Notions of Love in Dating Sims

While most of Joel Gn’s article, “Cute Technics in the Love Machine,” gets spent talking about the “cute” elements of dating sims (ones designed for male players), he argues that despite controversy, dating sims reinforce standard beliefs about relationships and love. Mystic Messenger, like other dating sims, also reinforce these ideas, but not in the…

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While most of Joel Gn’s article, “Cute Technics in the Love Machine,” gets spent talking about the “cute” elements of dating sims (ones designed for male players), he argues that despite controversy, dating sims reinforce standard beliefs about relationships and love. Mystic Messenger, like other dating sims, also reinforce these ideas, but not in the same way Gn believes.

Gn claims that “the dating sim does not alter, but repeats and even formalizes the interactivity of love with a software construct.” Essentially, because the player’s only have certain options they can respond with, they must progress on one of the game’s paths. These paths follow general set patterns about love. For example, in MM, when romancing Zen, the player starts by talking with him frequently for several days, then they meet up with him and go on a date of sorts. Afterwards they continue to talk and plan to visit each other again. This follows the course of a regular relationships, where people talk, go on dates, and get closer over time. If the player wants a romance with Zen, they must pursue it in this way, reinforcing standard beliefs about relationships.

On the player's

On the player’s “date” with Zen they look at the stars together and then the player goes home. That is the only option, thus reinforcing standard notions of romance

Gn also argues that this is a positive aspect of the games, for they play out love like real life by following the “correct” pattern to get the result you desire. Since they’re meant to simulate dating though, the problem with entering the correct algorithm is that it doesn’t necessarily follow the player’s own thoughts. In MM, a player usually has two or three option choices for dialogue. One will generally lead to a negative reaction or no reaction, while the other will lead to a positive one. As a result, the player chooses the answer which will earn a positive reaction with the character they aim to romance, not necessarily the answer they would actually say. The game then becomes more of a role-playing scenario than an actual “simulation,” because often the responses don’t align with the player’s thoughts. While the game does repeat the generally accepted values and patterns of love, it’s not making the player go through them, but instead has the player “play” a person going through them. So while the games do reinforce societal values about love and relationships, those get transferred via roleplaying rather than actual feelings.

Even if a person would normally respond with a simple good-bye, if they want approval they must respond with the top option, making the dating sim more of a role-playing game than a simulation

Even if a person would normally respond with a simple good-bye, if they want approval they must respond with the top option, making the dating sim more of a role-playing game than a simulation

Sources:
Gn, Joel. “Cute Technics in the Love Machine.” InVisible Culture no. 21 (Fall, 2014). http://ezproxy.lib.davidson.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1771515685?accountid=10427.

Mystic Messenger: Gaming In Real-Time

While Cheritz’s most recent game, Mystic Messenger, looks like pretty much dating sim you’d download on Android, it quickly turns the tables with a relatively simple game mechanic. Most dating sims operate on a “turn” system; you get so many turns, each of which progresses the story, and when you run out, you have to…

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While Cheritz’s most recent game, Mystic Messenger, looks like pretty much dating sim you’d download on Android, it quickly turns the tables with a relatively simple game mechanic. Most dating sims operate on a “turn” system; you get so many turns, each of which progresses the story, and when you run out, you have to wait until the next day to get more turns (unless you pay for them, which is how the games make money). Unlike other dating sims, MM occurs in real-time. After you start the game, chats open up as time progresses, to the extent that if you don’t start the game at midnight, there’s no way to complete everything to 100%. Here’s the kicker though, if you don’t respond to a chat by the time another chat starts (the time of which varies), you miss out on participating. (Unless you buy it separately, which is how this game makes its money).

The real time method of the game, which takes place over 11 days

The real time method of the game, which takes place over 11 days

So why would MM deviate from tradition ways of framing dating sims? Simply put, it keeps players playing their game. In a tradition dating sim, you play for a day and when you’re out of turns, you quit. Maybe you come back the next day, but there’s no guarantee that you do. The story cannot progress without you, so it’s not a problem. In MM though, the story will go on. The characters will chat with each other, even if you aren’t present. There isn’t any taking a break for a few days, because a few days could cost you the entire game. Even missing a conversation could ruin your attempts to romance whichever character you choose. As a result, the game encourages a sort of “drop-everything” type of play. This keeps players engaged with the game. It’s aided by the fact that each new message received sends a notification to your phone, which leads to a constant checking of the device or the game to ensure that you aren’t missing anything.

Given that the game takes place over the course of 11 days, if the player wants to play through every romance (just good endings) that guarantees at least 55 days of consistent playing, which is probably more than many AAA games out there. Essentially, real-time serves as function to both keep players playing, or alternatively for less avid players, to get them to pay money in order to complete the game.

The hour glasses next to the chat mean you missed them, but can purchase them for money

The hour glasses next to the chat mean you missed them, but can purchase them for money