February 8th, 2016
Today I met this really cute girl Emily while waiting in line at McD and while I’m not planning on sharing many details about my private life, let’s just say I am THE MAN! We have a date on Valentine’s Day, which is about as cheesy as it can get, and I’m planning on making this a night to remember. Only issue: it’s been ages since I’ve been with a girl and I’ve never been on something that can be classified as a traditional date. Yes, I have quite a bit of catching up to do and what better way is there than using the medium of video games for it. Welcome to my Valentine’s Day Boot camp Diary, aka. Games to play on (or better before) Valentine’s Day.
If you grew up sometime before the 90’s there is a high chance that you see video games primarily as a pure entertainment product. Unless you were shooting for a career as a Baseball player, there was little to learn from the prevalent design dogma of the early years of gaming: popping pills and hitting balls.
This all changed however in the mid-80’s. Gaming finally developed into a diverse pastime with cartridge based consoles, like the NES, which allowed bigger catalogues of games becoming the norm and development took on a more democratized and in turn imaginative face, helped by the widespread availability of Personal Computers. But not every parent was on board with providing their kids with an easy form of skin cancer prevention just for the sake of fun and so console manufacturers and publishers soon found a new way to entice those that wanted their offspring to succeed in life: educational games.
Be it Reader Rabbit or Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego, interactive edutainment was not just an easy way for Nintendo to grow their market cap, or for me to improve my grades, it also provided some of the most enjoyable experiences you could have as a kid. And herein lies the problem I’m facing today. Yes, there are quite a few educational games available, but most are for kids. The challenges set before me are more of an adult nature however and I’m not sure where to start looking. There was of course the Leisure Suit Larry series, but that was more about getting to know girls, a feat already spectacularly accomplished by me, and as we all remember: Larry wasn’t the most successful womanizer.
Step 1: Preparing for the date
I am starting my search on Steam. It being the biggest digital distribution platform on the PC makes it the perfect place to find all sorts of games and since they have introduced “Tags”, I might actually be able to leverage these to sort through their massive library.
The first problem I encounter: I am not sure how the tag search works. It only seems to list the most prominent tags and sadly there is none for Valentine’s or anything related. I found one saying “Lovecraftian” and while I am looking for a recipe to craft some love, I am not sure how a game like Darkest Dungeon can help me with this. It certainly sounds kinky, so maybe if she is into that, but I can’t just expect that, or can I? Maybe I should bookmark it for our second date.
There is also a tag for Educational, but just as I’ve feared: there are no games educating you on the art of making a woman love you. Not even one that teaches you how to cook dinner. Wait, this gives me an idea!
Success! Entering “Dinner” in the search provided me with the perfect Title: Dinner Date
So I found this game called Dinner Date two days ago and although it sounds like it would be perfect, it really wasn’t. In fact, it completely destroyed me. I had to call in sick yesterday, because I was stuck in this repeating circle of doubt, resignation and aggression. I called Emily a couple of times. She assured me that everything is alright, which felt good, but I still can’t help feeling like this will all lead up to one big disappointment. I might call her again later when she’s no longer busy.
Anyway, don’t play Dinner Date! It’s not actually about dating or cooking, but instead some poor guy getting stood up.
Since the Steam search wasn’t really working out, I asked some people online and they gave me two recommendations: Hot Date and How do you Do It? Both sound promising.
Yesterday wasn’t a full success either, but at least not as demoralizing. The people who recommended me those games must have been really weird.
How do you Do It? was a waste of time for me. You play as a little girl reenacting a sex scene from Titanic with naked dolls. There was no tutorial besides “use these keys to move the dolls” and as a result I learned nothing about dating or sex. I was wondering if the game was maybe made for women, so I texted Emily, asking if she ever had sex with dolls as a kid and could therefore relate to it. She hasn’t answered yet, so I can’t tell you if this is an interesting title for girls. Certainly isn’t for men.
Hot Date is about speed dating some weird pig/dog amalgamations. Besides that, it wasn’t actually too bad. I found some of the pig-dogs quite charming in a way and also learned some funny jokes. 6/10, would date again.
