Over a year ago, there was a game jam specifically for dating sims. I wanted to make one, but between work and all of the other things I had going on, I didn’t get very far by the time the event was over. I had been interested in exploring what a real relationship might be like framed through the kinds of relationships depicted in dating sims: what kinds of expectations would people have if they had played a dating sim but hadn’t actually dated?
That idea evolved and transformed over the year. Originally I was going to create a typical branching narrative, with commentary about the assumptions that dating sims make interwoven in the text. As I sank into it more, however, I got a better idea of how I wanted to talk about the subject matter, and the story became simpler, more linear and less self-aware. In its final form, The Arboretum is about 7,000 words, and though I’m not keen on placing it in any discrete category, I think of it mostly as I would one of my short stories.