It’s sick enough having a virtual girlfriend but taking her away for a clandestine weekend calls for a larger sized bucket.
Things are different in Japan. Konami Digital Entertainment’s Love Plus offers a girlfriend on an iPhone and now the digital darlings are being taken to real hotels in a seaside resort for a weekend of fun and frolics.
In the heydays of the 70s, the town of Atami was popular with young lovers and honeymooners but it has fallen into decline. Hotel Ohnoya saw the opportunity to rekindle its romantic reputation and invited Love Plus couples to come for an augmented reality experience.
Around the town are sites with black and white mats which act as bar codes. The software in the smartphone places an image of the virtual vamp on the screen and her flesh and blood boyfriend can stand next to her in the frame while a good-natured passer-by takes the photograph.
It appears that the Tamagotchi generation is growing up – or, more accurately, growing older. And not in a good way. The Love Plus lovelies are actually schoolgirls in Japanese-style sailor suit uniforms (the girls get a new wardrobe of casual clothes for the holiday).
Nene is a third year high school student or 14 or 15 years old, Manaka is a year younger and little Rinko is just 12 or 13. Even by Japanese standards, where the age of consent is 13, Rinko is a bit young to be the centre of attraction for the 20-somethings who seem to be hooked on the simulation.
On the beach, paedos in Speedos can play at being Humbert to their touch-sensitive, but unreachable Rorita.
The Love Plus Romeos have been coming to Atami since early July and 200 have stayed at the Ohnoya. In all, the promotion has attracted 2,000 fans to the resort but the game, only available in Japan, has sold over 430,000 copies.
Love Plus, launched a year ago, gained popularity when a 27-year old Lothario decided to marry his pixelated paramour in a virtual wedding. Now, it appears, everyone’s at it.
The dating game has higher aims and claims that its goal is to allow players to build long-term relationships. The Love Plus guys are encouraged to play the role of a high school boy using basic voice recognition commands to build a meaningful attachment to their long-limbed, doe-eyed doxy.
An on-screen clock keeps real time to make players feel like they are really sharing their life with a girlfriend.
Konami has stressed that the game has no sexual content but the unreal urchin can kiss you as a way of communication, “but nothing happens when she sleeps next to you at the hotel,” said a company spokesman.
“We have no intention of trying to sell a product with pornographic elements.”