9 Games to Play Alone on Valentine’s Day
Ah, fellow lovers of games! The day of lovers and heartbreak is soon to be upon us. If you're anything like me, and I'm going to assume you are because I enjoy spreading the stereotype of the hapless, lonely geek, you'll be spending it all alone. Yes, you'll be at home wallowing in pity as you are bombarded with your friend's Facebook statues about how wonderful their significant others are, and maybe even one of them will think it romantic to propose to their lover…
But don't fret, for I have taken it upon myself to compile this list of games to keep you alone in your empty room, void of warmth or compassion. Get ready to laugh, smile, fall into a simulacrum of love and cry. Mostly cry, though.
♥ Catherine♥ (Atlus)
First on this list is Catherine, the game of miserable misadventures in love by the team that brought you the Persona games. Catherine is the story of Vincent, a man who finds himself caught between Katherine, his longtime girlfriend, and Catherine a temptress of a woman he finds himself caught up with after an indiscretion at a bar one night. The game consists of navigating the story, told through a series of animated scenes and cutscenes. You'll hang out at bars, text your girlfriend and enter a dreamworld of sheep where you'll solve block puzzles as you climb ever higher, outrunning the anxieties of your life an attempting to stay alive.
It's as mad as it sounds, and while the block puzzles can get deviously difficult, the Persona team shows off once again its strength in creating characters and plotlines that keep you constantly on edge. If you do have a significant other, play it with them and have them give you dirty looks when the game drops you a question about love.
♥Dinner Date♥ (Stout Games)
That date that you asked out isn't going to show up, so you might as well just pick this game up and make it easier on yourself. Dinner Date is a game where you where you play the role of Julian Luxemburg's subconscious as he waits for his date. As he waits you become privy to his inner monologue, directing his attention to the world around him, having him sip wine, eat bread and perform all manner of little acts. While some might argue there isn't enough interactivity for it to be truly called a game, it costs a measly three dollars and takes about twenty minutes to play, making it easier and cheaper than buying that awful sandwich you were going to buy your date. For the best experience, pick up a bottle of wine as the website suggests, turn down the lights, and keep a pack of smokes handy.
♥Slave of God♥ (increpare)
After playing Dinner Date you might just feel like getting out of the house, maybe hitting up the club. Don't. Instead download increpare's Slave of God and have that miserable experience at home for free. Slave of God is a seizure inducing club simulacrum (seriously, if you are prone to seizures ignore my previous command and skip this one) that had me feeling exactly as I have at the end of so many nights at the club. While it may not seem like much at first, stick with it and you'll be rewarded. So get in there, get absorbed into the music, drink, hit the dancefloor and don't go home until you can barely walk and the sun comes up.
♥Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer♥ (Calunio)
Maybe you're feeling a bit down on humanity on this day, a little hateful, a little heartbroken. That's where this game comes in. From the madman psychologist creator of Marvel Brothel, Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer is a light mix of the JRPG, dating sim, and uh...tower defense genres. Here you'll wander the dark streets of the city talking to people as the other busy citizens hurry with their busy lives. Get to know them, get into their heads, and use your charms to get them to come home with you...then have them run your underground dungeon torturing them and bringing them near dead and broken in body in mind - then upload the video to the internet and seek the approval of your fellow Dungeoneers. It's sick, exploitative, horrid, manipulative and incredibly well made. At the heart of it lies a love story, as you seek the approval of a lover you so desperately want to impress. It's a story of dominance and submission, the horrors of humanity and it strikes upon those same dark parts of us that are lured into the seduction of vampires or the stories of serial killers such as Dexter.
It's deeply human, and humanity is a sick, sick creature.
(Alternatively, check out Calunio's Polymorphous Perversity. It's all about sex.)
♥Clannad (Key)/True Love♥ (Software House Parsley)
I was originally going to have this entry be about Konami's Tomeki Memorial, mostly due to it being one of the better known examples of the visual novel genre (and because I wanted all you readers to suffer when you found out about the “bomb” mechanic, where neglected girls spread terrible gossip about you), but since there aren't really any English versions of the games I've instead elected to bring you Clannad and True Love. Neither received a proper English version, but thanks to the magic of the internet, you can get around this with a little help from some translation patches.
