While reading Love in the Time of Tamagotchi by Dominic Pettman, I was struck by the popularity of simulated dating games that Pettman describes throughout countries such as Japan, Korea, and Singapore. I was interested in the gender dynamics of these games, considering almost all of the cases that Pettman describes are males playing a game that involves winning a female love interest. Despite the fact that these relationships are clearly heteronormative (a clear product of the societies in which these games are developed) they also promote a relational dynamic of men pursuing women – never the other way around.
In western society, we have a sense that while exploring a new relationship one should ‘play hard to get’ or that if someone is insincere or dishonest in a relationship they are ‘playing games.’ I find it interesting that these dating simulation video games take these idioms to a very literal level.
It is my concern, that with the popularity of men playing dating simulation games such as TokiMemo, which Pettman described, that men who play these games will begin to see the world of romantic relationships in the context of a video game, rather than a genuine interaction with another human being. When this translates to real life, are men pursuing relationships with women in an attempt to “win” something, or are they actually seeking a genuine human connection?
It is my theory that games like this perpetuate the dehumanization of women through gamifying the experience of building a relationship with them. Women, in these games, are seen as quests with rewards and opportunities to level up (which, admittedly, within the game, they are) but this, I believe, is a dangerous path to go down considering this way of thinking already seems to permeate the “real life” dating scene, at least to some extent.
Viewing dating women as a game to play that one will either win or lose by either receiving (quoting from one of the games Pettman mentions) a “You are just a friend” or “I love you very much” (Pettman 193) message, is clearly dehumanizing. It implies that spending time with a woman is a failure or a loss if that time does not result in a sexual relationship.
These games are clearly a product of a misogynistic society which sees women as sex objects, and by turning interactions and relationships with them into a game, it furthers their dehumanization.