Let’s see, you’re fourteen. Nobody understands you, because you are so much more mature than your peers and at the same time you are the most hormone-filled romantic ever, who just wants someone to whisk you away on a magic carpet. What do you do? You play Dating Sims.
Even though the craze has clearly quietened down, the field only had a few real star players in the day. One of them went by the name of Pachtesis, who would post her games in DeviantArt. Her games were original, well-drawn and romantic, and didn’t include sex. For a 14-year old girl those games offered a very pleasant option of a pastime and an alternative to those real boys, who were sooooo childish. I recently played through all the Pachtesis’ Dating Sims for old times’ sake, and it was still a pleasant experience. Of course I now realise that the games have their own clichés (of course there has to be that one guy who calls the main character ‘princess’), but the stories are still original and the artwork is still good. If you’re into games that concentrate on relationships and backstories, rather than shooting and solving puzzles, give them a try.
What people usually say out of Dating Sims first is that your goal is to have sex with whichever character gets to hold the torch of the desirable woman/man. (Usually it was a woman.) Sure, if you wanted games with sex in them you could find them on sites like Newgrounds, which unfortunately has removed its old classics with unspeakably filthy titles and moved on only to feature parodies of Dating Sims, which is kind of a shame. Ridiculed or not, they’re not all bad. Like all games, they share some sort of purpose of entertainment. I think Dating Sims can have a more personal level; you practice the idea that, my goodness, there is someone out there who finds you attractive.
I think at the end of the day, to me, playing Dating Sims was the safest form of exploration. At a tender age when you are at your most naïve, the games offered an illusion of dialogue and interactivity. Still it was perfectly safe physically and mentally (when your heart is oh so very fragile, you can always get your happy ending with a wedding). Thinking about it now, playing Dating Sims must’ve stopped me from logging into any shady chatrooms in my romantic hormone hunger. Maybe the reason why I didn’t end up heartbroken, a syphilis carrier or a teenage mother is because of Dating Sims. Who knows?