These types of games pander to its audience and gives them exactly what they want, comforting them with an unrealistic environment withdrawn from reality. That's not a good thing. IMHO, it's because you can't. Unless you have some sort of AI that can make its own interesting choices and avoid heavy scripting then you aren't replicating anything. You're just going through the same "If you click A, B happens. Now click F, and G happens.
Having a humorous slant on the gameplay or a dirty one breaks it up enough to add a different type of entertainment to it. I can believe that it would be extremely difficult to make a character be interesting or compelling while also interactive in a game. But obviously it isn't impossible to make characters people genuinely connect with in a game, the question is then just how do you take that character and make it interactive in a different medium without loosing it's engagement. I think the Harvest Moon series specifically the N64 and PS1 games handled relationships quite well, and actually made you feel an attachment to the character you were going after without making you feel a sexual attraction to them.
1. My Candy Love
Quite an achievement considering "dating" is actually as simple as visiting the girl every day and triggering certain events. But I think that's where the game's genius lies. It's not solely about getting the girl, it's story-based, giving you a grander goal that makes getting the girl a small footnote in a large scale story. Just like real life, you don't think about dating all the time. You have money issues, health issues, a job, friends to visit, hobbies to keep up with, and an overall feeling of not letting someone down. Weaving a relationship into that story is icing on the cake.
Dating Sim is a set genre that doesn't have to have sex in them. They are resource based management games. Some things are just hard as fuck to make. Not dating sims but there are Visual Novels that attempt this,whether they succeed or not is a different question though. Good example is Clannad. No sex scenes, and after you win the girl over, it's taking her out for dates on the regular and having semi mundane conversation.
However in my opionion most games with an engaging charakter do not have dating as their core gameplay. If they did, people would recognize the mechanics and in the end it is always about finding the NPC favorite X. It is just more obscure sometimes. And the primary reason is just like why any simulation game would often jettison parts that would make it more faithful to reality - because it's not fun.
Relationships in real life are not necessarily fun, or fair. There are a lot of parts to it that is less about what you do though that is important and more about who you are. Often times, attraction is completely about chemistry and circumstances that you can't control.
And then there's the act of managing the relationship. Most sim games are about the fun part, which is the dating.
But relationships are much more about that. There are the challenges in life, the day to day monotony of being together, the moments in time where the subtleties of your core values expose themselves, and the inevitable fights that you will have because at some point, you WILL disagree on something. And sometimes, your relationship will not work not because you didn't try, but because of circumstances. Do you advertise its purported realism on the box?
And anyway, I think that the appeal of these games is that they aren't realistic, much like any other fantasy-oriented entertainment. The point is that they can feel like they're succeeding at the real thing, by being handed advantages they wouldn't have in real life. Petty fights are easy to defuse with Good Communication Skills.
Or are they not? Necessary Katawa Shoujo mention. Hmm, Katawa Shoujo might be worth arguing about. Some routes more, some less so Let's say you can play the game in a sensible way and not end up feeling like your character is some sort of supernatural chick magnet. A chick magnet, but not supernatural.
Have you tried Crescendo? Which buttons would you pre—-wait, let's not go there Is that so wrong? Azumanga Daioh Dating Sim. The person you play as is Kimura. You need to login to do this. Get Known if you don't have an account. RawPower Jesus as in Revelations from Barcelona. They get you and Steph cocktails--heavy on the liquor. One of them comes up behind Steph and starts whispering in her ear.
She smiles and shrugs. The other guy turns to you and says "You look really good in that dress. She says her name is Steph.
She has a big, pretty smile and long gold earrings. You're wondering what brand of lipstick she's wearing, because it's so vibrant. You tell her your name. She tells you that she doesn't know many people in the city yet, and that she's hoping to make some friends at this party. You tell him, as loudly as you can, to stop. He squeezes you one last time, really hard. If you think it's ok to sexually harass someone at a party, or anywhere else, then you're wrong. If someone tells you to fuck off, you fuck off. You tell him to lay off with the hands. Steph agrees and backs off from the other guy.
He reaches out and squeezes her hip, trying to pull her onto his lap. She looks shocked and upset.