A beautiful pink haired princess beamed brightly at him. Her eyes were filled to the brim with love, and it was obvious the individual she was gazing at was the most precious person in her life.
The stars glittered dazzlingly in the moonlit sky behind her, and soothing music began to play as her voice softly drifted through the speakers.
“I love you,” she confessed, tearing up with the depth of her emotion even as her smile only widened further.
Above her, the text ‘PRINCESS ALIANA ROUTE CLEARED!’ scrolled across the screen, and the credits began to roll alongside a charming slideshow of the best moments spent with the princess.
Lee sat back in his chair and stretched his arms out to get rid of the stiffness that had accumulated in his joints from staying in the same spot for the past ten hours. A satisfied smile sat upon his face as he relished in the euphoria of having spent his night with such an endearing character.
Princess Aliana’s love had certainly felt real; overflowing from the screen and bathing him in the warmth of her care. Lee lived for those brief moments when playing Dating Simulation games when he could fool himself into believing he knew what true love felt like.
‘...And with that depressing thought,’ Lee sardonically admonished himself, ‘I guess I should at least try and get a couple hours of sleep.’
He closed the game and glanced at the time, only to find he had twenty minutes before class was to start.
“Or not,” Lee huffed with a slight chuckle. He rubbed at his tired eyes and slid out of his chair, going to his closet to find a clean uniform to change into.
As anyone could have guessed, Lee didn’t have a very productive school day. In fact, he spent more than half of it slumped over unconscious on top of his desk.
Even as the last bell of the day rang Lee didn't even stir.
He also missed his teacher trying to shout over the rising voices of his classmates about an assignment that was due the next day.
Suddenly, someone grabbed Lee by the back of his shirt and began roughly shaking him.
“H-Huh?! Whazzit…?” Lee grunted in a daze, a bit of drool sliding down his chin as he raised his head.
“I feel like I ought to admire your skill to sleep through almost anything,” he heard a voice sarcastically praise him from behind.
Lee turned around to see Arland smirking at him with a single eyebrow raised.
“Another all-nighter?” His friend guessed.
“Mm, yeeeeahh…” Lee groggily replied. He always had trouble returning to full alertness after just waking up.
“Must’ve been a pretty good game then?” Arland assumed, curious.
Lee gave a quick nod. “Definitely. The game had such a great story and characters!” He took a moment to remember Princess Aliana’s stunning love confession with a wistful smile. “It’s just a shame I had to finish the last ending,” he mused.
Arland shook his head, perplexed by Lee’s ability to get so caught up in romances with still images of characters on a computer screen.
A hand smacking the top of Lee’s desk startled the both of them, and Lee quickly swiveled around to see the Class President standing over him.
The President's disapproving gaze was slightly obscured by the overhead lights glinting off his large round glasses as he impatiently tapped his foot.
“Uh, yeah, Thomas?” Lee inquired uncertainly.
“So you weren’t listening,” the President deduced immediately. He rolled his eyes as he explained, “The teacher said if you finished your assignment early you can turn it in today for extra credit.”
Lee’s eyes traveled down toward Thomas' arms, where his redheaded classmate was holding a few papers.
“Oh, I uh, I’m not done with mine yet. I’ll definitely have it tomorrow though,” Lee assured, trying not to sweat guiltily in the face of Thomas' skeptical demeanor.
Lee would certainly try his best to get it done tonight. He wished he’d known about the extra credit beforehand though. He certainly could’ve used it.
Thomas shifted his attention away from Lee toward the blonde sitting behind him.
“And you?” The President asked.
Arland, who had begun packing up his belongings, couldn’t help chuckling. “Now come on, Tom,” he snickered, “You know better.”
The frustrated sigh Thomas released was long and, on Lee’s end, guilt inducing. Without another word, the President went on to the next row of students.
Lee doubled down on his motivation to actually complete his homework this time, while Arland was as uncaring about it as usual.
That night, Lee sat in front of his computer and groaned aloud. His half-finished assignment taunted him from the screen glowing in the darkness of his dorm.
He was utterly bored out of his mind. That was why he always struggled to finish his assignments on time. He just couldn’t muster up the will to focus on things he had no interest in.
What he really wanted to do was take a break and play a game, but he had promised himself he wouldn’t even think of doing so until he finished his paper.
Then, Lee suddenly had an absolutely GENIUS Idea!
He could pick out a new game to play and keep working while it downloaded! That would be an extra incentive for him to finish quicker!
With that belief, Lee happily went to peruse his favorite online store. He had, unfortunately, played through most of the best Dating Sim titles, so for a change he decided to go straight to the genre’s ‘New Releases’ page.
He scrolled through a sea of bright and flashy thumbnails, none of which immediately caught his eye. There was no top quality artwork like that of Princess Aliana’s ‘Your Royal Romance’ on display.
When he got to the bottom of the page, however, he did stop to stare at an image that didn’t have any attractive characters or scenery shown. There was just a bright pink heart on a solid white background.
“Parameters,” Lee read the title aloud. Its information tags had the words ‘Dating’ and ‘Experience Novel’ instead of the usual ‘Visual Novel.’
Lee wondered what exactly that distinction meant. Would it somehow be more interactive than usual?
While he was just initially curious about the vaguely marketed game, what truly made him consider downloading it was the price tag.
The game was FREE.
Lee clicked on the title to see if it would be worth his time. There were no reviews for it, but that wasn’t completely unusual for the newer releases. He decided to check out the game’s features.
There was apparently multiplayer functionality, which was strange but not totally unheard of for the genre. He vaguely remembered a very popular Monster Dating Sim that came out some years ago that could also be played with friends.
Reading on, Lee’s eyebrows furrowed when he saw the game claimed to have ‘voice command functionality as well. He speculated on how that would be implemented.
Perhaps in a gimmick sort of way? For instance, you could say some set phrases like, “I love you,” or “You’re beautiful,” and the character would react?
‘That would be kind of cute, actually,’ Lee decided, his expectations rising.
Moving onto the game’s summary, Lee quickly scanned over the words.
[In this experience, you can romance your handsome male peers!]
[You have FIVE DAYS to get your dream guy to fall for you, but if you fail, don’t worry!]
[You can always restart and try again, or choose a different boy to woo!]
[Increase a character’s AFFECTION and fill your love interest’s HEART GAUGE to get the best ENDING and unlock REWARDS!]
[Always keep track of your guy’s PARAMETERS and you’re guaranteed a love that will last a LIFETIME!]
The description was as energetic and to the point as most tended to be, if a bit short. There wasn’t any detail about the actual story of the game though, which was disappointing.
Also, all the romanceable characters were boys? There hadn’t been an ‘Otome’ tag for the game, so perhaps the player character’s gender was neutral or optional? That was something becoming more frequent in modern Dating Games.
Lee didn’t mind whether the heart he was trying to win in the game was male or female, as long as they were written well and the art was nice to look at.
Even if it turned out the game was crap, at least it was free so there wasn’t really a downside to getting it.
Lee went ahead and started the download process, but was shocked to see the estimated time it would take to finish was TEN HOURS!
He couldn’t help but whimper as he realized that even when he finished his homework, he still wouldn’t be able to play until tomorrow.
Without another excuse to keep stalling, Lee sighed heavily and left the download page running in the background.
He had a paper to write.