I'm Embarrassed To Play Dating Sims -- And I Shouldn't Be

I'm Embarrassed to Play Dating Sims — And I Shouldn't Be

I'm not going to lie, even after talking about the virtues of the genre, I am still embarrassed to admit I occasionally play dating sims — and I shouldn't be. It's funny. If I say I play Angry Birds, Call of Duty, or Street Fighter, I never feel embarrassed. Games have been a part of my life since I was four years old and they have become both my hobby and my career. Yet, I still feel embarrassed to admit I enjoy a good dating sim from time to time.

This is, of course, because of the general reaction I get — one somewhere between pity and disgust. It seems that the common understanding we have all agreed on is that playing dating sims means I am some kind of social failure — that I am unable to get a girl in real life and thus have turned to virtual girls instead. And while that might be true for some, I doubt that is true for most people who play dating sims — and most certainly not for me.

I'm Embarrassed to Play Dating Sims — And I Shouldn't Be

For me, a dating sim is just like any other piece of fiction: an escape to a life different from your own. I will never be a magic-wielding hero tasked with saving the world — nor will I be involved in an epic high school romance where I find true love. But thanks to books, movies, TV, and, of course, games, I am able to live these lives vicariously through fictional characters.

Yet, for some reason, while it is OK to immerse yourself in the role of a space marine slaughtering endless hordes of aliens in a game, it's bad to do the same in a story about falling in love. When you take a step back, this makes little sense. After all, looking down on a person for playing dating sims is just like looking down on someone for liking romance films or reading romance novels — hell, a dating sim basically is an interactive romance novel.

I'm Embarrassed to Play Dating Sims — And I Shouldn't Be

Frankly, this mindset is hurting gaming as a whole. As it stands now, the overwhelming majority of big budget games are adventures — the interactive equivalent of action movies, so to speak. They are empowerment fantasies designed to pump you up and take you for a fantastical ride. And while there is nothing wrong with games like this, to then look down upon games that try to explore drama or romance simply stunts gaming as an art form — preventing it from growing in new and unforeseen ways.

So don't be embarrassed if you like dating sims, or any other type of game, for that matter, that breaks away from the standard acceptable ideal. Admitting you like it and telling others why is the first step in improving gaming as a whole.


Comments

    Whoa whoa whoa, you don't feel embarrassed saying you play Angry Birds or COD? Sorry, I sometimes hate being 'that' guy.

    You may not feel embarrassed for playing Angry Birds or COD, but I feel embarrassed for you

    You should be.

    After all, looking down on a person for playing dating sims is just like looking down on someone for liking romance films or reading romance novels

    Not really analogous. There's a difference between being a passive observer of a written story that happens to involve romance, and being an active participant in a dating simulator. Videogames are an interactive medium that requires active participation and... you're using it to decide whether you want to shag the passionate firebrand or the demure, ice queen. While I don't begrudge people who read Mills & Boone books, I don't exactly have a high opinion of their taste either, and it's a logical half-step to where they might feel embarrassed telling people this.

    Yet, for some reason, while it is OK to immerse yourself in the role of a space marine slaughtering endless hordes of aliens in a game, it’s bad to do the same in a story about falling in love.

    Not really. I don't find the proliferation of jingoistic war porn games to be a good thing either, especially when a large chunk of the (unintended) audience is teens and preteens. I don't think living vicariously through a masturbatory fantasy world engineered for weebs and otakus is particularly healthy either.

    Last edited 30/04/14 11:44 pm

      This guy. This guy gets it.

        That active paparticipation. in video games is what gets so many games banned/censored here in Australia. Yet we know that as an active participant in a violent video game doesny make any of us good or bad people.

        So what does that make those adventure books? If there are romance adventure novels, does that make you whatever something bad I don't even know? for reading them and following pages of your own choosing?

        Books require participation. Concentration and focus to get through a book, may not look very active from outside perspective, but a person reading one; a lot is going on in their mind, and it's very active.

        That's my few cents for now I got more, but my phone can handle only so much crap before it screwed up from all the lag.

      Well, actually, I think it's clear that the only correct opinion is my opinion. People should be embarrassed about things I don't think much of. Shame on you, author. Shame on you, commenters.

      Not really analogous. There's a difference between being a passive observer of a written story that happens to involve romance, and being an active participant in a dating simulator. Videogames are an interactive medium that requires active participation and... you're using it to decide whether you want to shag the passionate firebrand or the demure, ice queen. While I don't begrudge people who read Mills & Boone books, I don't exactly have a high opinion of their taste either, and it's a logical half-step to where they might feel embarrassed telling people this.

