It’s a troubling view of human relations in general but it’s one that simple gameplay mechanics can handle.

So now we come upon the quantum conundrum of dating sims.

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At this stage I advise friends new to the genre that they need to focus on a chosen character early and aim for that goal ceaselessly.

And I assure them not to panic from this seemingly premature decision, because dating sims are specifically designed so that you will want to see all the available characters, each attempt requiring its own separate playthrough on a different timeline entirely.

As you repeatedly go through one of these games with your different romantic focuses each loop through you'll notice that things in the story can change pretty drastically after a designated turning point, depending on how that particular sim is laid out.

Characters who are hale and hearty in one route will up and die in another, enemies become friends and vice versa.

Some dating sims even go as far as avoiding a common-route affection rating approach entirely, like that found in Hatoful Boyfriend, by prompting the explicit choice of what character you want to pursue during the beginning of the game.

This is usually done after a short introductory prologue and being given a narrative reason for the choice presentation, such as picking a classmate for a school project.

Many folks never see Hatoful Boyfriend subtly transform into its final revelatory route that blows everyone's minds.

It isn't a good game because it’s hilarious to date pigeons, it's a good game because of what it does to you after you become attached to all the pigeons and then play again one last time in order to "fulfill the promise." The epilogue is the real story.

This isn't Persona 4, you can't get away with dating them all at once.

Japanese dating sim players often refer to the romanceable characters in the games as "capturable." Whether you want to interpret that as literal or prefer to see yourself as "captivating" the various characters’ attentions is up to you, and sometimes up to the particular game’s themes.

The first ending many people experience when playing notorious pigeon dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend involves being ambushed by ninjas for "failing to display sufficient intimacy with the birds." You are unceremoniously killed and brought back to the main menu to start over from the beginning or are forced to resume from an earlier save point.