Mainstream video games tend to focus on mechanics of destruction—shooting,fighting, generally blowing things up—with far less attention paid to the mechanics of building relationships and connecting to other human beings. The recent International Love Ultimatum game jam, spearheaded by AM Cosmos, challenged game-makers (both experienced and aspiring) to create experiences that centered on "relationship system"—which for the most part, translates to romance and dating.
The submissions are in, and they're mostly short and free to play—many in browsers, and a few through downloads. If you're into dating sims and want something to mess around with a few short, DIY games, here are five of my favorites:
This visual novel follows three women (and you) after they get stranded on an island where strange things are afoot. There's a bit of a LOST vibe to Beach Island, and while there are no inexplicably polar bears or smoke, it's possible you may encounter robots, mind-bending caves and perhaps even... romance.
Built in the interactive fiction tool Twine, this illustrated tale involves choosing which book to read at the library, reading it, and meeting new people in the stacks. This will either sound very boring or very interesting to you; play it accordingly.
The description for iseekyou is concise: "Click on a field to type into it. Be patient with your old friend." Rather than a visual novel or text adventure, this game examines relationships though a chat simulator, as you catch up with an old friend online after drifting apart for a decade. Windows only!
In Amity Bound, you're an entertainer with a traveling troupe, and when your caravan stops in a remote village called Sawdust Springs, you get tasked with searching the town for talent, and end up finding more than you bargained for.
You're an art major named Eulia who's insecure about her drawing. She's a cute athlete named Mel who looks amazing in soccer shorts—and for some reason, she's talking to you. The Draw is a very short game, and one that revolves around one or two nervous interactions between two people who might just be in like with each other, but it's still pretty cute.