The LovePlus site has given people chances to talk to their “companions” as if they are human beings.
Theo Tkaczevski, a 23-year-old American student living in Japan, found himself confronting a mortifying girlfriend situation.
He was heading home on a crowded commuter train in Osaka two years ago when his girlfriend, Rinko, began chastising him for abruptly ending their conversation the night before. She demanded a clear indication of his devotion: He had to profess his love to her, right there, in the middle of the throng.
“I love you, I love you, I love you,” Tkaczevski dutifully whispered in Japanese, trying to keep his head down so other passengers wouldn’t stare. Shortly after making amends, he stuffed Rinko into his pocket.
Rinko is the first girl to whom Tkaczevski has ever said such words. Rinko is also a video game: She’s one of three virtual girlfriends that players can choose from in LovePlus, a Japanese dating simulator for the pocket-sized Nintendo DS game player.
Though LovePlus is sold exclusively in Japan and in Japanese, thousands of men and women around the world — from high-schoolers to the middle-aged scattered from Johannesburg to Jacksonville — have become hooked on the companionship its digital girlfriends provide. (An unofficial version of the game is also available with some text translated to English.)
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