With an increasing amount of people meeting their future partners via social media, dating sites and apps such as tinder, it’s never been easier to connect with people from all over the globe. It’s even given a new lease of life to keeping a long distant relationship alive and fresh, especially with the use of interactive games and the joy of webcams & Skype.
Starting your relationship online can definitely have some great benefits, no awkward start up conversations in bars, you can research the person to see if they have any old selfies on facebook of them murdering someone, and if you don’t like them, you can just block them.
One of the biggest downfalls though can be distance, you might not even get to meet your new partner for months, even years. But what if you never get to meet them? What if they don’t even exist?
The prospect of never meeting your new love interest could be quite depressing for most, but over half a million Japanese men seem to be quite content with this and have taken up digital dating in a whole new way.
Kobayakawa Rinko is a digital character & the main character in a computer game called, ‘LovePlus’. The aim of the game is to quite literally date Rinko and fall in love with her. Take her out for dinner and go on vacations with her.
Although it’s not strange for people to develop an emotional attachment to fictional characters, it’s actually extremely common, it’s the very reason you experience a wide variety of emotions when you watch films or your favourite gaming character meets a horrible end! You development a connection with them.
Whilst this can be very healthy in helping people to understand aspects of life they may not usually encounter in their own day to day interactions with the world, Rinko is a first year high school student making her just 15 years old.
Considering the other main character in this game is basically you, this could be viewed as ever so slightly wrong. Especially if you’re a 30 year old Japanese man.
One man who simply goes by the name of SAL9000, obviously wanting to remain anonymous, even married another version of this videogame character back in 2009 in, Tokyo. He got hitched to, Nene Anegasaki who is a fictional third year high school student in the same game, making her 17.
Although her age is slightly more acceptable, it’s still somewhat disturbing. Is it really a good idea to validate the idea that a grown man can date a 15 year old girl? Real or Fake? Not really. Although the legal age of consent in Japan is 13 making this acceptable in Japanese culture, it’s still a bit out there.
The creator of the game, Akari Uchida says, “I worked every day devising ways for the character inside the screen to make it's way into the hearts of the customers…” and he is known in Japan as, ‘Otosan’ meaning, ‘Father In Law’. Weird.
It doesn’t end there though, people also take their virtual partner on group dates. As in, a group of grown men actually go on a dinner date with other grown men and take their virtual girlfriend with them.
Whilst the game hasn’t exactly taken over traditional forms of dating, Japan is seeing a decrease in its population with some projecting that it could suffer a fall of 1 / 3 over the next 50 years. It’s also stated that over 35% of 20-39 year old men do not want a romantic partner. And in the last 3 years alone, the population of Japan has fallen by just over 3 million.
It’s not clear why this is but if virtual dating increases and the population continues to decline, what does that hold for the future of the once great empire?
Here’s the promo video for the game, it’s in Japanese but an English version of the DS title is available. Or, just go outside.