Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

A place to discuss things that aren't specific to any one creator or game.
Forum rules
Ren'Py specific questions should be posted in the Ren'Py Questions and Annoucements forum, not here.
Message
Author
HiddenCreature
Regular
Posts: 178
Joined: Sat May 16, 2015 8:00 pm
Projects: Vampire: The New Birth
Contact:

Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#1 Post by HiddenCreature » Sun Jun 28, 2015 1:56 am

I'm mainly talking about games with anime-style art/

Bishoujo Games

I've noticed the protagonists for these games are extremely ordinary. They're not very social, usually have no remarkable skills/interests, and don't strike you as very independent.

I think there's two reasons they're made to be so plain:

1) Virtually any player can relate
2) Player choices craft the personality

But honestly, even when the writers try to make them a little more down to earth, I don't think they know what a dateable guy is actually like.

What the protagonists lack.

Many times the protagonist isn't confident, charming, socially adept, or even that arguably handsome. The only quality he has is kindness. Any girl will tell you it takes more than manners to be a desirable boyfriend.

You don't have to be some social master. But you need enough confidence to where you're not acting nervous all the time. And to be emotionally secure with who you are. If you can't be at least that much, how could you possibly maintain a healthy relationship?

It's a big world/school. There's always at least a few guys who will have these desirable qualities the protagonist doesn't. But the plot is conveniently written so all the girls you can date never meet these guys. Or if they do exist, they're either jerks, or the girl's ex.

How to fix these protagonists.

Getting a date isn't that hard in real life! How many episodes in an anime before they finally hook up? How much stat building in a game before you're officially a couple? To the unconfident, insecure protagonist, a date requires a lot of personal work.

You spend more time trying to get the girl and then keep her, instead of trying to connect with her during the actual dates.

The protagonists should be given more security and confidence about themselves. The focus instead should be connecting with the girl, instead of trying so hard to actually get her. This would lead to more defined characters, and arguably a more enriched/engaging story.

This clearly doesn't cover everything, and there's always exceptions to the rule. But I guess I'm just so unimpressed with how many games, even stories, include these poorly defined protagonists, and expect me to believe they could end up in these situations.
Last edited by HiddenCreature on Sun Jun 28, 2015 10:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Aviala
Veteran
Posts: 471
Joined: Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:40 am
Completed: Our War Everlasting
Projects: Your Royal Gayness, Skyfish (canceled)
Organization: Lizard Hazard Games
Tumblr: lizardhazardgames
Deviantart: minya40
Location: Finland
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#2 Post by Aviala » Sun Jun 28, 2015 5:07 am

While I agree that dating games are unrealistic, i have to say that these games clearly have an audience. They're supposed to be unrealistic; they're wish fullfillment and fantasy. I don't think they shouldn't exist, but I agree that it'd be interesting to see more defined mc's and more games dealing with what happens after you get the girl. I guess our culture just has this idea of the romantic and exciting start of the relationship; the first date, the first kiss, the first time in bed... but what happens after that is too boring, too mundane to touch on. But I think it would be interesting to see some games go outside the box.

User avatar
runeraccoon
Veteran
Posts: 271
Joined: Sat Jul 13, 2013 5:17 pm
itch: runeraccoon
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#3 Post by runeraccoon » Sun Jun 28, 2015 5:26 am

Perhaps you're talking about "Bishoujo" games, the pretty girl-games that's meant for male audience? Because "shoujo" is a manga/industry genre for female audience, which has shofted into "otome" term lately (especially in games/VNs).

Anyway, first point first. In my country (yes I'm an Asian, and Japanese people are also the same), getting a date isn't that quick. I don't know if it's not that hard for you, but I haven't got a date once in my life save for friendly outings. :D (though I'm a girl. But at least I am also the place my guy friends talk to about feelings.) And when they're kind enough for others, it's either the girl thinks it's a given thing (for people to be kind and friendly), or the girls are the shy one to make a move, while the boys aren't aware enough about the girl's feelings to dare making a move.

