Galge or “gal game” is a subgenre of Japanese simulation games. It features attractive female characters. Players can interact with their potential virtual girlfriends through predetermined choices. Most female characters look younger to appeal to the moe fans. The rewards range from wholesome computer graphics art to secret sexual content. The outcome of the game depends on the type of choices that the players made. The primary target audience for galge is young men. Other similar simulation games are called bishoujo game (美少女ゲーム) and moe game (萌えゲーム).
Some examples of galge over the past decades are To Heart, Sakura Taisen, Kanon, Clannad, Air, and Amagami.
Galge (ギャルゲー) is a shortened word from gyaru gemu (ギャルゲーム) or “gal game”. The name doesn’t necessarily mean it’s intended for female players.
A Brief History
Galge first appeared during the late 1980s in the form of eroge (erotic games). At first, game consoles like the SG-1000 and Famicom had limited processing power to run dating sims. The limitations of gaming consoles at that time led game developers to program eroge on personal computers. The first commercial eroge in 1982 was Night Life (ナイトライフ) by Koei Co., Ltd. Night Life was a simulation guide for couples’ sexual relationships. In 1985, Tenshitachi no Gogo (天使たちの午後) was released; this was one of the earliest eroge with distinguishable anime visuals and selectable dialogs.
Of course, eroge gained notoriety to the point where it reached the Japanese National Diet. In 1986, an eroge called 177 raised moral panic as it simulated rape. The game title was the criminal code for rape in Japan. Some eroge were banned or re-released without the offensive content. Game developers had to regulate themselves to avoid getting banned by the law. Genitals must be pixelated, and eroge are labeled with “+18” stickers.
In 1992, ELF and FANZA Games published Doukyuusei (同級生). The eroge is recognized for its refined illustration, storyline, and music. Players have to meet one or many female characters by wandering around the town. They also have to discover their potential girlfriend’s schedule.
Released in 1994, Tokimeki Memorial （ときめきメモリアル）by Konami was the earliest series to be considered a “galge series.” The dating sim focused more on fulfilling platonic relationships rather than the sexual content. Players assume the role of a Japanese male student at Kirameki High School. The goal is to gain the affection of one or more of the 12 female characters. One particular character that players can date is Shiori Fujisaki, the classmate whom the playable character fell in love with years ago. Tokimeki Memorial is one of the earliest galge to implement a dating statistics system. Players can raise their statistics in various disciplines. Some girls have preferred statistics. Communication is done via telephone calls, and players can visit places to initiate dates. However, players have to be careful of neglecting a female character, as they will become irate and ruin the player’s reputation. The solution for avoiding that scenario is round-robin-style dating. They have to balance their relationship and reputation among the female characters.
Nowadays, galge has finally reached global levels. Even Western developers have produced their own galge. Galge allows lonely or curious players to experience relationships in a limited way. The downside of galge is the simplistic scripts, abrupt story buildup, and objectification of women as “conquests.” Sexual content is also a turnoff for general consumers. Nevertheless, these factors should not ruin a well-made galge. Some galge foster healthy relationships with women rather than taking advantage of them. The genre has also become more diverse, and there are now titles where the main protagonist is a female. Since then, the definition of galge has become more ambiguous. Its vagueness and less explicit contents allow larger audiences to experience galge.
ギャルゲー, Pixiv Encyclopedia, https://dic.pixiv.net/a/ギャルゲー, Retrieved 24 April, 2021.
Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming’s Final Frontier, Hardcore 101, https://hg101.kontek.net/JPNcomputers/Japanesecomputers2.htm
Chinomi, The Trio of Love Games: Otoge, Galge and Eroge, Amino, https://aminoapps.com/c/otome/page/item/the-trio-of-love-games-otoge-galge-and-eroge/77ed_nvFNI4qpeLbDqw1Y2VX0QDEvg4dg3
Tenshitachi no Gogo, MobyGames, https://www.mobygames.com/game/tenshitachi-no-gogo
Doukyuusei, the visual novel database, https://vndb.org/v185
Tokimeki Memorial, the visual novel database, https://vndb.org/v19
Lidor, Danlit, Sim Sex Not So Scintillating, Wired, https://www.wired.com/2004/06/sim-sex-not-so-scintillating/, 7 June 2004, Retrieved 24 April, 2021.
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