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The phrase usually refers to games in which the player gets to take other characters out on dates, and/or try to become boyfriend/girlfriend with them.  However, [literal] dating sims also exist.

Pretty much all such games are Japanese - it's certainly a recognised genre of computer game in Japan, unlike the West.  This means that the graphics of the characters (usually girls) are done in cute anime style.

Usually there is more than one person to try to get together with, so the player can choose someone to their "taste" or who's their "type".  Usually the player's character is male and all (or almost all) of the targets are cute anime girls.  (But there are DatingSims aimed at females where the player chooses between a number of good-looking anime guys: [B-Wings] is one such.)

Piro from MegaTokyo likes playing DatingSims, as a number of the strips refer to.  (This comment could apply to either the author or his SelfInsert character...) There's an entire discussion forum on the MegaTokyo discussion forums about dating games.

Fortunately, very few DatingSims have been translated into English.  And it seems most of those which have contain "hentai" or adult-only scenes.
Vitenka would like to admit to preferring the hentai versions then? - Kazuhiko
You're twisting my intent.  I approve.  It's a good thing that only a few have made the jump, the fewer the better.  The hentainess is just an additional scare factor.  --Vitenka
<provoke>You want to deny all those Western gamers the opportunity to sample this Oriental delight?  You'd rather they were playing GTA3, or DeadOrAliveBeachVolleyball? --AlexChurchill </provoke>
Vitenka becomes enrages!  Vitenka misses you!  Vitenka misses you!  Vitenka wanders off to eat Cookies instead.  The existence of other bad genre does not justify the existence of this bad genre (and many would argue that sports games are not, in themselves, a bad genre - though such people are deluded)
AC decides to bite.  It's very hard for an entire genre of games to be bad.  You're claiming that every game in this category, simply by virtue of that fact of being a DatingSim, is bad?  Care to elaborate on why?  ':-)  --AlexChurchill
Same way I can condemn all sports games, really.  Utter loathing and contempt of the mere concept of such games.  --Vitenka
A bit like I condemn all first person shoot-em-ups, then ^-^ Yes, I do know the feeling, even if I condemn a different set of things from you.  - MoonShadow
Actually I kind of side with Vitenka on this one. The concept of running around shooting Nazis/Zombies?/Aliens?/Demons?/Cthulhu? spawn/Little? old ladies is perfectly valid, providing you keep your violent, murderous bastard tendancies to the computer. The concept of sitting in front of a computer and playing a sport rather than actually going and doing it in real life strikes me as a vapid waste of time. Likewise DatingSims?. Of course I can apprieciate the RPG element to DatingSims? so I'm not totally against them, just the substitute for reality bit. --Edith
So, I should adopt a little girl rather than playing PrincessMaker? :) -- Senji
Yes. --Edith
Ehh... well... I guess I can't really argue with that, then... it's a reasonable point of view...  --AlexChurchill
Hmm...  I see a potential market.  A GTA3 clone, with a dating sim element and a football stadium you actually play football in to complete missions.  The really scary thing is, this probably isn't too far off...  Personally, I think I'd quite enjoy it... as long as I was able to take weaponry into the football game, of course.  Alternatively, replace the dating sim element with a PrincessMaker style section...  [Léon], the game? - Kazuhiko

Thus, it seems that it's pretty much impossible for a Westerner who can't read Japanese to play any normal DatingSim.  And since reading Japanese involves being able to understand several thousand kanji just to read the basic phrases, this isn't an easy task.

Well, like it or not, [it seems] that the above comment about none being playable if you can't read Japanese may be set to change. Hirameki International are planning to release a [large] [range] of dating-sims, translated to English, as DVDs.  Thus playable on PC, Xbox, PS2, or theoretically any DVD player.  Mostly due for release in Q4 2003.

The 13 titles mentioned include a number of "multiple-ending love adventure game"s, at least one "school love story" (aww, how shweet), and the rather bizarre-looking "Sweet Legacy", a "cooking love story"...
MikeJeggo's mind:  *boggle*

If that's the one I think it is, it's actually been getting rather good reviews from the community.  You have to cook better recipes, lure your opponent's staff into dating and then defeat them with combat cooking.  Utter insanity that remixes the all time classic 'burger time'.  --Vitenka

What about LeisureSuitLarry?? That's a western dating sim, isn't it?