It's just what happens around me personally by the way.

I also think there's the point of romanticizing the story, making it more about true love, first love that came true when you return to your hometown, having a soulmate and stuffs... I guess. Sorry, I don't play bishoujo games compared to otome ones to speak much about this one.

However, I do agree on your point on a more fleshed out protagonist. The point of keeping the relationship through dates is a very interesting one, and I'd love to see it happen in more EVNs, since it is the portion of the VN market that English-speaking creators could fill easily.

User avatar
Kuroonehalf
Regular
Posts: 107
Joined: Fri Apr 25, 2014 6:18 pm
Completed: Cuttlebone
Projects: AikoVN
IRC Nick: Kuroonehalf
Tumblr: kuroonehalf
Deviantart: Kuroonehalf
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#4 Post by Kuroonehalf » Sun Jun 28, 2015 8:22 am

Yeah calling it "Shoujo" games threw me for a loop as well, until I realized you meant Bishoujo. Haha.

While it is true that kindness alone isn't very efficient at finding you a partner, forced contact on the other hand is. By forced contact I mean coexisting in places where you're both, for whatever reason, obligated or motivated to be there. This is why school settings are so popular, and why so many people get their start in dating during their school years. You're hanging around small groups of people for entire years at a time, and that is a great stimulant for contact.

It doesn't need to be a school setting though. A pottery class, a book club, a tennis club, a gym (though even most gyms are a bit too diluted and don't incentivize contact), or a some work spaces. Those all work. But school is, by nature, a perfect setting for this.

ps: This also explains why incest stories are so common as well. You can't get much more close than two people living under the same roof.
Last edited by Kuroonehalf on Sun Jun 28, 2015 10:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
Image

User avatar
noeinan
Eileen-Class Veteran
Posts: 1051
Joined: Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:10 pm
Projects: Ren'Py QuickStart, Crimson Rue
Organization: Statistically Unlikely Games
Deviantart: daikiraikimi
Github: daikiraikimi
Location: Washington State, USA
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#5 Post by noeinan » Sun Jun 28, 2015 8:52 am

I'm on board with the OP in this regard. I'm personally not a huge fan of "reader insert" characters-- generally, they always have things that make me really, really *not* identify with them (such as their reactions to many situations) and past that, they tend to just be really uninteresting.

Otome games often have similar problems-- the main character is passive, generically nice, usually has one special talent (which is also usually very domestic), and then not much else to her. The love interests always go for the MC (of either gender) for basically no reason, and it just comes off as contrived rather than romantic.

Now, not all games do this, and the ones that don't I always appreciate. But it is a fairly stereotypical thing, which I think comes more from fear of not reaching a target market rather than desire to make a good game, and unnecessarily limits the story, character development, and just... quality.

I prefer my love interests to be awesome, and I think they deserve an awesome romance with a similarly awesome person! I want to play as a person instead of a bland blob, and learn about them, see them develop, etc. as the story goes along.

I would also really like to see more games about relationships, instead of the courtship period. Relationships aren't as boring as people think, there's a lot to explore there. I agree that they're probably attempting to market to a younger, less romantically experienced crowd, and generally if you haven't been in relationships the courtship period is the first/only thing on ones mind. (Since they would have no personal experience in that area, and media at large has not given them very good expectations for relationships beyond "boring married couples".)
Image

Image
Image

HiddenCreature
Regular
Posts: 178
Joined: Sat May 16, 2015 8:00 pm
Projects: Vampire: The New Birth
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#6 Post by HiddenCreature » Sun Jun 28, 2015 11:10 am

@Aviala:

That's how a lot of romantic comedy movies are, too. I can't think of one that focuses on what happens after the couple is married. It's always the chase during the first set of dates, and once that's over, so is the excitement.

But personally, because it's wish fulfillment/pandering, I think it's very unhealthy for its demographic. Primarily because they grow up actually believing this stuff could happen. It's no secret they're targeting young men who can relate to someone who isn't very social, and clearly doesn't know the required skills to actually date these kinds of girls.


