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I Played Japan’s Best-Selling Dating Simulator — and Loved It

September 30, 2014 in Blogs

By Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon

These anime novels are being customized for American women, and could give “Fifty Shades” a run for its money

Don’t ask how I ended up an accidental stowaway on a pirate ship — long story. What’s important was that I had been threatened with being blindfolded and forced to walk the plank. But after rescue by the dark-haired captain, I was allowed to stay on the ship — so long as I chose to room with one of the men  – all strapping, young and decidedly metrosexual, especially for pirates. Would it be Christopher, the kindhearted doctor with a buzz cut? Eduardo, the one with the eyepatch and slicked-back hair? Morgan, the captain with the alluring bed-head and cleave rivaling most women’s?

Just as I made my decision — the captain, obviously — the game came to a screeching halt. Did I want to buy an expansion for $3.99 so that I might see what happened next? Why yes, yes I did. I clicked “purchase” before I could even register what I was doing.

How, you might ask, did I end up not only playing but paying for extras on the iPhone app “Pirates in Love”? Great question. You see, last week when I read a report on Wired.com about the Japanese explosion of romance video games for women, I knew I had to try some out — for my job. Strictly professional. Lucky for me, and my sorry handful of Japanese phrases, countless games have been translated into English — and these companies are even creating games to be marketed specifically to American women. They were a mega-hit in Japan, so why not try to broaden their reach, right? They’re known as “otome” games, or “girl” games; sometimes they’re called dating simulators, which pretty accurately communicates what these games are all about: flirting, courtship and lots of blushing.

That is how I’ve found myself in a situation in which I never quite imagined. If my husband read my inbox right now, he might think I was having an affair with some creepy narcissist with a yacht. That’s because currently I have open an email with the subject line, “Don’t fall for me; you …read more


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