So the word for this thread is [Diegetic]. If something is diegetic that means it exists within the universe of the story. Most of the time this word is used to describe music in film. There isn’t actually a full storm trooper orchestra playing Imperial March wherever Darth Vader goes, but the music in the cantina in Mos Eisley is performed by an in-universe band etc.
There’s lots of things in VNs that can be diegetic or non-diegetic, but this thread is basically about whether the muli-route structure of the games is diegetic. Multiple routes is just an industry standard, and players expect that from galge regardless if they’re diegetic or non-diegetic.
In Key games routes are diegetic most of the time because of various concepts they’ve come up with over the years. I probably wouldn’t say routes are diegetic in Air since I don’t recall the text ever directing your attention to it, but there is the thing with the bird; Air doesn’t throw you many bones. Clannad has a very brief comment about what makes the routes diegetic towards the end. Since Clannad though, they committed hard to making all routes diegetic, coming up with way more elaborate shenanigans.
Those later ones are fun and all, but I feel it’s starting to restrict the storytelling. Characters being stuck in a time-loop/groundhog day scenario has become oh so very common. If we could just dial it back a bit?