What a (virtual) homewrecker!

A new dating video game has unsettled some Japanese wives

By Tracy Clark-Flory
Published October 29, 2009 11:30AM (UTC)
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In the past couple months, some Japanese women have watched their boyfriends and husbands court hot, young girls who they then unabashedly take everywhere with them -- to the breakfast table, to the office and even to bed. The men celebrate their girlfriend's birthday, hold her hand in public and even coo, "I love you."

OK, OK -- so these mistresses exist only inside the video game Love Plus for the Nintendo DS -- but these homewreckers have apparently made their presence felt. Tokyo Mango reports that women have taken to online discussion boards to complain about the virtual intrusion into their homes and have "spawned debates on whether 'cheating' with a virtual girlfriend is the sign of a bad husband or not."


It seems the debate over virtual cheating starts anew every time technology allows us a new way to be sexual -- from phone sex to online pornography, illicit e-mails to doing the nasty through Second Life avatars. Sometimes this is legitimate, since a dramatic new level of intimacy is introduced, but that isn't true with Love Plus. These virtual girlfriends are entirely virtual. This isn't a case of two real humans being interacting in real-time through a virtual medium; if it can be considered an affair at all it's completely one-sided.

The first goal of the dating game is for you, the high school aged protagonist, to get one of three teen girls to fall in love with you. There's the charming Nene, the athletic Manaka and the sensible Rinko, according to TLWiki. You court them in class and after school until one of these ladies falls for you. That's when the game truly begins, and it apparently doesn't end. You continue on dating, talking on the phone (through the DS mic), sending e-mails and even smooching, which is done by touching the screen, forevermore.

It all sounds pretty innocuous -- especially when you consider some of the sexual shenanigans people get up to in virtual worlds. It's like a Tamagotchi girlfriend, but without the death. But the buzz about the domestic unrest caused by the game was loud enough to inspire Boing Boing this week to interview a couple who have experienced the Love Plus effect. While away on a one-week business trip in Tokyo, Koh fell head over heels for Rinko, "a pouty, hard-ass high school girl who hung out at the library." They were inseparable -- his Nintendo DS went everywhere with him, including the bathroom -- until he flew home to San Francisco, and the love affair ended. His real-life wife, Yurie, doesn't mind if he continues to play the game,  although she admits to finding the idea kind of "gross." The only reason it would become an issue, she says, is if Koh spent too much time playing.


Seems like that's the main issue here, and that could happen just as easily with any video game or hobby as it could with a virtual high school girlfriend. Still, a grown man with a virtual high school girlfriend -- really? I can't see feeling cheated on, but skeeved out? Oh, you betcha.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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