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Doki Doki Literature Club Self Care Review

Doki Doki Literature Club is an interesting game, to say the least. What starts off as what appears to be another cutesy dating sim turns upside down. There are plot twists, graphic abnormalities, and musical dissonance that are likely to get on your nerves.

But how does it fare for self care?

header image with Monika from doki doki literature club and the words "self care review: doki doki literature club"
Image by Team Salvato, edited by GamerGlo

If you’re new here, you may not know me: hi, I’m Glo! I am taking an approach to mental health and self care using video games as some of my core tools. To do that, it’s important for me to know what works and what doesn’t. For this purpose, I‘ve created a scorecard. 

Based on various categories that meet self care needs, I evaluate a game and determine: is it self care, or not?

This scorecard is, of course, based on my own personal experience and needs, so it’s not the be-all and end-all of self care. But, if you’re just getting started with this approach, I hope it can help you!

The Scorecard

I use a base scorecard to determine the self care capabilities of a game. For Doki Doki Literature Club, this will be no different!

Each question is loosely based on self care needs — physical, mental, spiritual, etc. 

  • Is it easy to play?
  • Is it relaxing?
  • Is it enjoyable?
  • Does it meet a particular need, such as stimulating my mind or strengthening relationships?
  • Does it not require a lot of time/effort?
  • Does it make me feel worse?
  • Does it take a lot of emotional or physical energy?
  • Bonus: Does it approach topics of mental health sensitively?

The maximum number of self care stars a game can be awarded before the bonus is 5. 

5 stars, 5 are gold to show rating out of 5
5 stars

There are 2 categories that can dock stars, so even a game that meets all the other categories can still only score a 3.

5 stars, 3 are gold to show rating out of 5
3 stars

And of course, there’s the bonus! If a game tackles mental health as a core theme sensitively and successfully, I believe it deserves a little extra. Any game that achieves this is awarded 2 extra stars, making the highest possible score 7 stars.

7 stars, 5 are gold to show rating out of 5, 2 are pink to show bonus point stars
5 stars, 2 bonus stars

When all the scoring is said and done, what does it mean? Based on my evaluations, any game with 4 or more stars is a pretty solid game for self care! These are great games to bring out and play when you’re going through a depression spiral, feeling a heavy amount of anxiety, or even just need some me-time to relax!

Now, let’s get to grading.

Is it easy to play?

(+1 star possible)

Doki Doki Literature Club is a visual novel, so there are no confusing controls to learn. You can easily progress through the story without running into any difficult to cross roadblocks (at least, physically.)

One premise of the game is writing a poem for the girl you choose to woo by selecting words you think she likes — the hardest part is determining which words go with which character! 

screenshot form doki doki literature club showing the poem screen
Image by Team Salvato

Even if you’ve never played a single video game before, you can sit down and progress through Doki Doki Literature Club without a problem. It gets the star for this one.

Is it relaxing?

(+1 star possible)

No. Absolutely not. Not a chance.

If you’ve even heard of Doki Doki Literature Club, you know that things are not what they appear. While this game starts with the premise of a cutesy dating sim, the tables are quickly turned and shit hits the fan. Fast. 

Even just the hints from the characters in the game are enough to stir up my anxiety.

screenshot of doki doki literature club reminding the player to save the game
Image by Team Salvato

Right off the bat, the game even makes you agree to be exposed to “highly disturbing content” and warns individuals with anxiety or depression that it might not be for them. While I suffer from both, this game did not trigger my mental health in a way I thought it might. That being said, it certainly did keep me on my toes and my heart rate racing basically the entire time.  

Is it enjoyable? 

(+1 star possible)

I’m not usually one to play visual novels — I find myself getting bored easily. With Doki Doki Literature Club, that was not the case at all. I was really intrigued throughout the entire game and couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. 

screenshot from glo's twitch stream showing her play doki doki literature club
Image by GamerGlo

If you check my playthrough of the game, you’ll find I was constantly making predictions and trying to figure out the next steps before they occurred. I have never been kept on my toes so thoroughly in a visual novel, so this was certainly a wild but enjoyable ride for me.

