Dating Sims

Dating Sims

Why dating simulations can be a tempting escape from relationships.

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Oh Dating Sims. Played one back in my first year of Uni. In fact I shared a flat with another guy and a girl, and both of them played the same game too :P We did it sort of for laughs though.

I can see how some people can get "addicted" to the high though...

Mark J Kline:
Ask Dr. Mark 18: Dating Sims

Why dating simulations can be a tempting escape from relationships.

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This is an absolutely excellent topic for the current time. After all the talk about "gaming addiction," and the problems that can be associated with habitual gaming, this one strikes at what can be seen as some of the "fallout" of those problems--our entertainment can contribute to our tendency toward introversion.

There are some dating sims that are pretty tame. You bring gifts, you buy flowers, you remember little facts about the object of your affection, and then you have a date! Then there's the other end of the spectrum--the "sex sim," more than dating sim. Those are usually what people think of, because they're far easier to find (either because they're more common, or perhaps just because they draw more attention).

In a sense, there's not much of a difference between the outright "sex sim" and the so-called "murder sim" violent games. There's a katharsis in it, for some. And for others, it instead continues a cycle that can lead to destructive behavior. It's case-by-case, really, and (as you noted) the fact that this person is even asking this question seems to put him in the "okay" category.

(I do think the major difference is that the behaviors in these dating sims are far easier and more tempting to emulate than those in a violent game. They're legal, for one. You're more likely to find a willing partner, for another. But other than that...)

Like any entertainment, it's about how it's used. If it's used as an escape from reality, hey, we've all got those. In moderation, it's just plain necessary to escape sometimes. But when it's used as a substitute for reality (or perhaps as practice for reality), the problem of unrealistic expectations rears its ugly head.

Some things for the "caller" to consider might be:

1. In real life, just remember that the person on the other end is a person. We can't "win" each other with math or walkthroughs, and there's no "surefire" strategy. At first, this can sound disappointing, but stop a moment and think about it--it's really quite liberating.

It means that you aren't "failing" with a girl if you don't get where you wanted to go, and that this perceived failure isn't a result of "bad technique." It probably just means you weren't both looking for the same thing, and that's neither a win nor loss for anyone involved. So, because there's no techniques or tricks to master, it means there's no reason to take it personally.

2. Come at the problem sideways. You've mentioned you also tend to have few friends. Maybe work on that one first--relating to people without the background noise of "sex" and "relationships" buzzing in your mind. There's a lot less pressure to a simple friendship with someone of the same sex. Finding a small group (so you don't feel lost) with a common interest (so you've got things to relate about) might be just the ticket for you. Gaming can do that... but sometimes, it's so much about the games that there's not as much relating. Same goes for movies--not much talking, not always the best "social" activity.

You have an interest in simulations/playing roles, so maybe hobbies that involve a bit more talking... maybe tabletop gaming?... can allow you to get used to relating to people while playing a role in a game. And because those games tend to use turns, the experience isn't as apt to be dominated by the "alphas" of the group. And this is an option you can pursue in person or online (though it might take a few tries to find online people you fit well with). That's just one suggestion, of course.

3. Sometimes, it helps not to seek out friends. Seek out activities, and you'll find friends on the way many times. Find your voice. Try new things. Try old things in new ways. Use these opportunities to find out your own strengths and interests. While you're doing that, you'll probably end up running into other people with similar strengths and interests. And you'll already have something in common to talk about.

Ah. Gotta say, I play certain dating sims because they're like non-combat focused RPGs, and those few have comparable stories to my favorite visual novels (i.e. moving and well-written).

But then, I guess I'm not the target audience for this advice. I do sympathize with that guy, though.

NeutralDrow:
Ah. Gotta say, I play certain dating sims because they're like non-combat focused RPGs, and those few have comparable stories to my favorite visual novels (i.e. moving and well-written).

But then, I guess I'm not the target audience for this advice. I do sympathize with that guy, though.

Ninja'd. And here I thought I could post before you. Damn.

