ATAMI, Japan—This resort town, once popular with honeymooners, is turning to a new breed of romance seekers—virtual sweethearts.
In the first month of the city's promotional campaign launched July 10, more than 1,500 male fans of the Japanese dating-simulation game LovePlus+ have flocked to Atami for a romantic date with their videogame character girlfriends.
The men are real. The girls are cartoon characters on a screen. The trips are actual, can be expensive and aim to re-create the virtual weekend outing featured in the game, a product of Konami Corp. played on Nintendo Co.'s DS videogame system.
Gah. I knew the DS systems were wildly popular with the pre-pubescent set here in the U.S., but these are supposedly "real men" playing this thing. Well, sort of. The story gets even weirder.
After choosing one of three female characters—goodie-goodie Manaka, sassy Rinko or big-sister type Nene—to be a steady girlfriend, the player taps a stylus on the DS touch-screen in order to walk hand-in-hand to school, exchange flirtatious text messages and even meet in the school courtyard for a little afternoon kiss. Using the device's built-in microphone, the player can carry on sweet, albeit mundane, conversations.
If the real-life Romeo earns enough "boyfriend power" points—by completing game tasks like homework or exercise to become smarter and more buff—the reward is a virtual trip to Atami.
In the game, the couple tours the local landmarks. The girlfriend changes into a yukata, a casual summer kimono, to go see the fireworks, and then they stay overnight at the Hotel Ohnoya. It is known for its cavernous, white-columned baths in the style of Ancient Rome.In Atami, the Love Plus+ fans—mostly men in their twenties and thirties—stand out. Unlike the deeply tanned beach crowd wearing very little, they are often pasty and overdressed for the heat in heavy jeans and button-down shirts.
LOL. So all the references to this "growing trend" amongst "real men," and we come to find out this is a very unique (and strange) subculture of shut-ins and nerds...the "Big Bang Theory" crowd who find Sheldon a hero (best line from an episode I saw recently: "What approximate time in the morning do you evacuate your bowels?").
I know, everyone deserves love (even computer simulations), and maybe the article is unduly portraying these guys as overly-pathetic. But don't you find the misogyny (the submissive nature of the avatars), patriarchy (there is nothing comparable for the "pasty, overdressed" women), and all-around ick factor to be, well, off the scale?
See you in awhile...I'm heading to the gym, followed by the tanning bed.