Well... you get to watch pixellated sex a lot. Do you actually get to *date*? Then again, if we take my tongue-in-cheek inclusion of beach volleyball seriously, we oughta include this.. ^^; Hmm.... Is it time to compare "dating sim" vs. "leisure suit larry", ";beach volleyball" etc. to anime vs cartoons yet? Or perhaps the distinction is different.. If they were flight sims, LSL and DOABV would be the sort where you just fly around and shoot stuff - basically first person shooters in 3D - whereas the DatingSims that I have in mind when I see the term would be the sort where it takes you hours of practice to learn to take off properly, that you can get to count towards your flying hours. - MoonShadow

So does nobody know how they work, then? Do you get a menu of lines to try on likely-looking targets, then more menus of witty responses to whatever they say? Or do you type things in text-adventure-style, or what?

In MoonShadow's experience, they work like a choose-your-own-adventure. You watch a few minutes of scenes and dialogue, then get to select some choices from a list, then watch more dialogue. The plot tends to branch massively, at least in the better ones, and the good ones also let decisions you take affect things subtly much later on. Sometimes you get to wander around a set of locations and/or carry objects, MonkeyIsland-style.

I've seen different locations but have never seen carrying objects before.  I would add SakuraTaisen as one of the most popularly known ones.  A little different as each chapter starts/ends with mecha-combat but has dating style sections in between :)  One of the better ones (at least from watching as Tim played it) was the Utena game, regrettably only available in Japanese.  You are female and get to date/be friends with the characters in order both to 'get' your favourite character as your date and in order to increase their confidence for the final duels.  Watching Tim swear impressively when he reached the end of the game and discovered you had to boost the confidence not only of your date but also of Utena and a supporting character was thoroughly amusing. - Kazuhiko

Apparently, TokimekiMemorial 3 introduces the "hobbies" system, where you (as a Japanese schoolboy) get to choose the things you spend your time doing.  If you spend time playing music then when you talk to girls, the option appears in the menus "Talk about famous composers".  And if that girl is into her famous composers, she'll be impressed with you, and one step closer to going out with you.  If you spend time studying maths, you get to "Talk about Fourier transformations".  This suggests two boggling possibilities: either the (Japanese) authors of the game think that Japanese schoolkids understand Fourier transformations, or Japanese schoolkids actually do understand Fourier transformations...  --AlexChurchill

It's possible.  I do know that the Japanese school system scares me...  There are (or, at the least, were) anime which are solely based on how good the protaganist is at exams :/
Greeeat.  But another boggling possibility which coexists with the first two is that the game designers believe that talking to girls about Fourier transformations will actually make it more likely for them to go out with you...  ...I suppose it's possible that the girl in question is having difficulty with her maths homework, or something like that... but, but, but...!    --AlexChurchill

MoonShadow was thinking of the ones where you get to buy things for the girls, really. And possibly things like PrincessMaker, which probably aren't dating sims ^^;

:)  There was going to be an English version of PrincessMaker at one point but it never happened ;_;

I know! Let's make a PhoenixFeathers DatingSim! :) - Kazuhiko

Well, you say that... but one of the (many) ideas planned for ShadesOfGrey was that your choices throughout the game can influence which characters end up getting together... A certain BAIT member even suggested that any two of the characters ought to be pairable romantically if the player is Perverted enough...  --AlexChurchill
I wonder which BAIT member could possibly have been responsible? *looks significantly at MoonShadow* --MikeJeggo
MuHaHaHa...  I kind of doubt it, although it is possible.  Actually, I was wondering if it was the VicePresident? or I...  I can't recall. - Kazuhiko
Well, my memory is admittedly not perfect so ICBW, but I am pretty sure I remember MoonShadow making that comment.  I was hoping he would confess to it unprompted, or else say something that proved the inaccuracy and incompetence of my memory, as appropriate --MikeJeggo
I slouch corrected.  The Treasurer has defeated me on this occasion... - Kazuhiko

You know, reviving the horrors of Kazu's concept - I think we actually have the tools to do one on the wiki.  It would rely heavily on a horrible misuse of the PersonalityTest? engine, assuming we can get it to spit you back to a wiki page.  Use the BNF to make it a bit more random, and evil is go :)  --Vitenka

People have been asking me this week about ones I can recommend, so: /AlexsRecommendations

(normally) CategoryAnime
see also DeadOrAliveBeachVolleyball (do we have to? *shudder*)

This is a great site {link to vanilla dating site deleted by Pallando}
my goodness, spammers are getting good at this sort of targetted wiki spam.  It took me a while to figure out that wasn't appropriate for this page, the main clue being no signature. --DR

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