There’s been a preoccupation lately with dating (and mating with) virtual characters on Ready Up. Unfortunately, my current video game crush is not of any far-off planet. He’s very much human, he’s very much ordinary, and he’s also very much unobtainable. Embarrassingly, he’s also one of the primary male characters in Style Boutique. Oh, for shame.
I bought the pink DSi because I happen to be very fond of the colour pink and it didn’t offend me in the slightest that it came bundled with Style Boutique; I simply traded it in there and then. Each to their own, after all. I am also fond of pick-up-and-play games, mostly because they can be played during a lunch break. One day, some extra pounds, a sense of boredom and a cheap bargain added up to find Style Boutique in my hands again.
My character resembles myself vaguely, only vaguely because my hair isn’t quite so neatly groomed nor are my eyes so doll-like. She started off at a boutique called ‘Primavera’, learning how to serve customers using innate fashion sense to dress them like in their wildest dreams. Or, rather, check their budget, provide them with a branded item they like and wring every bit of cash from their heavily adorned wallets. Things progressed well, and dressing up people was pretty fun especially if you put them in something ridiculous and they loved you for it anyway.
Then something strange happened. Having once been so dismissive of this game, I found myself becoming absorbed. I can now size up a customer’s preferences with one glance of their current outfit. The money rolled in, and I got my own boutique decked out to my own taste. Later, I earned enough money to buy out the entire makeup store downtown and competed in a Fashion Contest, winning exclusive and expensive items. My character is a veritable fashion career woman, collaborating with designers to produce exclusive pieces, buying more stock at the Exhibition Hall, creating outfits that people are falling over themselves to own and so on.
Being sucked in this far is somewhat forgivable, but the next stage is somewhat shameful. The overall boutique manager is a wealthy and eligible bachelor named Dominic. His posh but kindly butler with a suitably British name, Godfrey, was and still is, very helpful. My co-worker Renee made comments about how attractive Dominic was, and fantasised about the shop assistant falling in love with the boss.
The game then proceeded to drip-feed this teasing storyline. Dominic shows some kind of interest in my character, complimenting her on the very rare occasions he pops into the store. Godfrey poked into my character’s private life (Tell me, Miss Su, do you have any… special friends?) and then tried to set my character and Dominic up on a dinner date. Later, Godfrey was trying to ascertain whether myself and Dominic could possibly be ‘friends’ to which I apparently answered that I thought we already were friends. This turned out to be a very naïve answer, since Dominic showed up and said that he was thankful that we could be ‘friends’.
Dominic compliments me, he gives me hints when I enter fashion competitions and once he offered to walk me home afterwards but suddenly went bright red and said that something urgent came up. Nothing has happened since, and it’s very frustrating!
This is the reason I dislike myself for getting into this game. I expected to be drawn in by the dressing up element, but this ‘dating sim’ element that isn’t quite there completely took me by surprise. I wonder if I should be slightly angered that despite being a successful career woman in-game, I still want my character to get together with a guy who wears a striking pink shirt with his suit and doesn’t apparently do anything except stand around looking pretty in his giant mansion. I actually ‘care’ whether my character gets together with this guy or not! And what makes it even worse is that having dangled this potential romance in front of me, the game now makes no reference to the potential ever existing. I’ve technically ‘finished’ the game, since I’ve won an International Fashion Contest and seen the credits, and Dominic hasn’t popped into the shop since, and after entering more fashion contests, he hasn’t offered to walk my character home again.
Does this mean that there will be no romance in the ‘developing romance’ between the shop manager and her boss? Or does this mean I have to keep playing in order to see something happen? It’s a bit mean of the game to start going down this road and then leave it for nothing although I suppose it is consistent with the game’s primary objective of running a successful boutique. Ah, I suppose it’s too bad really, and his loss. My character is too busy for romance; the boutique won’t run itself after all!