These are a few of the characters that you can hook up with in Namco High: the Galaga Ship; Lolo (from Klonoa); Valkyrie (yes they get a bit obscure, don’t they?); Anti-Bravoman (who?); Meowkie (Mappy); Mr. Driller (Dig-Dug’s son); Albatross (Rolling Thunder); and my personal heartthrob, Donko (the drum from Taiko Drum Master).
Created by Namco and a guy who does web comics in MS Paint, Namco High is ridiculous. This is by necessity. While the dating-sim genre is giant in Japan, on these shores games they’re considered risque, and bound to raise a few eyebrows, for good reason. Bit put Miss Pac-Man in the dating pool and the questionable activity of befriending a computer character, even falling for them, becomes comedic. It’s a buffer. You can laugh at it.
While forming a personal bond with virtual characters may sound silly, it has been going on for awhile, with toys from Tamagotchi to Furbies, to games like Mass Effect, that let you get it on with aliens. Spike Jonze’s new movie is about a guy who falls in love with a synthesized voice. Yesterday I made Siri blush. It seems that forming personal connections with computer characters, even when those characters have very rudimentary signs of intelligence, is an inevitable bi-product of our plugged-in lives. Could dating-simd be the next step?