No matter what you think about Visual Novels, they have undoubtedly been a huge influence on Japanese game development, with titles such as the new Persona games and Sakura Wars with even the Disgaea series taking a dip into the genre. Dipping into the genre is recommended for all Japanophiles and those who want a little better context and history for videogames.
Clannad sets you in the role of a boy named Tomoya Okazaki as he gets involved in various scenarios with five girls in his town, helping them with their individual problems as the game progresses. Revolving around a central theme of family, Clannad occasionally taking dips into the Illusionary World of his dreams. Here there is no life but a single girl who later creates a body out of junk. Throughout the game you'll also collect multiple “lights” after completing each girl's scenario, which become important when tragedy later falls. Being a visual novel, it's void of a lot of interactivity that a lot of players will crave, but it manages to tell a story that will break your damn heart. Aside from the game the novel has also branched out into manga, anime, and a feature length movie so you can get your heartbreak in other flavors if you prefer.
Alternatively, you can just play True Love, which is an entry in the Eroge side of the genre. Basically, when you care more about getting your sexy on with those wide eyed girls. True Love didn't get much attention in Japan, but its English translation was well received and brought it popularity. The game consists of scheduling your days to perform various activities, studying, working out etc. in order to better yourself and impress the various girls of True Love's cast (hello, Persona!). You'll get your various flavors of anime girl: the cute sporty girl, the demure girl, the hot teacher, and the uh... catgirl? Yeah, don't take this one too seriously.
♥Digital: A Love Story/ Analogue: A Hate Story♥ (Christine Love)
If you play only one game on this list, play one of these. After so much heterosexual, male targeted love stories more of a tidal wave of fresh air to not only have a well written (and not well written “for a game”) story but one that also actively seeks to create a gender neutral story revolving around human relationships.
Digital tells a love story/mystery set in the world of 1988 - through the digital interface of a simulated 80's computer interface and the world of Bulletin Board Systems and dial up. Brilliantly, messages with other characters can be replied to, but you only see their replies, which gives you a general idea of what you told them but leaves room for your own interpretation of the specifics. Along with Space Funeral, Beautiful Escape, and Dead Rising 2, Digital is one of my top games of 2010 and would be one of the few games that has ever made me cry actual tears. It's also free, so no excuses from your end.
Follow up Digital by taking part in either Don't Take It Personally Babe, It's Just Not Your Story or Analogue: A Hate Story. Don't Take It Personally deals with concerns of human interaction and privacy in a generation of social media, and Analogue, which made enough money to let Love live off the proceeds, tells the story of a Korean society in the future that for some reason devolved into an ancient patriarchal, misogynistic society - all told through logs and conversations with two AIs onboard the Mugungwha space vessel. The stories are as complex and detailed as they sound, and I'm definitely doing a disservice to them attempting to explain them in such a small space. Just know that if you want something well written, and from a fresh perspective, Christine Love is your woman.
♥Bientot l' ete/ Endless Forest♥ (Tales of Tales)
Wander the beach to find the words to say, then use them in French conversations with a stranger by laying Chess pieces upon a board. There's more to it than that, but Tales of Tales' games tend to defy traditional description, so just head on over to their site and perhaps it will become clear.
Alternatively, wander their Endless Forest as a speechless deer with a face, meeting and communicating with others in symbols. Either way, you'll find a strange world to explore.
♥Thirty Flights of Loving♥ (Blendo Games)
From the creator who brought you the stylish Atom Zombie Smasher, Flotilla, and Gravity Bone, TFoL is a hyper paced, film noir style story of a heist gone wrong and the history between you and your partners in crime. It will take me more time to tell you why it's so brilliant than it will for you to play it, so take the plunge if you're looking for something that marries the undeniable momentum of films with the vérité headspace of videogames.
♥Passage♥ (Jason Rorher)
A five minute reflection on life by Jason Rorher, creator of Sleep is Death and the upcoming Castle Doctrine, that put him on the map as a creator to look out for and sparked an influx of “art games” and debate about them. Loveless or loved, it's a game that deserves the time of those who look at games as more than simply throwaway entertainment.
There you have it, enough games to keep you company for the entirety of Valentine's Day, with enough wonder, passion, and heartbreak to give you the full experience of being in love. For those without, it's enough to keep your mind off the madness outside. For those with, well, just cancel your plans because this is probably a better idea...