      Not really. Have you read Goosebumps series that let reader choose the path and go on from there with bad end and true end? Dating sims are similar where the story path is set and you reach different ending with different path you take. Although reading a book is being a passive observer, most readers immerse themselves in the story and become their fantasy, true they cannot choose the path of the story as it is already written but who said you cannot imagine yourself as the main character experiencing the story? Pretty sure I do that a lot when I read books with heavy fantasy theme like Inheritance Cycle, I was practically the hero when I read it.

      Some people just classes dating sims as porn which is totally not true as the story is actually rather compelling compare to what CoD provides. Look at the amount of dating sim that became anime that became popular anime that most anime fans already watched it?

      I feel people should not be judged for what they do and they have no reason to be embarrassed as well. I'm in my mid 20s and I play Pokemon, CoD, Battlefield, Senran Kagura, Dating sims, Visual Novels, western RPG, JRPG and shit tons more genre and I am not embarrassed one bit.

        I used 'romance novels' the way the author does, generic Mills & Boone books, with red spines and saucy covers. Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels are a different beast entirely. If a work of fiction gives the audience agency in how they want to act and how the story is going to end, then it's a different scenario, and demands a higher level of participation.

        Pretty sure I do that a lot when I read books with heavy fantasy theme like Inheritance Cycle, I was practically the hero when I read it.

        I read books as an external observer of how the events affect the characters within them. Doesn't mean I'm not invested in whether Luke and Han defeat the empire, but I don't live vicariously through an audience surrogate either.

        Hey, if you play dating sims, you shouldn't let judgemental people like me stop you from it. I dislike the term 'guilty pleasure' because it assumes you should feel 'guilty' about liking something. I love the movie 'The Holiday,' (Love, Actually's stupider clone) but boy do I feel embarrassed about telling people.

    Good article Richard; I'm inspired! When I get to work today I'm going to tell my boss and colleagues all about Love Plus and my virtual girlfriend Manaka. I'll report back here all their encouraging comments tonight.

      UPDATE: they sacked me for being a pervert (some clause in my contract about appropriate behavior at work and organizational values) and had security escort me out :(

      I couldn't even have my girlfriend comfort me because my DS batteries were flat :'(

    Maybe if these games didn't almost universally appear to involve socially inept characters attempting to seduce underage Japanese girls there would be more basis for not being embarassed...

    Article seems to boil down to "you can't make any value judgements about my taste". Sorry, but I can. Just like you can about mine.

      That's also what bugs me. Maybe I'm ignorant of dating sims, but from every clip and screenshot on sites like this, it seems every single one has a socially-retarded and meek doormat as its audience surrogate... who attends a school that's stocked like a game fishing pond.

      Then it just becomes a process of sorting through which of the underage, large-breasted stereotypes who throw themselves at the protagonist, the player wants to have sex with, and rewarded with a smutty screenshot or something. Something about the picking and choosing of girls, like a warped penthouse forum fantasy, that seriously rubs me the wrong way.

        I think you just revealed, rather starkly, your ignorance about the genre and the culture from which it originates.

        Which, of course, is a part of the image problem that dating sims have to overcome.

          As Beym said for every "eroge/harem" dating sim out there... there's also some genuine good visual novels. Hell I'll go and point out the two classics - To Heart and Kanon.

          My theory on why Dating Sims get such a bad rep nowadays is the fact that unfortunately "harem" anime/manga which is usually the point of reference most people connect w/ dating sims have suffered from the "idiot lead" syndrome far too much as of late. I mean it's fine to have a flawed main character but very rarely do you see growth on a majority of these leads these days...

          This just leads on to the assumption that even the dating sims/visual novels some these shows are based on is the "norm"

          Of course, I'm generalising based on my exposure from sites like this. My impression however, is that the so-called 'harem' subgenre forms the bulk of dating simulators. If there are people out there who play perfectly 'normal' dating sims and resent the generalisation, I understand. It also seems that the author of this article indulges in that very (imo) creepy subset of dating sim.

    Two things

    1. Persona 4 was a dating sim as well. Everyone loved it.
    2. The social stigma around dating sims in japan are because its super otaku culture and contains smut.

    the culture from which it originates
    Having recently visited various subculture centres in Tokyo, I can confirm that the "culture" from which some of this stuff emerges appears to be focused on telling socially inadequate men that it is ok to lust after underage girls as though they are nothing more than expensive recreational toys, and that money and trickery (and not, for example, developing some social skills and starting to treat women like human beings) is the way to get what you want.

    And of course Japan has a thriving sex trade involving lonely adult men and actual school girls. Of course this is not spoken of in polite society over there.

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