to the fact I am conducting the inquest into the death of a 15-year-old-boy who died earlier this year. Evidence obtained suggested he had used an online game called Doki Doki [sic].”

While the cause of the boy’s death was not mentioned, the tone implies that he took his own life. Doki Doki Literature Club’s narrative, in which the player sometimes relives the same events under different circumstances, contains multiple character suicides and also scenes of self-harm, and the coroner’s warning suggests a suspicion that the game’s content may have been a contributing factor to the boy’s death.

Since the warning was issued, Sunderland educators have been spreading the word, including Hetton Primary School head teacher Nicola Hill, who said “I wanted to warn parents, especially those who might have older children, about this game. The Internet is a great thing, but it is also a minefield.”

However, fans of the game will be quick to point out Doki Doki Literature Club itself warns players before the game even begins, with a pre-start screen saying “This game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed.”

It immediately follows this with the additional warning “Individuals suffering from anxiety or depression may not have a safe experience playing this game,” and players must click to consent to/confirm with a statement that “By playing Doki Doki Literature Club, you agree that you are at least 13 years of age, and you consent to your exposure of highly disturbing content.” There’s also the fact that on the game’s page on Steam, under “user-defined tags for this product,” the very first is “psychological horror.”

▼ Red circle added for emphasis

With all that taken into account, it’s hard to accuse Doki Doki Literature Club of hiding its darker elements, even if what exactly they are might not be immediately apparent. Moreover, the coroner’s description of it as an “online game,” when it’s actually a digitally distributed single-player offline game, his way of describing the boy as having “used” the game as opposed to “played” it, makes it seem as though the warning might not be coming from someone very familiar with this particular game, or even games in general.

Likewise, the Sunderland Echo’s description of the game as “a psychological horror game with suicide as a main feature” makes it sound like the suicides are discretionary actions instigated by the player, as opposed to events that occur outside of their control and are presented as tragic, undesirable events within the narrative. The Sunderland Echo also mentions “violent scenes such as one of the player’s neck snapping,” but the injury is actually suffered by a non-playable character, further suggesting that the author hasn’t actually played through the game.

That said, the warning doesn’t go so far as to imply that the deceased boy was a happy, well-adjusted young lad who got tricked into playing Doki Doki Literature Club only to be sent into a suicidal depression by the game alone. And it is true that Doki Doki Literature Club deals with suicide, depression, feelings of worthlessness, and warped perceptions of reality all wrapped in a surface-layer coating of pastel-hued youthful romance.

As such, it might be that the coroner and educators are concerned about teens who’re already in a dark place emotionally becoming further affected by the game’s content, and thus want to help parents be better aware of what sort of media their children are consuming so that they can judge its appropriateness. After all, if the Sunderland Echo can describe the game’s cast with “initially the characters are cute female figures, which would appeal to youngsters,” apparently unaware that the art style has its roots in visual novels where the primary goal is getting to have sex with the characters, it stands to reason that some parents would never imagine Doki Doki Literature Club’s true nature.

If you or someone you know is in Japan and having suicidal thoughts, there are people here to help. Click here for more info.

Source: Sunderland Echo via Yuruku Yaru via Jin
Images: Doki Doki Literature Club (captured by SoraNews24)