Falling in Love with a Video Game – Is It Possible?

As much fun as you can have playing a Ms. Pac-Man cocktail table game, chances are good you won’t ever fall in love with the machine. Believe it or not, a large part of Japan’s mobile gaming industry is focused on otome games – games that are based around the gamer (typically a female) falling in love with one of the male characters in the game.

What Are Otome Games?

Otome games make a romance novel come to life, only the female lead is the gamer. Playing an otome game is like a dating simulation, complete with elaborate plot lines taking place in realistic settings.

Angelique is credited with being the first otome game and was released in Japan in 1994. Today, otome games contain a wide range of themes. Some focus less on romance and more on action, while some have male characters whose voice is played by famous actors. Teams of female writers set up dating scenarios where the female character, played by the gamer, asks and answers questions of the many male characters in the game until she finds one that she likes best. Then, of course, they fall in love, but only if they’re compatible.

The Popularity of Otome Games

Even though otome games were originally developed with teens in mind, the demographic with the most interest is women in their twenties. With this in mind, developers have added adult themes and elements to many of the plotlines to make it even more realistic for the women who play.

Even though otome games contain many Japanese cultural references that are lost on U.S. gamers, some games seem to be crossing over. Cybird’s 100 Day Princess was released in the U.S. in 2014 and it has been downloaded over 1.3 million times.

Whether otome games are viewed as a modern way to read a romance novel or a way to practice relationship skills, it’s clear that in Japan, the market is huge. Now the only question is will Americans begin adopting this type of game as a cultural norm?