@fuicchi:

Thanks for the correction :)

I was wondering about that, now that you mention it. While studying Japanese culture and speaking with a few natives, I learned Japanese don't often start conversations with strangers as much compared to Americans. The natives told me is part because of their culture's rules on politeness, and because they're more reserved around people they don't know.

Here, if you're charming enough, you can just meet someone, have a quick chat, and then schedule a date. But to be fair, a lot of guys even in my country are too nervous to do that, as I was once. But it's because a lot of people grow up having almost no date training. Guys/girls get so nervous, because no one taught them what to do or expect.

Yeah, I wish there was more focus on what you do during the actual date, instead of just getting a date.


@ Kuroonehalf:

I had never considered that, but I suppose it makes sense when you think about it. It makes things convenient, since you don't have to make the initiative to go out and find someone.

I also never considered that perspective on incest stories. I always assumed the worst about them, but maybe the root behind it is actually more sympathetic. You're right, you can't get closer than two people under the same roof. And for the average unconfident person, their sibling is the person of their age group they'll bond with the most, since they lack the social skills to meet and bond with someone else.

If not enough people could relate to that, those stories wouldn't sell. And just like these unrealistic dating games, the more popular they sell, the more desirable and accepted their concepts become, until it starts becoming the new normal.


@daikiraikimi:

I think the closest middle ground we can hope for right now, is having a protagonist with a defined personality. Then if we make choices, it's decisions that don't really define our character. Ex: investigate A or B first? Save this or the other person? Choose team 1 or team 2? Not decisions like answering what my childhood dream is.

Having a blank template for a character isn't bad by itself. In fact, it's ingenious due to the potential for player experience. There's two problems with how it's been done.

Superficial decisions: hero/evil. Even then, you're just evil for the sake of being evil.

Valueless decisions. Sometimes you think your choice has meaning, only to find out you get the same outcome.

You think a choice will affect your reputation, when all it does is change one or two lines of dialogue.

And then when you get sequels, it's no secret everyone is going to get the same general start. The best you can hope for is a few perks if you have a save file from the first game.

It's far from imposable to correct these problems. It' s not even difficult in theory. It just takes time and effort these major companies could care less about.

I mean, if after all that money and all those employees you still can't pull it off, you're either incompetent or indifferent.

User avatar
Kuroonehalf
Regular
Posts: 107
Joined: Fri Apr 25, 2014 6:18 pm
Completed: Cuttlebone
Projects: AikoVN
IRC Nick: Kuroonehalf
Tumblr: kuroonehalf
Deviantart: Kuroonehalf
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#7 Post by Kuroonehalf » Sun Jun 28, 2015 12:05 pm

HiddenCreature wrote:I had never considered that, but I suppose it makes sense when you think about it. It makes things convenient, since you don't have to make the initiative to go out and find someone.
Yep, and not just that, it often means you also have things in common, which makes it even easier to connect with someone. If you're in a music club with a person, you both share a taste for music, for example, and that already brings you closer together.

Even in the regular school setting, there's already plenty of things in common. You're both in a position where you share the same facilities, you're both going through the trials and tribulations of school life and growing up, and both of you are attempting to figure out your future. All these things help in engaging with someone.

It's much harder to get this to happen with a random person outside of your experiences and interests, especially if you're not forced to meet each other in a certain place again. There's also the issue that inevitably one person is the initiator and the other isn't, creating this weird uneven playing field of engagement.

Also, I'd like to point something out about this:
HiddenCreature wrote:It's far from imposable to correct these problems. It' s not even difficult in theory. It just takes time and effort these major companies could care less about.