Today we are back to trying out the tag system. Turns out, you just have to enter the topic or attribute you are looking for into the search bar. I also missed a very helpful featured tag the last time I checked. It’s called Dating Sim, which stands for either Dating Simulation or Simulator and it features 56 games! Granted, most of them don’t seem to be very appropriate for the situation, like this game called Hatoful Boyfriend, where your objective is to date literal birds. Like Pigeons! Or Let the Cat in, which sounds like a euphemism, but really isn’t. They are also all very Asian looking. You know, the style seen in Japanese animations, called Manga/Anime. Given the cultural differences between them and us, I fear this might lead to some misunderstandings. Nevertheless, I found some I’m willing to try.
First on my list is Day One: Garry’s Incident. It looks like Indiana Jones meets Robinson Crusoe, two people I can wholeheartedly identify with. I am not sure however about the dating part, since the screenshots mostly show the player holding weapons, but there is also one that depicts the sun emanating from the player characters hands, which could be symbolism for ejaculation.
Second game on my list is “Emily is Away”. I am not sure why this was listed under Dating Sim either, since it seems to be a basic chat program, but I chose it for the name. Maybe this is a sign? It also helps that it’s free.
The last one is called HuniePop and it looks like this is exactly what I was looking for. It features multiple girls of different ethnicities, each with their own personality, which could prove really useful in learning to read women. But the best part: there seems to be a match-3 mini-game in it and when I met Emily, she was playing one of those on her phone. Even if there is nothing else redeeming about this title, at least we have something fun to talk about!
Oops! I realized that my wording in the last text I sent Emily was maybe a bit open for misinterpretation (Have you ever had sex with your dolls as a kid), so I sent her another one to clarify. Heat of the moment, heh. Anyway, back to the games.
Day One: Gary's Incident was a complete letdown. It played like a poor man’s Far Cry and I never encountered any Dating Sim elements in it. Maybe it’s because I only spent a couple of hours on it, but I couldn’t stand playing more of it.
On the flip side, HuniePop is amazing! The models are beautifully drawn, the characters are funny and the gameplay is surprisingly deep. Sadly, it won’t satisfy my hunger for knowledge either and that is because of one big problem: the dates you go on are completely unrealistic, consisting of simple Match-3 games. Despite that, it’s still the most impressive game I found on my journey so far.
Valentine’s is the day after tomorrow, the nervousness is taking hold of me and I’m running out of games. I still haven’t touched Emily is Away, so there is that, but otherwise? I might have to find some more esoteric options.
Emily still didn’t reply and when I tried to call, it went straight to voicemail which has me worried. I really hope nothing has happened to her.
Emily is Away, the game, was interesting, but also very sad. You play as yourself, starting just as you move away from your home town and you are chatting with a female friend, called Emily, you might develop romantic feelings for over the course of multiple years, despite being separated by quite a way. It’s a pure text adventure taking place in an AOL Messenger like app, with multiple choices to take. It didn’t work out for me the first two times, but I’m intrigued and looking forward to finding the path that works.
My search for another game then led me to Save The Date, a sort of Choose Your Own Adventure game with a twist, not unlike Emily is Away. The premise is that you go on a date with this girl, but things don’t end well. Of course you retry with a different path, but that doesn’t end well either. Once you’ve gone through all the possibilities however, things go very weird. It starts breaking the fourth wall and turns into the movie Groundhog Day. I haven’t found a way to Save The Date yet and I’m not sure if there even is one. So yeah, it’s quite funny, but also infuriating and certainly not what I was looking for.
You know what? Screw this shit! Emily didn’t show up today and when I tried to call her, she hung up before saying anything, so I sent her a text stating that it’s over with us.
I really don’t care if she has an excuse, because she honestly seemed kinda fake to begin with.
Guess I’m alone today, but who cares.
Emily is Away is also bullshit. You can’t win! No matter how you navigate through the dialogue tree, there is no way to end up with her. Which leaves me with my final recommendation for Valentine’s Day: “What’s under your blanket !?” A game about not getting caught masturbating. Have fun everyone!
Now I kinda regret what I said to Emily. It’s really not like me to be this creepy, it’s just …I don’t know. Maybe I should ask her if she could give me another chance in exchange for an Amazon gift card?