This one comes from a double standard western gamers have. I have seem it happen so frequently that it makes me asks if the ones making such affirmations have any idea what they are talking about or if they just got all the prejudices and decided to be in the side giving it than receiving it. The funny thing, those people probably have played the kind of game I am talking about before and loved it, but it was OK because they failed to understand what they were really playing.
Dating sims and Visual Novels receive a lot of criticism from Western games, while being very successful one on Japan. Any gamer who plays those games are considered lonely weirdos who would never got a real girlfriend because they are probably fat and stupid and creepy. I don't doubt that there is those people (as there is those people in any kind of hobby), but I doubt that playing those games (and enjoying it) makes you automatically a weirdo.
After all, if playing a dating sim game makes you weird, people who played a certain genre of games must be really creepy...
Mass Effect (or any Bioware game in recent years) have dating sims elements. It is not the main objective, of course, but they are there. And weird enough, I don't see people freaking out and throwing wild accusations against these elements in the game as something 'only weirdos would like' or 'get a life! How can you enjoy dating a virtual character?' accusations. It is, in fact, a praised element in the game by gamers and critic alike, and everyone seems to have their favorite virtual date.
Or The Sims, a game who is basically a life simulator and it is very successful. All those are western games and nobody make the same attacks they do against the Visual Novel genre. It seems that the critic is only aimed at Japanese developed games with those elements. Well, except...
The Persona 3 and 4 games have received a lot of praise. in fact, the dating sims elements are some of the most highlighted features of the game. It is praised as some of the best PS2 games ever. And yet, if the game is just about dating, it will receive all the criticism possible.
Oh, but how about Leisure Suit Larry (the classic ones, not the current gen ones), whose only objective is the conquest of a female character? It is a dating sim at its finest, and many regard as some of the best games ever made. Why nobody criticize them as heavily as the Japanese ones?
In the end, it feels like the double standard created by peer pressure. If a large group of people says something is weird (no matter how most of them never ever played on of those games for more than a few minutes), it become weird. If the same large group says something similar is great, it is great. It become a question of general approval than of the inherent qualities and failures of those games, or of the elements that define a dating sim/Visual Novel as such.
|This is a dating sim, no matter how much you say it is not.|
Any game whose objective (or one of the objectives) is to get the main character in a relationship with other characters and that the choices made by the player during the game defines the success of such objective is a dating sim, or at least a dating sim element inside the game. And it seems to me that a lot of people appreciate such elements.
But due to the pressure made by the large western gaming community, the Japanese dating sim seems to not find its space here and opportunities to grow. Many of those games have well written stories and interesting elements to them. And playing it does not means that you are a no-life who can't find a girl for yourself and stay closed at your room all day (yes, we all know cases like that, but there is also a lot of COD players who don't leave their houses out there too). It is just prejudice perpetuated by the media and other gamers.
I would love that more dating sims come to the west, or that western developers would make their own take at the genre more often. But as long as gamers keep their minds closed (I learned a long time ago that gamers are not more open minded than non-gamers, even if we want to believe other wise), great experiences may be lost to us.