I mean, if after all that money and all those employees you still can't pull it off, you're either incompetent or indifferent.
It's most likely because it's just a really damn hard problem to solve. With every new choice that you allow your character to shape their personality or change the course of the story, you're introducing exponentially higher numbers of unique timelines in your work. There's only so much freedom you can give before it spins completely out of control and becomes utterly unmanageable. Making meaningless choices is a way to avoid that, but I agree, it ends up feeling like a vapid sense of freedom that is not quite what it portrays to be, and sometimes ends up feeling worse than not having choice at all.
Image

User avatar
trooper6
Lemma-Class Veteran
Posts: 3185
Joined: Sat Jul 09, 2011 10:33 pm
Projects: A Close Shave
Location: Medford, MA
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#8 Post by trooper6 » Sun Jun 28, 2015 1:10 pm

Kuroonehalf wrote: It's most likely because it's just a really damn hard problem to solve. With every new choice that you allow your character to shape their personality or change the course of the story, you're introducing exponentially higher numbers of unique timelines in your work. There's only so much freedom you can give before it spins completely out of control and becomes utterly unmanageable. Making meaningless choices is a way to avoid that, but I agree, it ends up feeling like a vapid sense of freedom that is not quite what it portrays to be, and sometimes ends up feeling worse than not having choice at all.
But I also think that just because a choice doesn't cause a branch doesn't make it meaningless. You could have a plot where everyone ends up at the same end point (the Titanic sinks), but the choices you make along they way shape who your protagonist is, how people perceive them, what your experience it. Those are still meaningful choices even if you can't stop the Titanic from sinking.
A Close Shave:
*Last Thing Done (Jul 7) Finished Emotion Matrix for Joint Customer Sprite.
*Currently Doing: Print Matrices, & decide emotions to use for Joint Sprite, think about blinking and lip flap. Maybe also about TransitionConditionSwitch?
*First Next thing to do: Code in all the sprite emotion and camera movement for Close Shave Sprite Sections
*Next Thing to Do: Code in all CG and special animation stuff
*Other Next Thing: Do SFX
Check out My Clock Cookbook Recipe: http://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewto ... 51&t=21978

User avatar
Kuroonehalf
Regular
Posts: 107
Joined: Fri Apr 25, 2014 6:18 pm
Completed: Cuttlebone
Projects: AikoVN
IRC Nick: Kuroonehalf
Tumblr: kuroonehalf
Deviantart: Kuroonehalf
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#9 Post by Kuroonehalf » Sun Jun 28, 2015 1:36 pm

Yep, that's fair enough. Though up to that point, and the way the characters react afterwards, they should be dictated by how you were allowed to shape them. And depending on how much freedom of choice you give, the reactions and personality outcomes can be very different.

There's also some examples in which meaningless choices can be intentionally used as neat plot devices. The Juicy Yuuji scene from Grisaia is a great example.
Anyways, I digress. We're getting a bit off the rails for this thread. :p
Image

philat
Eileen-Class Veteran
Posts: 1293
Joined: Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:33 pm
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#10 Post by philat » Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:15 pm

I enjoy Austin Walker's writing about games, and this thread reminded me of a piece he wrote about choices and meaningfulness. Not quite on point, but an interesting read nonetheless, so I thought I'd share. http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2 ... n-age.html

User avatar
Kailoto
Veteran
Posts: 232
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:36 am
Completed: No VNs, but a few novels. :D
Projects: Artificial, Seven Deaths (inactive)
Skype: I'm on Discord! (Kailoto#5139)
Location: Seattle, the Emerald City
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#11 Post by Kailoto » Mon Jun 29, 2015 4:48 am

I have a soft spot for galge, and by extension, otome... despite all their obvious flaws and lack of originality, there's something I find charming in the medium, and for mere wish fulfillment, they often have very in-depth stories and characters.

I do agree about the protagonists though; they are often the weakest link. One solution I've found is to have an MC who's a little more snarky, and has a sense of humor. Tomoya Okazaki from Clannad is still one of my favorite protagonists in galge - despite being a bit of a Mary Sue, he's a Mary Sue with personality, and it made him more than just wallpaper or a window for the player.

