Your character may speak of destiny and true love, but you as the player know better and are keeping a meta tally of all your conquests.Japanese cultural critic Hiroki Azuma wrote in his translated book Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals about the contradiction of the dual desire for small narratives and grand non-narrative databases, little quantum set-pieces at the expense of a linear canon story.
They are built to anticipate and encourage that style of play.
Many Western players new to the genre miss out on that fundamental aspect of the experience, writing dating sims off as shallow and basic after dipping their toes in.
Another hurdle I see people experience when starting out playing dating sims is that they spread themselves too thin.
They shop around like they would when playing a Bio Ware game, interacting with all the different available characters for too long and find they are suddenly railroaded along a generic path that usually results in a normal ending where you don't kiss anyone, or worst-case-scenario: a harsh death.
So sure, you may all die at one point or another, but at least it’ll be an interesting story.
Seasoned players of dating sims endeavor to experience all the junctures, all the good and the bad, ultimately seeking out their best of all possible worlds.
But when playing dating sims you are actually being quizzed on how much you know about a particular character you’re after, either learned through attentiveness or knowledge of tropes.
Approaching the games in this manner leaves one much less disappointed when they don’t deliver a true vicarious romance experience.
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.
You won't be selecting every dialogue choice during your character's involvement with the game’s world, but you will be occasionally prompted to guide your hero or heroine along different paths, and depending on your prior actions these could result in good or ill.