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The game lasts for a fixed period of game time, such as one month or three years.
When the game ends, the player either loses the game if he failed to properly win over any of the girls, or "finishes" one of the girls, often by having sex with her, marrying her (as in Magical Date), and/or achieving eternal love.
There are many variations on this theme: high-school romances are the most common, but a dating sim may also take place in a fantasy setting and involve such challenges as defending one's girl from monsters.
One game series that often includes dating, with the goal of marriage, is the farming sim series Harvest Moon.
The player must befriend and carefully build and maintain a relationship with one or more characters.
These games also often involve raising stats that reflect the player's skills.
Series such as Sakura Wars combine tactical RPG gameplay with dating sim gameplay.
The first game that set the standard for the dating sim genre was Dōkyūsei (1992), which relied more on timed events than dialogue choices.