There are lots of different types of video games: first person shooters, real time strategy games, role playing games; but one genre that’s never really taken off (at least in America) has been the dating sim.
A dating sim is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you spend the game wooing your would-be mates until you can finally make a connection with one. There’s lots of dialogue, little action, and no shooting. They’re a lot more slow-paced than your everyday World of Warcraft game.
While dating sims have a following all over the world, they’re played and produced mostly in Japan. Among Japanese otaku especially, dating sims are very popular; one otaku even ritualistically destroyed his old dating sim on his wedding day.
In terms of content, dating sims run the gamut from romantic, innocent love stories to more upsetting, explicit affairs. But somewhere in between those two extremes, there lie a few dating sims that are so ridiculous that they are to dating sims as Japan World Cup is to horse racing sims.
Here are some of the strangest dating sims to come out of Japan recently:
Pigeon Dating Sim
A first, second, and all subsequent glances, Hatoful Boyfriend makes no sense. It’s a dating simulator that puts you in the role of the only human at a school full of pigeons. Instead of wooing pretty girls you woo, well, pigeons.
But when you think about the title, it makes a little more sense. Seriously! The title in Japanese, はーとふる彼氏, is a play on words. In Japanese, pigeon is hato, and heart is haato, so the pun makes the game make a little more sense (but only a little).
Regardless of the wordplay, it’s hard to take the ridiculous premise seriously. Surprisingly though, I’ve heard that Hatoful Boyfriend has a unexpectedly moving story. Maybe courting pigeons can teach us something about love?
It’s available for Windows and OS X in Japanese and English, so if you’ve ever wanted to date a bird, this is your chance. You can find the official Hatoful Boyfriend site here.
My Girlfriend is the President
Imagine a world where aliens have invaded and wiped the minds of everybody on Earth. Then imagine that your girlfriend is the President of New Japan, living in a building strikingly similar to the White House, and you’re the vice president.
That, in a nutshell, is the plot of My Girlfriend is the President. It’s confusing, and you’ll have to suspend your disbelief for a lot of plot points – like the President of New Japan in a post-invasion world is a young blonde girl and that she’s dating her vice president – but makes for an interesting game.
While My Girlfriend is the President is interesting and all, it doesn’t fulfill my greatest wish: to see a dating sim that lets you woo the actual sitting president of the United States. Wait for me, Barack-tan~
Alpaca Dating Sim
If you want more inexplicable cross-species dating sims, then you’re in luck. Unlike Hatoful Boyfriend, you’re not the only human in a world full of pigeons.
In Paca Plus, you play a school-aged boy whose girlfriend suddenly and inexplicably turns into an alpaca after visiting an alpaca farm.
Even though Paca Plus presents us with an absurd scenario, like Hatoful Boyfriend, it still plays like a normal, everyday dating sim, and follows a lot of the tropes of the genre.
You’ll find yourself talking to your girlfriend-turned-alpaca in empty rooms in your school, taking her out for dates, and other typical dating sim stuff.
Buy Paca Plus on Steam here.
While I’m not sure that I would ever play any of these games, I salute that they’re creative and try to avoid some of the clichés that plague the genre. Whether or not they accurately portray what it’s like to date a pigeon is another issue entirely.