Does it meet a particular need?

(+1 star possible)

I kept going back and forth between awarding the star here, so in the end, I decided half a star was the best course of action. Doki Doki Literature Club makes an active effort to get into your head and make you think. It does this extremely well and I would absolutely consider it to be stimulating.

The issue is how it stimulates the mind. The game uses musical dissonance, the passage of time, and fourth-wall-breaking to engage the player and keep them alert. All of this contributes to the game’s disturbing content, which is why I dock half a star. It’s not utilized in a way to make the player feel better, but rather worse — that’s the aim of the game. 

Does it not require a lot of time/effort?

(+1 star possible)

Apparently, the average time to finish this game is 4 hours. I was playing on stream with the occasional distraction and I think we clocked in right around 7 or 8 hours, instead. Overall, still not a long time to play a game from start to finish at all!

The game is played in various parts and lets you save at (almost) any point, so it’s easy to set it down and pick right back off where you left it. Many games encourage hours of daily play in order to really reap the rewards or properly finish the game. This is not one of them, so in my book that’s a gold star! 

Does it make me feel worse?

(-1 star possible)


But that’s the whole point. I mentioned earlier the game comes right out of the gate with various warnings about the disturbing content, and they seriously aren’t kidding.

The topics in Doki Doki Literature Club are very serious and it can get fairly graphic, especially for a visual novel. That coupled with the occasional jumpscare had me questioning myself and sitting with a vaguely nauseous feeling every time I played. More than once I legitimately threw my headphones off.

screenshot from glo's twitch stream showing her play doki doki literature club
Image by GamerGlo

It’s certainly not a bad thing in general, just definitely be wary of the disclaimers and make sure you’re in a healthy enough place mentally to play. 

But you’ll probably still feel like shit a few times. That’s what they want, after all. 

Does it take a lot of emotional or physical energy?

(-1 star possible)

It all comes back to those disclaimers at the start. 

This game is made to make you feel uncomfortable. It’s made to take you on a ride, from unassuming dating sim to absolutely fucking bonkers psychological horror. It definitely took a lot out of me.

photo of Glo from her live stream playing doki doki literature club. SHe looks like she's seen some shit
Image by GamerGlo

From self harm to suicide to extremely personal fourth-wall-breaking, this game does its best to drain you of your mental and emotional energy. Those heavy topics coupled with the use of musical dissonance and offbeat graphics make it really effective. I often found myself needing to take a short break to recuperate and recover from whatever the fuck just happened.

Does it approach topics of mental health sensitively?

(+2 bonus stars possible)

I just mentioned self harm and suicide above. Based on everything else I’ve had to say about this game, do you think the game approaches them sensitively?

Spoiler: absolutely not.

Doki Doki Literature Club uses jarring imagery and surprises to shock the player. It’s not here to tackle mental health problems. It’s here to freak you out. And it works.


So, what do you think? Do you think Doki Doki Literature Club makes the cut as a good game for self care?

5 stars, 1.5 are gold to show rating out of 5
1.5 stars

Yeah, absolutely not. But honestly, it did fare far better than I thought it would.

Overall, it’s a very fun and interesting game that keeps the player coming back for more. The disturbing content and heavy subject matter, however, make it really miss the mark in terms of self care.

I do highly recommend you give this game a shot — you can find it for free on steam. Just please please please make sure you take those disclaimers seriously. 

I hope you enjoyed my first self care review! 

This series is going to continue with a new post every month, so keep an eye out and make any game suggestions in the comments or let me know on Twitter!

J̶̘̪̚ú̴͚͔s̷̝̫̔t̴̳̙͒ ̶̼͐͆M̵̞͖̕͝ö̴͖́͝n̴̪͒̇i̸̬͉̓̔k̶̦̅̈́a̴̝͍̋

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