'Otome' games: The most entertaining way to rethink your love life?

By Hilary Keyes

What can’t smartphones do? You can take gorgeous photos, shop, study a language, even get your air conditioner cleaned. Of course, you can also use it to find people — actual people — to date, but what if you’re after something to level up your love life without having to endure endless entries of self-absorbed abs selfies? Well, (voice lowered), ladies, there is a way — Japan’s otome games are here to level up your love life and they are totally addictive.


What’s an ‘Otome game’?

Otome games are story-based video games that feature a leading character (usually the user) who interacts and eventually dates (or marries!) one of several characters in the game world. The games are done in the first-person format and are usually written in conversational dialogue. The player (you) is presented with a situation or question from characters in the game which have multiple possible replies to choose from in order to continue the game. The reply that you choose will affect how the character replies, and will ultimately determine the outcome of that chapter in the story. Otome games typically have several chapters or seasons for each character within a given game title. You can replay chapters over again with different answers, and see different versions of the story ending too. 

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It's just the modern equivalent of Mills and Boon, to harmlessly feed the imagination of the frustrated and bored.

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I've found visual novels/gal games/otome games, etc to be a wonderful language learning tool. Especially bridging the gap between intermediate and advanced Japanese.

Most of these games are fully voiced, so you can listen to each line and work on your listening comprehension, and many games let you replay voiced lines. I move to reading the text after I've tried to parse listening to the line. Then if there's still a word I don't understand after reading, I look it up and make a flash card.

There's also a ton of reading, of course! The click to advance gameplay lets you go at your own pace. It's a really fun way to practice!

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