This is Part 2 of 3 in our series, Video Games and the Law. Click here for Part 1.
What do you get when you have a high school for the most talented teenagers in the world, a cuddly black and white bear, and pink blood have in common? A very interesting after school activity that is the overarching plot of the hit virtual novel series Danganronpa. Developed by Spike Chunsoft, this virtual novel with its unique art style deals with 16 talented students who are trapped in a murder game, where they are forced to kill each other and find out who the murderer (or the blackened) is through “high speed debates” or what we would call litigation. If they find out who the blackened is, only they get eliminated. If they guess the wrong person, then everyone else gets eliminated.
The main legal theme explored in this game is the use of adverse litigation in the courtroom and its legal purpose. In Danganronpa, everyone is their own legal advocate, and depending on their popularity or how persuasive they are, this could either help or hurt the case. We learn in legal processes that the use of persuasion and charm can be a deadly combination when it comes to ligation, especially when there are ulterior motives in play. In the visual novel, the blackened must convince everyone that they aren’t the killer, whilst everyone else must convince their fellow students that they aren’t the killers as well. Everyone is able to lie and manipulate their way to the outcome they are hoping to achieve.
Unlike the video game, lawyers can’t lie about the facts of the case. However, what we can do is convince the judges or the jury that our side is the better side; that our client was right or was forced to do it or even that they did not even know. Litigation is about how you convince the judge to see your side using the facts of the case. In my opinion, the game does a decent job of showcasing this. Because the main driver of the story is its characters and their interactions with each other, as a player you want to convince them to be on your side rather than focusing on winning the argument. The adversarial system of litigation does not allow for a long connection between parties, but it does force the lawyer to make quick connections with the judge and the jury while fighting for your side. Litigation is a balancing game between friend and foe – just like what Danganronpa taught me.