Why Do So Many Dating Sim and Narrative Games Take Place in Schools, Anyway?

Rachel Presser
9 min readJun 22, 2020

Are high school or college overplayed as game settings…or a perfect fit for relationship-driven genres?

Rachel from Summer Session, a dating sim collaboration between well-known visual novel devs Hanako Games and Winter Wolves

As yet another summer and set of graduations kick off, it got me to thinking about how often I’ve seen schools as settings in dating sims, visual novels, and other games with friendship, romance, and story elements.

Why is school such an ubiquitous setting for this kind of game?

Is it just a vapid obsession with youth? Mostly younger game developers writing what they know? I got a couple theories about this as both a long-time player of these games and someone who’s been in game development almost a decade!

The Genre is Rooted in Pursuing Your Classmates


The game said to be the first dating sim was Dōkyūsei, which means “classmate” in Japanese. Visual novels for computers and consoles were a staple genre in Japan in the early-mid 1990s, with incredibly vast titles like Desire (Haitoku No Rasen) outshining thinly-veiled hentai games other publishers were releasing at the time.



Rachel Presser

Game dev, writer, small biz & tax consultant to indie devs. That loud socialist Frog Slut from The Bronx, now in Angel City. https://linktr.ee/sonictoad