Hey Hey Heroes, Travelers, and Wandering NPCs, I’m bringing you guys a super special awesome new post series that was requested by my blogging buddy, the lovely Lita. I’d been playing around with the idea for an ‘otome games for dummies’ series for awhile now, but, I never really knew where to start or what all to cover, until Lita commented on my Otome Debates intro post asking for a post introducing otome games in general. So, I ran with it, but since I don’t do things by half measures, I decided to make this a full blown post series! Right now, I’m just winging it, so if there’s an aspect of otome games that you want to learn about or think I should dedicate a post to, Please let me know and I’ll make it happen!
In these posts, I’ll give you guys a crash course on all things otome games, but, in a way that is easy to understand for folks unfamiliar with the genre. So, if you’ve been curious about otome games, but didn’t know where to start or who to ask, this is the place for you! Side note, every other Thursday I will post a list of 10 otome games for beginners (the first post in that series will be released on Jan. 11th).
Right, so now that all the formalities are out of the way, lets get down to the basics of Otome Games! This week’s topic is…. What Are Otome Games?!
*Edit 5/8/18: Added some examples of otome games.
What Are Otome Game?
So the best place to start is to explain what exactly otome games are, and for that we’ll have to look into the etymology of the term. Otome Game (乙女ゲーム lit. otome gemu) is a Japanese term used to describe a series of story based games targeted primarily towards women. Otome is a feminine term that literally translates to maiden, so “otome games” can be directly translated to maiden or female games.
Generally speaking, the main goal of otome games is to foster romantic relationships between an in game female protagonist (also often referred to as the MC or Heroine) and one of multiple male protagonist (some games also feature female romantic partners), similar to the setup of reverse harem media. While romance is a big part of the otome narrative, many games feature stories with non-romantic plotlines.
Initially the genre was established for a primarily Japanese female audience, but in recent years otome games have gained a considerable fanbase in the West, thanks in part to the localization of the popular Hakuoki franchise. As a result several Western produced otome game titles have been developed, under the Original English Language Visual Novel (OELVN for short) sub-genre, or simply referred to as English Otome Games.
Otome games cover a wide range of topics and feature characters from many common archetypes, so there is literally an otome game for everyone. While these games were originally targeted at female audiences, increasingly, more male gamers are showing interest in otome games. Lastly, otome games are available on various platforms from mobile based games to PC to most major consoles.
Examples of Otome Games:
- The Hakuoki series is along running historical supernatural romance games featuring characters based on the Japanese Shinsengumi. While most of the story is fictional, there are references to actual historical events.
- The Backstage Pass is a stat based life simulator romance original English language visual novel (OELVN) in which players must raise specific stats in order to romance available love interests
- Liar- Uncover the Truth is a mobile mystery/puzzle based otome game that features interactive and puzzle story elements. While romance is the main goal of the narratives, players must complete several objectives/puzzles in their attempts to romance each of the available love interests.
Otoge, Visual Novels, and Dating Sims… Oh My! – Common Terminology Used to Refer to Otome Games
Otome games are often referred to by a number of names and while some are more prevalent than others, most are considered “correct”. Usually, the term “otome” is used as an umbrella term to refer to the more traditional reverse harem styled video games like Hakuoki or Code Realize. However, “dating sims”, “visual novel”, and the short hand “otoge” are generally acknowledged as appropriate terminology. But, when you are just starting out all of these terms can be a bit confusing without context, so I’ve compiled a few of the most common terms along with a brief definition.
- Otome game- As stated above, this is the most common term used and serves as a catch all for story based games targeted at female audiences; typically focusing on building romantic relationships with one of several male (or female) love interests. Some otome games feature non-romantic storylines and subject matter.
- Otoge- This is just a shorthand for “otome gemu”, OTOme GEmu.
- Visual Novel- Like otome, this is a general term for any story based game. Often times shortened to VN.
- Dating Simulator/Dating Sim- It’s all in the name with this one. While these games may borrow some elements from other game genres, the end goal of a dating sim is to successfully romance one of several male (or female) suitors. Thes games typically take players through the day to day romantic exploits of the in game female protagonist and her chosen lover.
