There’s a dramatic scene in Nier: Automata in which a desperate, downtrodden android commands his AI companion to cease all logical functions. The AI, sensible thing that it is, warns him that there’s almost no chance this will end well. Our hero knows this, of course; he does it anyway. This leads to one of the most memorable lines in the entire critically acclaimed action game. “Why do I long for humans like this,” the android cries out, as he takes a dangerous leap of faith that ends up with someone getting hurt.
If you’ve ever gone on Tinder, you might know exactly what this is like even if you’ve never played Nier: Automata. A woman named Jen certainly does, based on her experience using dating apps. Jen, who works as a paralegal, went viral on Twitter earlier this year for, as she put it, swiping on Tinder and getting “guys to buy Nier: Automata” only to “then ghost them.”
By her count, she roped 22 men into her devious yet amazing scheme. Since it’s been a couple of years, she claims, she couldn’t show Kotaku proof that she convinced dozens of men to buy the unusually philosophical game. She did, however, have a handful of screenshots of conversations full of flirts, in which people would say that they couldn’t believe they were about to buy a video game just to impress a girl. [Editor’s note: This bar is low.] And at least some of the pictured folks appear to have genuinely played the game, as the screenshots show discussion of different endings and plot points between her and the would-be paramours.
Known for its intense post-apocalyptic and introspective storytelling, Nier: Automata is full of twists and turns, including changing perspectives, alternating genres, and multiple endings. There’s very little out there like Nier, and fewer still like Yoko Taro, its enigmatic and offbeat creator. Let me summarize his entire deal by saying that he’s best known for going around wearing a giant moon-shaped mask over his head, based on the character Emil from the original Nier.
It takes a certain type of appetite to even be open to this kind of offbeat weirdness—Snoop Dogg hawking Call of Duty or John Cena dropping into Fornite this is not. Nier fans recently proved to everyone that they’re on an entirely different level than most people when a group of modders convinced the world that their creations might have been a long-lost in-game secret, or perhaps an ARG.
No, the cryptic messages that took the gaming world by storm were “just” a bunch of hardcore Nier fans loving the hell out of their game. From the sounds of it, that’s the sort of distinctive soul that Jen, who claims her Tinder bio said that Nier was her favorite game, wanted to find: someone she could really, truly talk to about her fandom.
Part of what makes the story believable is the sheer scope of Jen’s fandom, which she calls an “obsession.” She shared a picture of a shrine she said she keeps in her room, and folks, the thing is massive. It’s got Emil all over it, in a variety of different forms. The table—which even includes a dedicated candle—would stand out in any room. Indeed, Jen said that before people go into her room for the first time, Jen has to warn them about it first.
The shrine makes sense when you consider Jen’s connection to the game, which she said came into her life during a period when she was “heavily depressed and suicidal due to being bullied and having an abusive family.” At the time, she watched a Let’s Play of the game and became obsessed with everything, from its music to its aesthetic. She still fondly remembers lines like, “A future is not given to you. It is something you must take for yourself.”
That’s an idea she took to heart on Tinder, really. Having no one local to talk to about the game, she hoped to change her luck on a dating app. Most such interactions were shallow, she admits.
“Many [Tinder matches] wouldn’t appreciate it as much [as I did], or when I wanted to talk about every detail and they just said ‘[it] was a good game [but] there isn’t that much to talk about’,” Jen said, which she took as her cue to ghost them and move on. Still, many went for it.
“It was actually insane, how many men would buy it,” she said, noting that while she did sometimes tell them outright to buy the game, she never promised anything sexual in exchange. But in an echo of the entitlement that comes with buying a woman a drink at the bar, many of these men did not see buying the game as a neutral act.
“Actually many full-on expected something from me in return for recommending a game,” she said. “Many times I had to read how they wished I’d wear 2B’s uniform for them.”
Really, the way Jen describes talking about Nier almost sounds like she used it as a shield against the constant sexualization she kept coming across on Tinder. The more men tried to get saucy, the more she talked shop about lore and the like. But eventually, that crassness was exactly what pushed her to stop trying to find a match and instead just start trying to sell Yoko Taro’s masterpiece outright. Might as well make something of it, right? As she said in her original viral tweet, “High sales mean more Taro games.”
“I think that [the crassness] made me a bit more apathetic over time… [of course] I know that was really fucked up from my part as well, but I do think Yoko Taro’s games deserve more recognition.”
It was amusing for a while, but eventually the reality of the whole thing started to hit her like the starkness of watching yourself swipe listlessly over dozens of people on the toilet past midnight.
“I stopped because i kinda realized how nonchalant I became about something so fucked up?” she said. “Like even tho some of them were like actually gross, but others might have just disliked the game or aren’t that much into analyzing and theories and such and [I] probably hurt their feelings [by] just ‘disappearing.’”
Nowadays, Jen is not only continuing to add to the shrine, she’s also found her people on Discord. Better yet, her Discord buddies “like the game genuinely and don’t just want to fuck me.” One pal even lives close to her. And besides, who needs stinky boys when the man himself is watching over your shitposts?
“Yoko Taro followed me a few years back when I made nude fan art of the two main girls of Automata,” she said. “I think that made my obsession even stronger lmao.”