Is this the future in a world where we socialize online rather than in person? Daisuke Wakabayashi reports for the Wall Street Journal:
ATAMI, Japan—This resort town, once popular with honeymooners, is turning to a new breed of romance seekers—virtual sweethearts.
Since the marriage rate among Japan’s shrinking population is falling and with many of the country’s remaining lovebirds heading for Hawaii or Australia’s Gold Coast, Atami had to do something. It is trying to attract single men—and their handheld devices.
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.
“Atami has always been a romantic place, but it is now a romantic place for a modern generation,” says Sakae Saito, Atami’s mayor.
Love Plus+ re-creates the experience of an adolescent romance. The goal isn’t just to get the girl but to maintain a relationship with her.
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…
[continues in the Wall Street Journal]