You know what time it is? Valentime! Yes, that noble and venerable celebration, a time to draw close your beloved and whisper all those sweet nothings in their ear. A time for the person who loves you most to proudly and loudly exclaim their affection for you. You know, like typing “<3 u babe XOXO” in the all chat window of Dota 2 when you’ve just right-clicked the other team to death with Sniper.
Perhaps Valentine’s Day is your excuse for extravagant pampering; taking your lover for some sumptuous Valendining! Or perhaps you go back to basics, focusing on the simple expressions of affection that are so often forgotten in the hustle and bustle of modern life. A stroke of the hand, moonlit strolls, putting a bit of Valenshine on your relationship. Truly, Valentine’s is…
Wait, what’s that? You don’t have a significant other this Valentine’s Day? You’re going to be spending it by yourself?
OH THANK GOD.
Valentine’s Day is like the Hunger Games, but instead of vulnerable children being killed by deadly environmental traps, the traps are every person and piece of media you’ll meet on February 14th, and the only thing dying is your heart.
But it’s fine! I don’t need you, potential soulmate who would enrich every living moment with a sense of joy and is also incredibly sexy between the sheets! I’ve got video games. Crack open your cheapest box wine (or, if you’re below the legal limit, twist the cap off a 7 Up), set your MP3 player to stun~ing, and join me on a journey to find love in the digital realm. First, we’ll be playing…
Alone in the Dark
Whoops, I’m sorry. I don’t know how this slipped in here. Ahem.
“Communication is essential to a lasting relationship”, someone once said – I can’t remember who, exactly, I wasn’t really paying attention. It would make sense to increase my conversational skill, expand that chat wheel. That obviously means I’m going to have to go online and find a chatterbot. Chatterbots are rudimentary attempts at artificial intelligence, with stilted dialogue and vague catch-all phrases. Think Oblivion, but better.
Anyway, according to the Loebner Prize – which supposedly rates the chatterbot best able to beat Turing’s Test – the king (or queen in this instance) for 2013 is Mitsuku. Let’s give her a visit, shall we?
Okay, look. I’m going to level with you. This isn’t what I expected, but just look at that ’95 Netscape background. Cupid has almost half the screen’s width to mortally strike one of those comical hearts. I-I’ve got this.
Phew! Nailed it. Let me just blow off my finger guns, and we’ll see where this goes.
Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life
I write to y’all now as a more world-weary wanderer of the geography of passion. Never again will I fall head over heels for an online chatterbot and then be wounded in a matter of minutes — a lesson, no doubt, we all learn in time; a story as common as the hills, innit? I left the neon banner advertisements of the Internet to follow a simpler life, one of agriculture and reflection. In the Forget-Me-Not-Valley, where I hoped to be forgotten under a harvest moon.
I’ve moved here to make a new life for myself. This time, I’m going to take it slow. Milk the cows. Plant my crops. Mingle with the natives, get to know them. While there a number of eligible partners, I’ve learnt rushing in just gets you burned. I’ll set myself up, and then hopefully find my true love. So I’m going to pass on this kind lady’s offer for now, and — wait.
The title screen? But, I still had my whole life ahead of me! This can’t be the end! What about my decades-long planting and rotation schedule? Or my livestock eugenics programme? What about my charming personality, isn’t that enough?
No. As far as the harsh, cold world of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life is concerned, there is no life after you’ve chosen temporary bachelor or bachelorette-hood. It is, literally, Game Over. I should have known when I saw the cover. A cute veneer, but with a single lick, its bitter core is revealed — a propagandist trojan horse against singletude.
That’s fine. I’ll find my salvation… in Japan.
People like to say Japan is weird. I like to think that Japan offers, without judgement, whatever your heart desires. Do you wish to date the Prince of Nigeria*? Re: please check your mail. Engage with a variety of occupational stereotypes as Keiji Inafune’s niece? Sweet Fuse. Disabled girls? Katawa Shoujo*. Partake in a post-apocalyptic world in which you, as one of the sole human survivors of a pandemic avian-flu outbreak, attempt to curry favour and love with pigeons?
Gentlemen and ladies — especially ladies — Japan delivers. Welcome to Hatoful Boyfriend.
Despite navigating a track festival, a summer time job involving retired biker gang parakeets who adhere to the speed limit, the advances of a drug-dealing creepy school doctor and Legumentine’s Day, I still managed to achieve the dullest ending, in which I courted a library-bound morning dove who turns out either to be a ghost or possibly a figment of my imagination.
As simulations go, it’s pretty spot-on, really. Dating illusions, I mean, not the pigeon part. You can have a look at some of the more interestingsub-plots, but I’m done with the bait and tackle.
*I realise that neither of these games actually comes from Japan. A bit of a wasted flight, really.
Save the Date
Enough messing around. I’ve had enough. Gaming should have allowed me to become the master (or mistress) of my own romantic destiny. I should be the one setting the pace. I should be the one determining the variables for success. So I’m going with a game in which you already HAVE a date with a GIRL who LIKES YOU. Check and mate, Señor Valentine.
There she is now. Let’s answer that, shall we? Within just a few moments, love will surely be within our gras-
I’ve tried to concoct a more suitable cover for Save the Date, one which more clearly serves as a warning for any who dare install it. If you ever do, I think you’ll agree it’s an improvement.