Japan has been a longtime player in the world’s video-game industry, but now they are challenging digital entertainment with a new kind of video-game. The new game is much more than a form of entertainment- raising all kinds of questions around the definition and emotion of love and the meaning of a “real” relationship. And why are these questions being raised by a video-game? Well because they are dating-simulation games, the most popular being a series called “LovePlus”.
Like something right out of a science-fiction movie, LovePlus allows the players to begin a relationship with a virtual on-screen character. The relationship is played out through “dialogue trees” where you can have a back and forth conversation and Nintendo’s portable DS and 3DS allows you to take your virtual girlfriend anywhere you like. The technology is advanced and intelligent enough that if you promise your “girlfriend” a date on Friday and you blow it off, you are likely to hear about it from her later. Players say that after a while she truly feels like a real person, and a real girlfriend. He can laugh with her, make jokes, have emotional conversations, and more, just like with an actual girlfriend- except it takes place over a screen.
During your initial discovery of this new video-game you’re likely to be skeptical and find it somewhat bizarre, like many Westerners have, but creators and promotors of the new game hope that they can evoke a different response and perspective in people. They look at the game as a challenge to societal norms and the definition of what a relationship is. For some people it raises questions like does love and a relationship have to involve a physical relationship or can it be built on conversation and just the pleasure of their company?
Players of the game have reported that starting with a virtual girlfriend helps them to build their communication skills, confidence, and emotional connections. They claim that acquiring and working on these skills through their virtual relationship ultimately resulted in making them better players in the real-life game of dating. Men who have since gotten into a real relationship or even married say that their virtual experience helped them to pay more attention to the smaller details, like their wife's outfit or haircut, and more interested in conversation. So a video-game can actually make a guy a better partner? Maybe this is a video-game I could put some support behind!