Another hurdle I see people experience when starting out playing dating sims is that they spread themselves too thin.
This is a very different philosophy from Western-style role-playing games, where one generally finds it more satisfying to select with your gut and accept how the die is cast.
Both approaches have merits, but I enjoy digging into a dating sim and seeking out all the various endings and full gallery completion.
Your character may speak of destiny and true love, but you as the player know better and are keeping a meta tally of all your conquests.
Japanese cultural critic Hiroki Azuma wrote in his translated book Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals about the contradiction of the dual desire for small narratives and grand non-narrative databases, little quantum set-pieces at the expense of a linear canon story.
But when playing dating sims you are actually being quizzed on how much you know about a particular character you’re after, either learned through attentiveness or knowledge of tropes.
Approaching the games in this manner leaves one much less disappointed when they don’t deliver a true vicarious romance experience.
He pointed out the lack of gravity a character's death has in these kind of games, stemming from seeing the main character and surrounding characters die so many times and how to work with it.
"So basically, rather than the desire of 'I don't want the character to die, so I'll try to avoid it,' we put emphasis on the desire 'I don't want this story to die as is, so I'll try to avoid it,'" he explained.
Since dramatic romances are often the main focus of these games and are necessary to lead the stories along their branching paths, you are expected to fulfill your obligation as a good sport and at least attempt to fall in love.
Or else the game really won't know what to do with you, and thus you will be punished. Non-romantic visual novels do exist for those who don't want to opt in to this particular character-focused experience, but for this article we’ll be limiting ourselves to the love simulation variety.
They are built to anticipate and encourage that style of play.