A lot of RPGs these days have some sort of relationship mechanic, even if the relationships aren’t necessarily romantic, but you can them find turn-based strategy games as well.I think it’s difficult to say if the visual novel-style dating sims are games or not.I blame it on the old Wizardry games, I made up my own stories as I sat there drawing out maps on graph paper and grinding through the same group of 6 monsters again and again.

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Yes, I make fun of the games, but I am also very honest when something is actually emotionally affecting me.

I certainly didn’t expect to start caring about the childhood friend pigeon in Hatoful Boyfriend, but I didn’t try to hide it when it happened. I think that helps me enjoy it even more when a character says something that is incredibly sweet, or I find myself really invested in helping a character out.

It also makes it more shocking when a storyline turns sour, like with Saeki constantly hitting Balls Mahoney over the course of Tokimeki Girls Side 2.

I don’t think I could fully enjoy something if I couldn’t make fun of it, but I also think that my joking about something would fall flat if some part of me didn’t love it.

I don’t really have a hard line between enjoying something in earnest and making fun of it.

I’ve been a huge fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 for most of my life and their kind of philosophy of ribbing something with love has become part of the way I take in media.

And there’s certainly an audience for romances, as checking the fandoms for any of the games you have listed will easily show.

We do a whole lot of killing and exploring in games, but not necessarily a whole lot of loving.

You don’t even have to make it romantic, people just like to see something about the world change because of something they have done.

Knowing that they are getting a different reaction because they chose to kill the foozle instead of saving it can help satisfy that.

I think it’s easy to get dating game burn out and end up throwing your hands up in the air and shouting "I DON’T WANT TO SOLVE ALL YOUR EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS" to some sad-eyed bishounen with his hair in his eyes and his shirt saucily unbuttoned. I just chose it on a whim while playing one of these games and I got so much amusement from the juxtaposition of Balls Mahoney the wrestler and Balls Mahoney the blushing, innocent maiden. Hatoful Pigeon is inspired weirdness, where they created a back story that both answers your immediate questions but also makes the game substantially stranger and more hilarious.