Monday, August 30, 2010

The (Virtual) Girlfriend Experience

I am not the judgmental kind when it comes to love, sex and dating, but when it includes grown men maintaining relationships with virtual teenage girls I start to feel like a hockey mom on the Republican ticket.

Yesterday I read an article about LovePlus, a dating simulation game made for Nintendo DS that lets men establish romantic relationships with virtual highschool girls. Apparently these guys court their doe-eyed cartoons by using voice recognition software to strike up conversations and a screen clock that captures how much time they spend with their VGF (virtual girlfriend).

According to the website Global Nation Inquirer its creators, Konami Digital Entertainment, "have long thrilled young men obsessed with high-tech, manga, and anime, known as "otaku," by letting them chase virtual girls in the alternative universe of their digital dreams." The game was released in Japan last September and has become the country's leading virtual dating game selling 430,000 copies. That means there are more men with virtual girlfriends in Japan then there are single men in Manhattan.

Just in time for the games' one year anniversary Konami has partnered with Atami, a resort town in Japan, to create a special vacation experience where male visitors can use barcode technology at landmarks and take photos superimposing their anime gals. There are even creepy hotel rooms with two beds where they can use Augmented Reality to look through their phone and see their teenage girlfriend in a summer kimono. Although local hotels were skeptical at supporting this alternative lifestyle, the experience has boosted tourism attracting more than 2,000 male visiors to Atami. Looks like the honeymoon isn't over...

What do you all think? Is Love Plus and its accompanying resort experience yet another way that relationships can morph over time or is it an unatural evilution of technology?

9 comments:

  1. I say unnatural evilution! (perfect label!)

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  2. Wow that's scary

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  3. Date a minor, without the felony!

    Check out this guy, he married his VGF: http://www.switched.com/2009/12/01/japanese-man-marries-virtual-girlfriend/

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  4. Thanks for the comments guys!

    OMG DEV that is insane in the membrane. I think it's more sad than anything else. I was talking to a friend today that vistis Japan frequently and he was telling me about how dating there can be hopeless for single men without money and a career. I think they are truly lonely and these girls really provide companionship. It's like a Tamagachi on crack.

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  5. Geez guys... is it really that hard to find a REAL girlfriend?

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  6. Jewels I partially agree with you. I am truly sympathetic to anyone that has exhausted all avenues in their quest to find companionship. There's nothing sadder than a good-hearted, good-natured person who is unable to connect with someone emotionally and physically (think Jennifer Aniston). But these guys are specifically targeting "high school" girls. They're sitting around playing the R. Kelly version of "The Simms," harboring some seriously misguided ideas of what a healthy male/ female relationship should entail (I hope digital urine is easier to wash off than real urine). Now no offense to anyone Asian, but the Far East is the global headquarters of sexual perversions. In Thailand you can apparently purchase prostitutes as young as 8 years old... so I've heard. I think this VGF phenomenon is emblematic of a cultural divide more than anything else. To me this VGF allows men to live out a fantasy that they would otherwise be unable to. Come back to me in a few years when these faux girls should theoretically come of age and I'll bet you I can find an article detailing a significant amount of break-ups in the VGF world as men scamper to find younger models of their digital fantasies... How would that be for irony?

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  7. "Think Jennifer Aniston" -- I love that!

    You are right it def seems like a creepy fettish perhaps one that stems from wanting to control their significant other. VGFs are like digital dolls that are easily manipulated. Could you imagine young guys creating VCs (Virtual Cougars) or VSM (Virtual Sugar Mamas)? It would never happen!

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  8. Bunch of sanctamonous judgmental pricks.

    Who gives a crap? Its freaking software for gods sake. Where is your sense of indignation for all the virtual games where kids spend all day killing each other on line...

    Bunch of F'ing hypocrites

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  9. ^ There is a staunch distinction between those games and LovePlus. The other games (including other dating simulators) have you date other girls through a protagonist. In LovePlus there is no protagonist save for YOU. Plus, there have been no reports of murder driven by video-game violence but, according to Devin's link, someone MARRIED their VGF. :/

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