I also like stories where the love interests help the protagonist, not just the other way around. Flawed protagonists are a step in the right direction, but when you get an arc where it's not about fixing a girl's or boy's issues, but rather having them help you, it's a nice surprise and always makes for really compelling scenarios. You see this type a lot in more linear stories, like anime and manga, and I wish it were done more in VNs.
Things I've Written:
Sakura (Novel, Self Published, 80,000+ words)
City and Girl (Novel, First Draft, 70,000+ words)
Loka (Novel, Third Draft, 120,000+ words)


A layabout writer and programmer with lots of problems and even more ideas. Hyped for Persona 5.

User avatar
noeinan
Eileen-Class Veteran
Posts: 1051
Joined: Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:10 pm
Projects: Ren'Py QuickStart, Crimson Rue
Organization: Statistically Unlikely Games
Deviantart: daikiraikimi
Github: daikiraikimi
Location: Washington State, USA
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#12 Post by noeinan » Mon Jun 29, 2015 6:38 am

HiddenCreature wrote: @daikiraikimi:

I think the closest middle ground we can hope for right now, is having a protagonist with a defined personality. Then if we make choices, it's decisions that don't really define our character. Ex: investigate A or B first? Save this or the other person? Choose team 1 or team 2? Not decisions like answering what my childhood dream is.
Generally speaking, I agree. I think there are some creative ways to work within those limitations, though.

I'm working on a child rearing vn currently, and at the beginning of the game you choose your gender (as well as name, age, and job)-- there are three genders and the way it's designed, they are three different people with different set personalities.

Getting to pick from a few preset personalities can be fun, I think, because even if there is one that is a huge pet peeve for you (generic nice) you are more likely to be able to empathize with at least one of the others. (Spirited Hearts is an example of a game that does this-- you get to pick between raising a human, elf, and demon child each with different personalities.)

Another thing I plan to have is choices that don't change your personality, but *do* change certain things about yourself. For example:

-A scene where you show your child a painting of you when you were younger. The picture has several similar looking kids, with different gendered appearances, and you tell the kid which one you are, giving you the ability to add being trans to your backstory.

-The MC talks with a religious neighbor about whether or not you are going to have your child participate in a religious "coming of age" ceremony, dialogue options let you choose whether or not you are a part of the dominant religion, a different religion, or if you are not religious. (And then that will affect how certain characters treat you, and if you trigger specific events.)

I like the idea of these kinds of choices because they add to the customization of the player character, while allowing them to have a personality, interesting dialogue options, etc.
Image

Image
Image

User avatar
Kuiper
Regular
Posts: 136
Joined: Sun Jun 19, 2011 1:16 am
Completed: Cursed Lands, Trial by Fire
Projects: Necrobarista, Idol Manager
Organization: Route 59 Games
Tumblr: kuiperblog
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#13 Post by Kuiper » Mon Jun 29, 2015 6:48 am

Romance is a genre that is built on emotionally-charged conflict, and there are fewer things stronger than emotional resonance. You don't just want to make the reader feel, you want to make them feel in a way that evokes the emotional experiences of their own life. When you read a story about someone who is struggling in the same way that you have, when you get sucked into the story and think "This character is me," that's super powerful. And that's what many romance stories are trying to do.

Visual novels, particularly bishoujo games and otome games, tend to focus on adolescence. (See the large number of stories set in Japanese high school.) They're essentially teen romance novels. Here's a dirty little secret about teen romance novels: they're mainly written for teens. And teens are, in many ways, inexperienced. In fact, many of the teens who read romance novels have never experienced a real, healthy relationship. So if you write a novel about the development of a real, healthy relationship, it's much harder to have emotional resonance. What these inexperienced teens have experienced is: having a crush, wanting to be with someone but not knowing how to express it, and fantasizing about what the perfect relationship would be. So if you want something that will emotionally resonate with teens who are inexperienced in love but highly experienced in the feels that puberty and hormones deliver, then that's what you need to deliver: social awkwardness, frustration and longing, and a healthy dose of wish fulfillment that matches their fantasies.

