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It’s a troubling view of human relations in general but it’s one that simple gameplay mechanics can handle.So now we come upon the quantum conundrum of dating sims.The first ending many people experience when playing notorious pigeon dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend involves being ambushed by ninjas for "failing to display sufficient intimacy with the birds." You are unceremoniously killed and brought back to the main menu to start over from the beginning or are forced to resume from an earlier save point.
Japanese cultural critic Hiroki Azuma wrote in his translated book Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals about the contradiction of the dual desire for small narratives and grand non-narrative databases, little quantum set-pieces at the expense of a linear canon story.If you walk off the path, you'll be pushed back onto it. The systems in these romance-focused visual novels are usually not robust enough to support complex social sims, they're more like long and pretty choose-your-own-adventure novels.The player must accept their limited role in these spaces and do what they can in order to dig the interesting bits out of these games’ juicy narrative databases.This is a very different philosophy from Western-style role-playing games, where one generally finds it more satisfying to select with your gut and accept how the die is cast.Both approaches have merits, but I enjoy digging into a dating sim and seeking out all the various endings and full gallery completion.