You won't be selecting every dialogue choice during your character's involvement with the game’s world, but you will be occasionally prompted to guide your hero or heroine along different paths, and depending on your prior actions these could result in good or ill.
They are built to anticipate and encourage that style of play.
Many Western players new to the genre miss out on that fundamental aspect of the experience, writing dating sims off as shallow and basic after dipping their toes in.
While the tools offered by these games tacitly encourage narrative manipulation, such as skipping of prior-read text, jumping directly to decision points, massive amounts of save slots, gallery completion percentages, and new game plus content, unfortunately the user experience design isn't there to train someone completely new to this experience.
Since dramatic romances are often the main focus of these games and are necessary to lead the stories along their branching paths, you are expected to fulfill your obligation as a good sport and at least attempt to fall in love.
Or else the game really won't know what to do with you, and thus you will be punished. Non-romantic visual novels do exist for those who don't want to opt in to this particular character-focused experience, but for this article we’ll be limiting ourselves to the love simulation variety.