By Jake Greenberg / September 28, 2018

Inside Dating Game Apps and the Future of Human-Robot Love

Dating sims are becoming increasingly popular, sparking a debate.

(Photo by PM Images/Getty Images).
(Photo by PM Images/Getty Images).

Gaming apps that allow users to develop romantic relationships with virtual characters are on the rise. Dating sims, as they are known, were first introduced in 1980s Japan and have spread significantly over the last several years across the world. Though still far away from the human-AI relationship of Spike Jonze’s Her, the dating games raise questions about the future of human-robot relationships.

One such game is Mystic Messenger, a game released by South Korean developers two years ago. The goal of the game is to build a relationship with one of the characters through texting. The responses from the virtual characters are preset, but the texts are malleable and dynamic. To beat the game is to live happily ever after in the virtual game.

Those who play dating sims don’t necessarily think of it as a preview of the human-robot relationship apocalypse sci-fi writers have predicted for years. As one married woman in Texas who plays Mystic Messenger told The Guardian about one of the game’s characters, “I don’t think Saeran is human. But I think my love for him can be real even if he isn’t.”

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