Here's the issue: emotional resonance feels real. It's like a validation of your own experiences and emotions. So if you create a story that hits all of the right beats (something that a 14-year-old can relate to while also delivering wish fulfillment), it will feel real even if the relationship that you portray is horribly unrealistic. By the same token, you could portray the most realistic healthy human relationship, and if it doesn't match up with what the 14-year-old's version of what love and romance is, then it will feel unrealistic. So if you want to have a story that feels real, you often have to chuck certain elements of realism out the window.

That's my cynical take on it, anyway. My understanding is that Twilight and many other highly successful teen romance novels follow this formula pretty closely. Have a hyper-generic protagonist to avoid breaking that emotional resonance (so your audience can look at the main character and say "This girl is me, unpopular and misunderstood but actually truly beautiful and wonderful and lovable if only the people around her would open their eyes!").


I myself am not immune to the charms of a well-engineered romance story. I've been quite enjoying the anime Oregairu. It's unrealistic in many ways, but it's an incredibly feel-good show, because on a fundamental level it's about a likable guy who is trying his darnedest to be decent to the people around him. Because he's so selfless, it's impossible not to root for him. He deserves to be happy. I get emotionally invested in the story, because I want desperately for him to succeed, even though he does everything wrong when it comes to romance from a "realistic" perspective. And of course the protagonist Hachiman seems very much to be engineered with a "This guy is you!" approach: he's not one of the cool popular kids, but he is actually super witty in a deadpan sort of way, and people who do take the time to get to know him think he's a great guy. Everyone fancies themselves as being that character: "I wasn't one of the cool popular kids in high school, but I'm actually super clever and witty, and I know that people would think I'm a wonderful person if only they took the time to get to know me!" Everyone wants to be like Hachiman, and lots of people can see some of themselves in Hachiman. That's what makes him such an effective protagonist.

HiddenCreature wrote:Here, if you're charming enough, you can just meet someone, have a quick chat, and then schedule a date. But to be fair, a lot of guys even in my country are too nervous to do that, as I was once.
As you say, most guys are far too nervous to actually chat up a girl and ask her out. (Even moreso when you look only at the portion of the population that plays bishoujo games.) The minute that you give your bishoujo game protagonist the confidence and agency to take initiative and directly ask a girl out on a date, you've made him a character that most of your audience can't relate to. It takes them out of the story, even if that behavior is realistic. That's why you have to "meet cute." Most "meet cute" scenarios are horribly contrived unrealistic events, but they feel "real" in the sense that they're spontaneous (and you can never predict the unpredictable). And because of their randomness and spontaneity, and because all of the characters involved lack any sort of agency, anyone can look at them and say, "Hey, this could happen to me." That actually makes them more realistic in the mind of someone who lacks confidence and initiative.
HiddenCreature wrote:That's how a lot of romantic comedy movies are, too. I can't think of one that focuses on what happens after the couple is married. It's always the chase during the first set of dates, and once that's over, so is the excitement.
I feel like you kind of answered one of your own questions here. The truth is, wanting something is often more fun than having it. Build-up can be even more intense and exciting than the release.

Stories are inherently about conflict. The protagonist wants something, but something is prevent him or her from obtaining it. That's the premise of your movie. On the subject of rom-coms that focus on what happens after the wedding, nearly all of them begin with the premise that the marriage is dysfunctional, and the movie is spent trying to repair the movie. For example, The Palm Beach Story. It's actually very similar to the "standard" rom-com plot, where you have a man chasing a woman, who eventually learns to love him.

HiddenCreature wrote:But personally, because it's wish fulfillment/pandering, I think it's very unhealthy for its demographic. Primarily because they grow up actually believing this stuff could happen. It's no secret they're targeting young men who can relate to someone who isn't very social, and clearly doesn't know the required skills to actually date these kinds of girls.
Ah, and here we arrive at the uncomfortable part: creating stories that are engineered to emotionally resonate with emotionally immature teenagers can end up teaching them some very incorrect things about how romance actually works.

This seems to prompt the question: is it irresponsible to portray romance in this idealized unrealistic manner? Isn't it in some way unethical to deliberately manipulate your audience's emotions--to "trick" them into feeling good while reading your story?

