I’m lying down on a bench in my favorite, undisturbed area of the park, thinking about my horrible little life — family drama, my poorly paid job at a diner, my deadbeat roommate who keeps me up with her late-night “study sessions” — when I notice a presence next to me. I open my eyes, and I’m startled to find a weird, gray-looking dude in a blue T-shirt, black jeans and an open black vest sitting next to me. “Whoa! Hey, take it easy, it’s just me,” he says, scooting closer. “You’re a jumpy one, aren’t ya?”
Confused, I ask who he is. He responds: “Well, I’m your boyfriend.” Gulp. Next thing I know, he’s asking me out on a date tonight.
I should back up — this scenario isn’t actually happening to me, but instead to the poor computerized version of me who lives inside my laptop. I’m safe at home, playing “Day 1” of Your Boyfriend, an “erotic horror visual novel” that takes place as a choose-your-own-adventure game in early development. According to its demo description, the game is “a dating simulator, a tale about you and a strange man who is deeply in love with you, willing to go through great lengths to prove how much you mean to him. Even if you don’t want anything to do with this man…”
It’s not, as the description notes, suitable for under 18 year olds, nor audiences who are “easily disturbed, squeamish or triggered,” and it contains the likes of “stalking, kidnapping, self-harm and suicide.” Fun!
Although I don’t have to physically interact with the “obsessive, possessive, unstable and violent” stranger who’s approached me, the MacBook version of me (who’s known as Y/N, but who, for some reason, I’ve called Becky) does. And, unfortunately, I’m controlling her every move, so I accept this dude’s date invitation, with a very enthusiastic, “Umm, I guess?”
In everyday life, I wouldn’t accept such a horrifically terrifying dinner invitation, but, look, I’m here to experience the game. I arrange to meet this sad-looking stranger at the diner I work at (his suggestion, despite me not telling him where I work). As I only get to control certain aspects of the game — accepting the date, thanking or mocking him for bringing me roses, and, weirdly, choosing his name (more on that later) — Becky has her own, pre-programmed thoughts, including, for some reason, being attracted to this maniac. So, despite my own feelings, she’s kinda excited for the date.
Fast-forward to 7 p.m., and I’m at the diner; I’ve ordered a milkshake and I’m waiting for the creep to arrive. The captions note that he’s around 10 minutes late, which is, like, totally chill — but on arrival, Becky offers a very stern: “You’re late.” He gives me some flowers, and instead of being disgusted by them, I (not Becky) chose to be pleased. When I ask how he knew that I worked here, he gives a fairly reasonable answer: That he sees me through the window sometimes when walking past, but has never had the courage to come in. Okay, cute! Maybe Becky was right!
I ask for his name, but he tells me that he hates it and would prefer to let me choose. In a wave of panic, I choose Frank, which seems to go down fine — but the second time I play, I test it out with the character’s real name (which I’ve gleaned from Mother Google), Peter. He’s annoyed, and asks me if I learned his name from “GirlFriend.” Still, the situation quickly resolves when I simply tell him to “smile.”
From there, we have the world’s shortest date, in which we share a singular milkshake between 7:10 p.m. and nightfall (it looked like summer earlier, but whatever). Peter apologizes for not paying for the milkshake, to which the Becky version of me says, “That’s okay, you can pay next time,” which pleases him. After that, we politely say our goodbyes and I walk home to my apartment, where I hear “thumping and moaning sounds” from my roommate’s bedroom, and then I get into bed. Becky narrates something about not being able to stop thinking about Peter, and hopes that he texts her soon. There are other scenarios based on which paths you choose, but you’ll have to figure those out for yourself.
And voilà, day one of Your Boyfriend is over. Although days two and three are allegedly on creator Melissa King’s Patreon (she’s also known as Inverted Mind INC), as a Mac user, I still haven’t been able to access “Day 2” at the time of writing. King did upload it to her Patreon yesterday, but many users, including me, are getting an error message. The Windows version of “Day 2” seems to work fine, however, while “Day 3” is still a work-in-progress for everyone.
Despite the technical difficulties, millions of other people have played and discovered what other horrors await the object of Peter’s affections. And interestingly, none of the scary caveats about him have hindered Your Boyfriend’s success — they’ve only seemed to heighten it. The hashtag #YourBoyfriendGame has over 706 million views on TikTok, the game’s Twitter page has amassed nearly 40,000 followers and there’s even a subreddit dedicated to Your Boyfriend fan art. People are also making their own fan-fiction versions of the game — one such YouTube account, which also shares “facts” and easter eggs, has over five million views.
Bizarrely — or maybe not when you think about the way people romanticize problematic characters (both fictional, e.g. Joe Goldberg from You, and real, e.g. Ted Bundy) — people are really lusting after Peter, too. They’re drawing him with abs, making fan cams about him and just generally sexualizing the living hell out of him. “Are you also a simp for Peter?” one redditor wrote. “Cus (sic) same.”
For a game that seems to have more fan-created content than official, Your Boyfriend has almost miraculously taken the internet by storm since its premiere in 2019. And, its popularity could be a signal of what’s to come. Another boyfriend-related game dropped in 2021, called Boyfriend Dungeon, in which the player has to fight in dungeons, with the help of their human “boyfriend,” who can handily transform into a sentient weapon (the description suggests you’re taking “your weapons on dates”).
There’s also the renowned 2011-launched game, Hatoful Boyfriend (the artist behind this game designed a character for Boyfriend Dungeon), in which the protagonist bird searches for love among her aviation acquaintances. There’s also Love Language Japanese, which combines a dating simulator game and language lessons; Monster Prom, in which players have to find a date for prom; and a KFC-themed game called I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator. All of these pair the familiar affections of humans with idealized boyfriends whose in-game behaviors may or may not fly in real life.
With female gamers on the rise — now making up 45 percent of gamers in the U.S. — could it be that our reality of creepy boyfriends is finally being used for relatable content? Or is it that having a female protagonist — when just five percent of games have one — is a particular draw of Your Boyfriend? When I asked Reddit, one person explained their obsession with Peter as a case of falling in love with the villain. They said: “My favorite type of couple is enemies to lovers.” Over on Twitter, someone described him as their “main,” “no doubt,” adding: “He’s tragic and relatable in some parts. And he’s also the main baddie so I kinda dig that.”