OT: What Drow said. And I sympathize with the guy too. Though I haven't played that many dating sims mostly visual novels.

It's pretty clear that your porn playing hard to get isn't ever going to be a substitute for warm human relations and romances, but I see no reason the two can't coexist peacefully in the realm of sexuality, serving quite different ends.

Like alcohol and other stimulants, it's probably something some people just can't handle though. Good for them if they know, and anyone thinking that there's anything social to be found with them should probably lay off the digital girls. Though depending on story they might well evoke plenty of real emotions, like any other fiction may.

I certainly know that the cycle of social anxiety can be hard to break, and like you said perseverance is really the only way to get over but its not easy. I have grown out of dating sims though, most are to simple to give real impact. Just complement the girl and remember her favorite things. As far as the ones I've played they certainly don't have enough of an emotional substance to be satisfying.

While quite obviously the letter writer has some social anxiety issues that aren't helped by playing dating sims, I suspect that for most fans visual novels with romance in them are not much different than paper novels with romance in them. I don't worry about my wife's tub reads, I wouldn't worry about the typical teen who likes visual novels.

As long as he isn't consciously thinking that women are only worthy if they measure up to the characters in his dating sim, what's the harm?

I'm insulted by the negative connotation used to describe introversion.

Excellent work Doctor! I always enjoy your articles!

ReturnPostage:
I'm insulted by the negative connotation used to describe introversion.

I'm with you. I refuse to be classified as a sufferer of social anxiety or a person with a "problem" just because I play social interactions close to the vest and choose my friends carefully.

Vayce:

ReturnPostage:
I'm insulted by the negative connotation used to describe introversion.

I'm with you. I refuse to be classified as a sufferer of social anxiety or a person with a "problem" just because I play social interactions close to the vest and choose my friends carefully.

Yeah, but Western society always tends to look upon loud people with lots of friends as more healthy than quiet people with very few friends. Having said that, it isn't always a correct assumption.

I don't have a problem with dating sims, if it makes someone happy then why not? I agree with ReturnPostage's statement about introversion seen as negative, if it is what makes you happy then go nuts. My only real issue with dating sims is that they've become synonymous with visual novels, which really pisses me off when I have to explain the difference between the two every time I bring one up.

Vayce:

ReturnPostage:
I'm insulted by the negative connotation used to describe introversion.

I'm with you. I refuse to be classified as a sufferer of social anxiety or a person with a "problem" just because I play social interactions close to the vest and choose my friends carefully.

Agreed. Especially as people not pursuing relationships are being branded as having a 'problem'. It's not a problem, it's a choice.

"You seem to know that this is ultimately not what you want. This is a good sign. I'm more concerned about people who don't experience conflict and sadness about avoidance habits, and believe me, there are plenty of them."

As opposed to not knowing something isn't what you want? So there is a single way a mind works and anyone breaching 'the rules' is just in denial about what they truly want from life? Look at the quote - we should experience conflict and sadness for not doing as society says. And that's considered 'healthy'? Should shy or introverted people feel ashamed for being how they are? If someone wants to avoid romantic relationships, let them have their choice.

Read "http://www.mangafox.com/manga/the_world_god_only_knows/" it takes the concept of a guy only interested in dating sims and then goes crazy.

but back on subject; this is probably a common problem, were men who have little self confidences, and hardly any friends to help build it up, try to fill the social void with placeholders. This is pointed out alot with the Japaneses, and the people are commonly known as "Neet" but thous are the people who get overly into the dating seems. Other men find other ways to fill the void, alcohol is probably the most common, but for the most part it's become a modern silent pandemic.

As for me, I have a similar problem, but the answers is probably the same.

[quote="LordFisheh" po

Bwown:

Vayce:

ReturnPostage:
I'm insulted by the negative connotation used to describe introversion.

I'm with you. I refuse to be classified as a sufferer of social anxiety or a person with a "problem" just because I play social interactions close to the vest and choose my friends carefully.

Yeah, but Western society always tends to look upon loud people with lots of friends as more healthy than quiet people with very few friends. Having said that, it isn't always a correct assumption.