I'll speak for myself. As mentioned before, I'm not immune to the charms of a good romance story--Oregairu is still immensely enjoyable for me. However, I have a heightened awareness for issues like lack of realism in teen romances. I used to love reading shoujo romance manga as a teen, but now I have a much harder time enjoying shoujo manga because I find the behavior of many of the characters frustrating and unrealistic. It's impossible for me to go back and enjoy some of the stories that enthralled me as a teen.

Realizing in retrospect what those stories did to me, I don't resent being "manipulated" or "tricked" into feeling a certain way. In fact, I want the story to manipulate me. I read fiction because I enjoy being lied to. When I pick up a horror novel, I want it to scare me and elevate my heart rate--if that means putting the characters in a hyper-unrealistic situation where they are being chased by a maniac with a chainsaw, so be it. When I pick up a romance novel, I want to feel for the characters, and have my heart rate elevated (for a slightly different reason than the horror story). If you're writing a horror or romance novel, it should be your goal to manipulate the metabolism of your reader.

Braveheart draws some criticism because it is based on "historical" events, but isn't actually historically accurate. I think Braveheart is a great film. Braveheart isn't about William Wallace, the man. It's about William Wallace, the legend. If Braveheart was marketed and presented as a documentary or biopic, then that would be problematic. But Braveheart is entertainment, and it works great as entertainment. Similarly, Twilight isn't intended to be an instruction manual for love. It's just entertainment.

Good stories tell lies. "Love conquers all," "Crime doesn't pay," "Virtue is rewarded." Many people don't actually believe these things, but pretend that they're true. We like to believe that a wimpy nerd could beat up the school bully. We like to believe that we could win the affection of the most beautiful person in class. We like to believe that dragons exist. Because even if we know that these things aren't true, it's fun to open a book and escape to a magical dreamworld where these things are real.

Regarding your concern in how media affects viewers, consider as an analog violence in media. There are people who express concern over depictions of violence in media, and argue that violent video games and movies teach children unhealthy lessons, like "winners overpower their enemies using violence," and "harming humans is entertainment." Of course, there are numerous counter-arguments to this, most of them making points about freedom of speech, artistic expression, and so on. But I think one of my favorite defenses of violent movies was succinctly expressed by Quentin Tarantino in a television interview when discussing his movie Kill Bill:
J: "Why the need for so much gruesome, graphic violence?"
Q: "Because it's so much fun, Jan!"
Is it healthy to watch Uma Thurman kill 90 people and paint the walls red with their blood? I don't know, but it sure is fun to watch. Ultimately, I feel it's the responsibility of the viewer to separate fiction from reality.
Necrobarista - serve coffee to the living and the dead
Idol Manager - a more realistic exploration of the idol industry
Cursed Lands - gothic horror in the Winter Wolves high fantasy setting

User avatar
Kailoto
Veteran
Posts: 232
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:36 am
Completed: No VNs, but a few novels. :D
Projects: Artificial, Seven Deaths (inactive)
Skype: I'm on Discord! (Kailoto#5139)
Location: Seattle, the Emerald City
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#14 Post by Kailoto » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:09 am

Kuiper wrote:Here's the issue: emotional resonance feels real. It's like a validation of your own experiences and emotions. So if you create a story that hits all of the right beats (something that a 14-year-old can relate to while also delivering wish fulfillment), it will feel real even if the relationship that you portray is horribly unrealistic. By the same token, you could portray the most realistic healthy human relationship, and if it doesn't match up with what the 14-year-old's version of what love and romance is, then it will feel unrealistic. So if you want to have a story that feels real, you often have to chuck certain elements of realism out the window.
I wish more people understood this - it's not about whether art actually depicts life, but rather its ability to resonate with the essence of it, the visceral core that we can all relate to in some way.
Kuiper wrote:I used to love reading shoujo romance manga as a teen, but now I have a much harder time enjoying shoujo manga because I find the behavior of many of the characters frustrating and unrealistic. It's impossible for me to go back and enjoy some of the stories that enthralled me as a teen.
I've found myself noticing this shift in perspective as I grow older, noticing that the things I used to like aren't directed at me anymore. They're still more or less the same things that they used to be; I'm the one who's changed. I will say, though, that's I've always been a pragmatist and a cynic, and even when I was 14 and with an unrequited love, the behavior in those types of love stories always irritated me. I think it only took a year to get bored of the "will they/won't they" and start looking for stories that explored what happened after the first date. I like to actually see characters develop and progress - always have, and always will - and a story can only keep two characters suspended in time for so long. I used to be impatient; now I'm just intolerant.


