This can lead to confusion, as visual novels are considered a subgenre of adventure games and are not technically included in the dating sim genre.
While the two genres often share a common visual presentation, dating sims are sometimes considered to be more statistically based than the "choose your own adventure" style of visual novels.
The technical definition of a dating simulation game, known as a romantic simulation game in Japan, can involve several technical elements such as a time limit, several statistics such as looks and charm which can be boosted through exercise, or an "attraction meter" which can increase or decrease depending on one's decisions.
The gameplay involves conversing with a selection of girls, attempting to increase their internal "love meter" through correct choices of dialogue.
The game lasts for a fixed period of game time, such as one month or three years.
When the game ends, the player either loses the game if he failed to properly win over any of the girls, or "finishes" one of the girls, often by having sex with her, marrying her (as in Magical Date), and/or achieving eternal love.
This gives the games more replay value, since the player can focus on a different girl each time, trying to get a different ending.
Dating sims such as Tokimeki Memorial often revolve almost entirely around relationship-building, usually featuring complex character interactions and branching dialogue trees, and often presenting the player's possible responses word-for-word as the player character would say them.
Dating sims such as Tokimeki Memorial, and some role-playing games with similar relationship based mechanics to the genre such as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, often give choices that have a different number of associated "mood points" which influence a player character's relationship and future conversations with a non-player character.
These games often feature a day-night cycle with a time scheduling system that provides context and relevance to character interactions, allowing players to choose when and if to interact with certain characters, which in turn influences their responses during later conversations.
Dating sims, or relationship simulation role-playing game (RS-RPG), are a video game subgenre of simulation games, usually Japanese, with romantic elements.
They are also sometimes put under the category of neoromance.
The most common objective of dating sims is to date, usually choosing from among several characters, and to achieve a romantic relationship.
The term "dating sim" is also often used incorrectly in English as a generic term for romance-driven games (ren'ai games), a subject matter which is stereotypically associated with the visual novel genre.