I'm not necessarily introverted, but genetics makes me naturally introverted, having multipal learning disabletys tends to made it hare to communicate with people my own age. The other half of my problem is deep routed physiological scarring, nothing traumatizing, more like a long slow burn that did not help me be able to communicate with other people.

but ya, I may have a problem making friend, but it's not necessarily my fault that I'm alown most of the time. When I try to keep in contact with people, and find that I'm the only one trying, and when I get to hang out with someone, were doing what they want to do much of the time, other time their doing something elss, or working.

so the quiet person who is by themselves, may be there because they like it, as well as that the people they like to be around have better things to do. At least the quiet person is not planning on sruffing a car, or getting into a fight.

Where to start...

Listen: person, as long as you stay inside of Japanese/American-Otaku culture, dating sims are perfectly normal, but they go by much more elegant titles (Visual Novels) among, the people that like them. Unfortunately, outside of those cultures, they're often, like MMORPGs, frowned upon as something only nerds of fantasize about.

I may sound like I'm repeating Dr. Mark, but they can be a way to cope with lonliness. In essence, they could be viewed as porn with a story behind them and actual emotions involved. That isn't true, however, because almost every anime out there today starts as either a visual novel, or a manga, or both. It, often times, just so happens that the erotic elements are, tacked on for 'depth' or other reasons. There are both immense amounts of examples to support and deny this.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you personally, because the only one I've sat through was Fate/Stay Night (thank you, friend who shall remain anonymous), and while there was a relationship element, it was downsized by an incredible story (oh, don't get me wrong, the story definitely had some erotic elements), it was essentially a visual novel with a romantic slightly-more-than-subplot, and one of the most recognized of its kind. Of course, I didn't finish the other two "paths," which I heard were waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more erotic, but there's a reason why so many people like these things, and it's not just because they're all lonely men who suck with women (or the other way around). If that were true, I'd have read every last one of them by now. I will say why I don't later.

I will admit that the only reason I know about these things is from Danbooru, a more civilized version of /h/ on 4chan with more wierdos who I swear think one of two things: it's okay to not to keep those... things to yourself, or, they think those girls are actually trapped on the other side of the computer screen. If you still don't know what Danbooru is, I won't tell you because you're probably an anti-porn activist.

Hell, my avatar's from a series called Bullet Butlers, which I'm sure is less about the story and more about the... yeah, and I do like the character, but I haven't, and probably never will, read the actual thing. Sure, the rewards for doing so, especially with my horomones, will make the gratification rise above the current scales, but I just can't sit through it.

So no, I don't have a girlfriend, and haven't had an irl one since about middle school, which doesn't count, but I haven't really read any visual novels except 1 playthrough of Fate/Stay Night, which I will admit, was extremely gratifying, arguably because of back then, I was alot easier to entertain. Why is that? Well, no, it's not because I'm too good for it. It's quite the opposite.

See, knowing I'm a writer, you'd expect me to be all over stories of all shapes and forms, but simply put: I'm not. Unless the writing is top notch, and the story elements, specifically the characterization draws me in, and the story can keep me reading, I will not pick up a piece of literature and read it. So, I won't pick up a visual novel and start reading unless it was written by one of the masters themselves (Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Knaack, the other big guns), or at least translated by them, because if it was written by them, it would probably be awkward. Good, but awkward. OR if the artwork catches my eye, but that will likely just lead to a quick google search and readover of a quick backstory to save me the time wasted by otherwise getting too emotionally invested. Like any other human being, I fantasize, but I don't rely on other authors to create my story for me. Some call it close minded, I call it being picky.

Also, one last thing: Yes, I do think that visual novels that emphasize story over some sexy gimmick are in the minoroty, and getting rarer. In a few short words, I think that visual novels in the erotic respect are for those that want both the sexual satisfaction that comes from porn, with more to it than just pretty pictures and dirty thoughts, and they don't want to fill that void on their own.

I probably will get trolled/flamed to high hell for this post, but being part of Anonymous, I know I'm not alone.