On the topic of choices... I always think of them as places to allow the player to exercise their intent. Notice how it's not about expressing themselves or defining the protagonist - because there are plenty of branching stories where the protagonist has a defined personality, even in galge and otome. Rather, it's about giving the player the opportunity to decide what they want to see in the story. You as the creator have control over what their possible options are and in what manner they can reach them - but it's all about the player's intent.

I don't believe in letting the player determine too much of the protagonist's personality... it makes it harder to craft a compelling narrative (which relies on conflicts that arise out of given character traits), and I don't think it's even economically viable to manage, as the complexity and workload increase exponentially. I've found that the best VNs - the ones with the best story and longest lasting impressions - give me a cast of characters and predetermined scenarios, and allow me to explore. Wish fulfillment doesn't come from actually inserting oneself into the narrative; all you need is the feeling that you are at least marginally in control of what happens.

Let it be noted that I have nothing against allowing the player to insert themselves as an avatar - I just find that it creates more problems than it solves, especially in dating sims. It should be an improvement, but the logistical limitations overwhelm the benefits.
Things I've Written:
Sakura (Novel, Self Published, 80,000+ words)
City and Girl (Novel, First Draft, 70,000+ words)
Loka (Novel, Third Draft, 120,000+ words)


A layabout writer and programmer with lots of problems and even more ideas. Hyped for Persona 5.

User avatar
Aviala
Veteran
Posts: 471
Joined: Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:40 am
Completed: Our War Everlasting
Projects: Your Royal Gayness, Skyfish (canceled)
Organization: Lizard Hazard Games
Tumblr: lizardhazardgames
Deviantart: minya40
Location: Finland
Contact:

Re: Protagonists in Dating Games Are Too Unrealistic?

#15 Post by Aviala » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:55 am

Kuiper wrote: Is it healthy to watch Uma Thurman kill 90 people and paint the walls red with their blood? I don't know, but it sure is fun to watch. Ultimately, I feel it's the responsibility of the viewer to separate fiction from reality.
I don't actually agree with this point, at least not fully. I think the creator will (and should) always take responsibility for their creations. Of course the viewer also needs to take some responsibility in separating fact from fiction, but the fact you understand the difference doesn't mean that the underlaying ideals or values won't affect you at all. Media reinforces the cultural aspects it touches on. For example, people can learn sexist or otherwise harmful attitudes (partially) from television or other media. Other aspects of culture have an effect too, of course, but we as creators can't just say "I created this thing about how gays should die but it's just fiction, don't read into it, it's not my responsibility."

(BTW I'm sorry if this sounds like I'm attacking you personally because that's not my intention.)


I posted on this thread before on my phone so I had to leave some of my points unexplained. My point was that even though I'm not a fan of these (mostly) shallow dating sims etc and I actually think they can be harmful both to men and women (by objectifying women, portraying relationships poorly, etc), I don't think they should disappear entirely. All art should be allowed to exist, though it's important that we talk about the problems associated so that people could think more critically about media.

I'm definitely interested to see games that do something different. For example it would e super interesting to see a dating game with a protagonist that has a very strong personality, and not necessarily a "good" one. I'd like to see games exploring the effects of dating the girls with just one goal in mind: getting the girl. How would a violent or abusive protagonist deal with relationships? What kind of different stories could we create?

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users