The Making of Chasing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A Game about Love, Consent, and Respect
Texas Tech University
Citation: Condis, Megan. “The Making of Chasing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A Game about Love, Consent, and Respect.” Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, no. 21, 2019. doi:10.20415/hyp/021.g04
Abstract: Chasing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an original dating sim designed to interrogate the dangers of gamifiying sex and consent, both in the virtual realm and IRL.
Keywords: game, consent, gender, toxic masculinity, gamification, dating, pick up artist.
Internet culture is giving birth to all kinds of new social patterns, changing everything from the way we work, to the way we play, to the way we fall in love. The primary focus of my work as a new media scholar is how people perform masculinity and sexuality in online environments like video games, but in recent years I’ve grown very interested in the ways that the logics of the Internet are starting to manifest in our lives offline, the ways that the “real world” is becoming gamified. One particularly toxic example of this dynamic can be found in the Pick Up Artist community, a subculture in which self-styled “hook up experts” claim to know the secret code to hack into a girl’s heart by breaking down her self-esteem.
Reading through the manuals developed by Pick Up Artists like Mystery, star of the VH1 reality television series The Pick Up Artist (Roth) and Neil Strauss, aka Style, the author of The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick Up Artists (which are rife with references to “high scores” and ways to “defeat the final boss”), I recognized many of the common features found in a genre of video game called the dating sim. Dating sims, which have long been extremely popular in the Japanese video game market, (Taylor 205) and are becoming increasingly popular in the Western world (Gray), unfold much like a digital Choose Your Own Adventure novel. The player is presented with a scenario and then is offered two (or sometimes more) options with which to respond. Via a process of guessing and testing, the player must find the path through these options that will bring them to a happy ending with the “waifu” (aka the fictional partner) they desire most (Samekichi Kiseki). As a result, romance becomes an exercise in overcoming resistance as opposed to mutual pleasure and consent. Women are not afforded agency of their own. They are puzzles to be solved, objects to be acted upon, prizes to be won.
Chasing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an original dating sim designed to interrogate the dangers of gamifiying sex and consent, both in the virtual realm and IRL. The game asks players to consider: if, as is common in dating sim games, “consent” is imagined as simply the irresistible and inevitable product of a mix of well-timed and perfectly-executed inputs that overrides the subjectivity of one’s partner, then is it really consent?
Gray, Amy. “Japanese Dating Simulators are All the Rage.” The Sydney Morning Herald. 24 September 2013. Web.
Roth, J. D., creator. The Pick Up Artist. 3Ball Productions, 2007.
Samekichi Kiseki. “Waifu.” Know Your Meme. 30 July 2015. Web.
Taylor, Emily. “Dating-Simulation Games: Leisure and Gaming of Japanese Youth Culture.” Southeast Review of Asian Studies, vol 29, 2007: pp. 192-208.