LordFisheh:

Vayce:

ReturnPostage:
I'm insulted by the negative connotation used to describe introversion.

I'm with you. I refuse to be classified as a sufferer of social anxiety or a person with a "problem" just because I play social interactions close to the vest and choose my friends carefully.

Agreed. Especially as people not pursuing relationships are being branded as having a 'problem'. It's not a problem, it's a choice.

"You seem to know that this is ultimately not what you want. This is a good sign. I'm more concerned about people who don't experience conflict and sadness about avoidance habits, and believe me, there are plenty of them."

As opposed to not knowing something isn't what you want? So there is a single way a mind works and anyone breaching 'the rules' is just in denial about what they truly want from life? Look at the quote - we should experience conflict and sadness for not doing as society says. And that's considered 'healthy'? Should shy or introverted people feel ashamed for being how they are? If someone wants to avoid romantic relationships, let them have their choice.

Oh c'mon people, you're projecting too much. He never said introversion is wrong. There's a difference between being shy and introverted and having "avoidance issues". You can be an introvert and still live your life without working to avoid all social situations. I didn't see anywhere in the article saying otherwise.

You introverts are too touchy, jeez (kidding, I'm somewhat of an introvert myself, although it's gotten less serious with age).

Well I would say there is nothing wrong with playing a Dating Sim. It is like any other game a temporary escape. Still if you want a real relationship I would listen to the advice above. I personally don't know a thing getting into a relationship other than letting it happen naturally.
Then again I'm probably younger than this person or lack the urgency for a relationship.

Sims are scripted, unlike real women :D
IRL you can expect everything and I hope he doesen't loose complete hope and trust in them.

I'm glad for this guy that he clearly *wants* to be successful with women, and hasn't yet blamed all his difficulties on them. There are too many people out there (on both sides of the relationship/gender fence) who have, perhaps, low self-esteem, or social problems, and instead of working to overcome them, seek the easy way out in blaming the other person for their own shortcomings. Much good advice has been given on how this dude can become happier, so I won't repeat it, but I'd like to say good luck to him (genuinely), and that I hope he works things out and finds a better place, relationship-wise. =)

As tautologico notes, there is a difference between being introverted and having "avoidance issues." In the statement which seems to have offended some of you, I was referring to the latter, not the former. Gaming can become one of a vast number of habits people fall into to avoid some unpleasant real life obligation or developmental task. This really isn't a comment on gaming in particular, except that it can be a very effective means of avoidance for some people.

I have more hope for folks who recognize their avoidance and are conflicted about it, as this writer clearly is. Conflict and discomfort about a habit often come with motivation to change. Often, spouses, parents, teachers, and counselors are the ones who carry the fire for change, while the avoider is more comfortable with a soothing escape.

Introversion is simply a personality style which may well be dispositional. I've known plenty of perfectly nice introverts who prefer to spend more time on their own and are happy that way. Many are capable of very satisfying relationships and limited social interaction. I didn't intend to disparage them and I may actually fall into the group myself.

Some extroverts I know are among the biggest avoiders around!

Sorry for the lateness of this reply--very busy in Dr.Mark land--hope it gets to some of you who were kind enough to respond to the article.

An interesting column, I'll read more in future.

I'd consider the Wikipedia description accurate, and while I have no problem meeting girls, or dating, sometimes the games are good for a laugh.

They tell a story that isn't usually told in conventional game play and while individual experiences can hardly be taken as a canon representation of human interaction, it can be comparable to watching a romantic comedy.

As many dating games are designed to stimulate erotically using skinner box methods, providing an incentive to play through tempting the user for that little bit more, they could be seen as manipulative and perverse.

You could draw the comparison here with a television commercial if you really wanted to, I'm not accusing the people that play these games of being deviants, as stated, I've played them.

Approaching a dating sim from a detached perspective certainly isn't unhealthy. I used to play them now and then with my girlfriend at the time and we'd both get a kick out of the ridiculous ways characters behaved.

 

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