Popular dating sim app fails to provide LGBTQ inclusion

Dating sims have been around for awhile now, but a new sim has taken the App Store by storm. It’s called “Mystic Messenger.” Yet sadly, the app may be problematic for LGBTQ players.

Like other dating sims, “Mystic Messenger” creates a story world in which players can interact with the characters within that story. Each dating sim has a certain amount of characters that the, usually straight and female, player is allowed to date. The story unravels based on the person the player chooses. Whether players receive a “good ending” or “bad ending” is determined by their choices. 

“Mystic Messenger” was created by a small Koreancompany, Cheritz, which has created two other dating sims “Dandelion” and “Nameless.” “Mystic Messenger” takes the form of a chatroom app on your phone, both in and out of the story.

The app puts you in an open chatroom and you are immediately bombarded with messages from the main five characters of the game; from then on, your story begins..

Once the player’s route is determined, the game will tell you which character’s route the player is on, and the rest of the game is geared towards that character’s relationship with you. The choices made will determine if the player gets a good ending or a bad ending.

Bad endings occur when you pick choices that earn you broken hearts. These black hearts take up the whole screen and are highlighted in the color of the character offended. Good ends usually occur at the end of the eleventh day and ends with the chosen character declaring their love for you.

Depending on the character you are playing as, you uncover certain elements to the overall story. The game allows you to start over after finishing one route, so that you have the ability to play through all the characters.

Unfortunately, the game is strictly female oriented. Furthermore, players cannot be in a romantic relationship with the other female character, meaning that gay relationships cannot occur.

Early on, you cannot choose your gender. This means that the player will be addressed as “she” and “her” which discouragesthose of non-female genders from playing.

While you can receive Jaehee’s route, your good end with her involves the two of you becoming nothing more than friends. While you can input responses such as “I care very much for my Jaehee,” the other players tend to respond with, “Oh, you two must be good friends!”

Both these issues are problematic in a sense because they contribute to heteronormativity, the belief that only people of the opposite sex can be involved in romantic relationships. This is somewhat understandable since the game is made in South Korea, which for the most part is fairly conservative. 

“Mystic Messenger” would stand out from other dating sims if it provided the option for players to change their gender from female and also allowed players to date the female character.

While the game’s story is engaging, the gender and sexuality problem sets it back. It limits the audience and may frustrate those who aren’t female or straight. 

The world I want to live in is one where anyone can date, whether it’s real life or a virtual one.