- Mobage- Short for Mobile Game, these games are exclusive to mobile devices (ie. cellular phones and/or tablets). There are a few variations (ie. free to play, freemium, pay to play, etc), but the differences really boil down to cost and type of gameplay (I’ll cover these in their own post).
- Fandisk: Also known as Fan Disc or FD, is supplemental content released to supplement an existing game. FDs can feature additional storylines, CGs, music, minigames, etc; anything that expands on an existing game title. (Suggested by April)
Gameplay and In-Game Terminology
Right, so otome games are technically a sub-genre of Adventure Games alongside Eroge (mature/pornographic/18+) and bishoujo (or galge; games featuring female characters targeted at a male audience), but with the end goal of building a relationship with a particular male love interest.
Typically, otome games feature a female player, often referred to as either the MC (Main Character) or Heroine. This character serves as the in-game proxy for the player, typically these characters don’t have a well defined personality or backstory allowing the player to superimpose themselves into the game through her. Most games feature customizable MCs, either through their name or their appearance. Players alter the course of the story by making decisions in the form of various action and dialogue choices that appear at regular intervals throughout the story.
“Correct” choices will result in a favorable outcome, a Good/Happy End, with the players chosen love interest, while “incorrect” choices will result in an unfavorable outcome, a Bad End. Some games feature a stats raising element that requires players to maintain character specific stats either by performing specific activities or interacting with certain characters. But, the bulk of gameplay typically focuses on the relationship building between characters and raising affection points with the player’s chosen love interest.
Some games feature a route based system, where players can romance one love interest at a time, while the other love interests are regulated to supporting cast members. While other games feature a free for all gameplay style where in-game choices are used to determine which character you end up with at the end of the game rather than just the quality of the ending.
Of course there are few additional features that enhance overall gameplay, such as special events with characters, mini games, full voice acting (usually with well known voice actors), animated graphics, and of course CGs (special reward images awarded when players complete certain requirements.
Common In-Game Terminology
- CG: Computer Graphic, a reward image, usually given to players upon completion or specific in-game requirements. These images are highly stylized, featuring the MC and her chosen love interest in a specific pose or situation.
- MC: Main Character, the heroine of the game, the in game proxy for the player. Typically the MC has little to no personality, so that players can insert themselves into her role in the game. Recently some game developers have taken to creating heroines with a bit more substance than in earlier titles.
- Love Interest: The romanceable characters, while they are typically male, some games have taken to including female and other non-traditional love interests. Usually these characters fall into one of many common character archetypes
- Sprites: The in-game depictions of characters, some characters are given full body renders while others (like the MC) are given no in-game sprites or only given partial body renders.
- BGM: Background Music, it’s the music that plays throughout the game.
- Routes: Storylines/situations specific to a particular love interest or ending/outcome. Some games have multiple routes each with their own branching storylines, while others feature a more linear plot progression.
- Good End/Bad End: Final outcomes for a game or route. Some games/routes may have one end, while others have multiple obtainable endings (Good, Bad, Normal, Alone, etc.).
Now you should have a pretty good understanding of what an otome game is. Of course this is just an overview, there’s loads more about otome games I didn’t really go into, but if I put it all in one post, it’d be a bit overwhelming. But, fear not, I’ll be releasing more of these Beginners Guides fairly regularly on specific aspects of otome games and their associated media. So, if there is a topic you want me to cover, please feel free to let me know (either in the comments section, the contact page, or drop me a line on Twitter) and I’ll make sure to write something up!
As of right now, I have three potential topics for Part 2 of the Beginners Guide to Otome Games, and while I could just pick a topic and be done with it, I want to add a bit more reader engagement… so, vote in the poll below and the topic with the most votes will be the next topic I cover! Also, if there is something in this post that you think should be expanded or needs more clarification, please let me know and I will update this post accordingly!
Welp, that’s all I have for you guys for now. I’m going to try and make this a regular thing, but I’m still working out the kinks with this one since it wasn’t exactly planned. So, feedback is greatly appreciated! So, I want to hear from you guys… What do you think of the new series? Have any ideas for future posts? Suggestions? Just wanna chat? Let me know down in the comments section and as always, THANK YOU GUYS FOR READING!!