Japanese Dudes Take Their Virtual Girlfriends on Non-Virtual Getaways

love plus augmented realityThe Japanese resort town of Atami is now the premiere destination for geeks seeking a romantic weekend getaway with their virtual girlfriends. Thanks to Konami Digital Entertainment’s dating simulation game “Love Plus,” scores of young Japanese men are arriving at this sleepy beach town by the bus-loads, armed with iPhones and romantic intentions. In the game (which can be played on a handheld Nintendo DS console or on an iPhone via an application) guys take on a virtual identity as a high school boy and pursue the anime high school girl of their dreams in an elaborate, made-up digital world. Konami’s new partnership with Atami has upped the ante on the virtual high school relationship experience. The gaming company collaborated with town officials to select 13 romantic locations in Atami, each of which was outfitted with a two-dimensional bar code that operates by using augmented reality (AR) software.

Here’s how it works:

1) Japanese dork arrives in Atami with his smart phone or Nintendo console.
2) Japanese dork goes to the romantic spot of his choosing.
3) Japanese dork uses his smart phone or Nintendo console to scan the AR barcode.
4) Japanese dork is then able to see himself standing next to his virtual girlfriend in that specific Atami location in the display of his device.
5) Japanese dork is overcome with love and happiness.

Ah, young, virtual love! It gives us the chills. But wait—it gets better/weirder. The Ohnoya hotel in Atami has set aside a block of rooms—each elegantly appointed with two futons and a magic augmented reality bar code—designated specifically for “Love Plus” clientele. The guest checks into his room, scans the bar code and is rewarded with an image of his one, true virtual love in the hotel room wearing a sassy summer kimono, instead of her usual school uniform sailor outfit. Welcome to the racy side of gaming. (P.S.: Aren’t these virtual girls high school students? Should they really be sharing a hotel room with a man? Where the hell are their virtual parents?)

“Love Plus” is currently the most popular dating game in Japan, and the folks over at Konami attribute this to the fact that the game is about more than just getting the girl—it’s about keeping the girl. Players have to woo their digital babe, pay attention to her, spend time with her, give her compliments and just generally keep her happy. If they don’t do these things, homegirl gets pissed. We thought one of the advantages of having an imaginary computer girlfriend was that she never got mad at you, but apparently that’s not the case. So basically, “Love Plus” is a computer game that simulates all of the work and maintenance that goes into a relationship, minus all of the real, live sex and actual physical pleasure. You could just get one of those voice-responsive Furby dolls and try for a real flesh-and-blood girlfriend instead…just a suggestion.