Dearest Rachel –
Sometimes, it’s not so much the dream that’s memorable, as the idea behind it that I need to write down and tell you about. I’ve already pretty much lost the specific images that I saw, but the concept, well, that’s worth talking about.
For all that we enjoyed watching various YouTubers playing video games, very few of the ones we watched were all that into the likes of dating simulators, despite that being a fairly common genre. Granted, Doki Doki Literature Club swept the entirety of the online gaming world back in 2017, and ManlyBadassHero (who we pretty much gave up watching since your passing, by the way, along with Flamez and 8-Bit Ryan; sorry about that, but I guess they just weren’t that appealing to us without your being here to enjoy them) was known to indulge in similar such games, but that was more due to the embedded horror element, rather than the straightforward dating mechanic of the games in question.
But despite the relative ubiquity of dating simulators, they generally tend to stop at the point where the girl (and yes, it’s almost always a girl, even though it presumably could be modified for either gender – and theoretically, so could the game in my dream, but since I’ve visualized myself as the player, I’m going to stick with the standard game play in my description. I might have more to say about this later on) says ‘I do,’ or at least, ‘yes.’ You two are together, congratulations, you’ve won, on with the happily ever after. The thing is, we both know that that’s not the end of the story, but rather the beginning. There needs to be an educational and fun way to show the challenges that come from making love last.
Admittedly, the title comes from a rather brutal truth-or-dare type game that kids play from middle school sleepovers to college undergraduate bull sessions. I think the actual name is something like ‘F***, Marry or Kill?’ where, given the names of three potential partners (be they fictional, historical or even actual acquaintances), which one the questioned person would have a one-night stand with, which one would be the best lifetime partner, and which one they would prefer to remove from the earth. It’s one of those ‘would you rather…?’ type hypothetical scenarios, and it’s pretty much spelled out in the name. And like I said, it’s brutal – hey, kids can be like that, just like adults.
Anyway, in the dream I recall seeing the gameplay as being in three main parts – although on further reflection, it might be necessary to establish the attributes of the player-character, as though I were building a Sim. Once I’d created an avatar of myself, the first part of the actual game would be something of a speed dating type of scenario. I would find myself meeting, in turn, a number of potential matches (which for all I know, might come from my habit of doing ‘just one last view’ of the dating app before calling it a night, if for no other reason then to try and get rid of that annoying little red dot in the corner of the app). There would be a little bit of small talk to establish her character – likes, dislikes, hopes and dreams, that sort of thing – at which point I would decide whether I, as the protagonist, would prefer to date, marry, or dump her.
Now, my dream then took me to the dating section of this game, but there would obviously be multiple other possibilities at this point. This section of the game would only open up if I and the girl I was talking with agreed that we wanted to ‘date’ each other. But before that, I could visualize cut scenes for any of the other possibilities separately; if we agreed to dump each other, for instance, it would probably be the most amenable, as we’d both shake our heads and say ‘this isn’t working,’ and she would leave the table for the next person to join me. Were one of us to select ‘dump’ while the other chose ‘date’ or ‘marry,’ there might be multiple different levels of both heartbreak (perhaps a wistful sigh, and a longing look from the one who wanted to date, and a flood of tears from the one who wanted to marry) and dismissal (be an apologetic shrug, a half of contempt, or an outright recoil in revulsion) as the girl leaves for the next possible suitor. Meanwhile, if both parties agree to ‘marry,’ that would move on to the third part of the game play itself, so we’ll get to that later.
In the dating scenario, there would be places to go, and things to do. Maybe even phone conversations to have, requiring one to keep notes of the girls personality, including more of her likes and dislikes and so forth. That would be different ways to succeed, and different ways to fail in nearly every possibility – I still remember your mom’s story about a suitor who all but introduced himself (and invited her to a specific date activity) with the line “So, I hear you like to bowl,” when, in fact, nothing could have been further from the truth, and even though she may have enjoyed the night out with him, that presumptuous mess of his opening line absolutely killed his chances with her.
The game mechanic for this section would include meters for the three possibilities in the title; every line of dialogue, every choice of venue, everything each of you does affects how she feels towards you. Each move makes her more or less willing to continue to date you (‘gosh, he’s a lot of fun,’ or ‘well, that was one night of my life I’m not getting back’), to marry you (‘wow, I could see myself growing old with him someday,’ or ‘oh, he’s a lot of fun, sure, but a lifetime of this? No thank you’) and to dump you (‘you know, I’ve had enough of this,’ or ‘I can’t wait to see/talk to him again’), with the goal being to move onto the next stage – marriage. The game might even have an easy and difficult level, with the former actually displaying these meters, while in the latter, you’re stuck having to guess – just like in real life. And presumably, you was the player are also given the option after each event to either progress things along, or cut it off.
And it’s only at this point in the game that the score mechanic kicks in. Because the true point of the game is to keep up a long and harmonious marriage. In some ways, the activities of marriage won’t be all that different from those in the dating portion of the game; places to go, things to see, events to participate in, conversations to have. But of course, there are certain other events that are added to the game at this point; some of them they will give the game something of a ‘mature’ rating. Hey, if married life doesn’t have an ‘adult situations’ warning label slapped on it, what about life does?
The interesting consideration about this phase of the game is that, while the mechanic of the three meters is still in force, the main objective has reversed. Naturally, in no case do you wish to be dumped, to be sure, but as a married couple, it might very well be the best to ratchet up the ‘date’ meter above the ‘marry’ meter. It may be true that the two of you should want to stay married, but if you can feel as though you are still dating as well, that would keep you as the player, and her as your main objective, feeling happy and young, and that would be what boosts your score that much higher, moment by moment. And for those that matched during the speed dating phase to ‘marry,’ you may have a head start on scoring, but by having less of a knowledge of what she likes or doesn’t, you might end up being unable to keep the ‘date’ and ‘marry’ meters up as high as you might otherwise, so taking your time to get to know the girl might prove to be the better strategy.
Now, I’m certain that this concept is probably not an original one. Maybe the specific mechanics haven’t been tried exactly, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find such a game out there on the market somewhere; I probably just don’t know what it is. And it could be done with just about any level of sophistication; my dream almost looked like it was done in crude 8-bit sprites, like an 80s-style arcade console, but imagine what it might be like rendered in 3-D like GTA V, complete with interactive AI. Granted, get it too close to real life, and it might turn out to be yet another substitute for real life, which would not be a good thing. But it might be an excellent tool to teach gamers not only how to win someone’s heart, but how to keep it, because ‘happily ever after’ takes work.
What do you think, honey? I know I’ll never get the kind of high score that either of our folks managed, but I think we did all right for the length of playtime that we had. But you tell me.