Benthic Love is a game about anglerfish by Mike Joffe. The game uses a simple text-based structure to tell a branching story that incorporates details about the animal’s actual behavior but is nonetheless about very human relationships.

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Why Try It: Demonstrates the ways that even simple choice structures can alter the way a narrative is experienced; incorporates queer content in a creative and unusual way; requires only that the player read text and make decisions via mouse clicks.

Time: Approximately five to ten minutes per playthrough, depending on your reading speed. Several endings available mean that it’s worth playing through it a few times.

How to Play: Benthic Love is in the visual novel genre, which speaks more to its gameplay conventions than to its length. Like most visual novels, the game is played solely by clicking on text or clicking on the empty screen to advance the game. The game is not played in real-time and does not require any rapid movements, quick decision-making, or spatial navigation skills.

Author’s Notes & More Info

Author’s Notes: "I decided to focus on doing a game which would involve ecology or biology in some way. There are numerous, fascinating examples of mating habits in the animal kingdom that are completely alien to our own. Playing a game where you reenact these animals’ lives seemed an intriguing choice for a dating sim. Balancing the actual facts and research with the player’s expectations and morality was tricky. The art is unanthropomorphic, but the characters are written as people. There’s no big pretentious reason for this, I just found the juxtaposition funny. I wanted to be true to the animal’s behavior, but also allow the player to subvert that behavior if they wished. After all, wanting to subvert an expectation only to discover that you actually can is one of the best parts of gaming."

More Info: Benthic Love was made for the Pulse-Pounding, Heart-Stopping Dating Sim Jam, an event where participants created dating simulation games over the course of a weekend. Traditionally, dating sims place the player in the role of a young person with the goal of attracting one or more romantic interests. Many of the games produced for the event subvert or alter this formula in some way.

Benthic Love was created using the the free, open-source software Ren’py.

You can find Mike Joffe on Twitter or at Videogames of the Oppressed, a blog that explores the ways in which games can be used for empowerment, activism, conservation and scientific communication.