Japan’s virtual romance

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Japan’s virtual romance fans find love on the side

スマートフォンのアプリでイケメンと恋愛を楽しむ女性が増えているという。150億円規模にまで膨れ上がった恋愛シミュレーションゲーム市場、一体何が女性たちの心をつかむのだろうか。

virtual romance

Book editor Miho Takeshita is having an affair. But the recently married 30-year-old is not worried about getting caught – her boyfriend only exists on a smartphone.

Takeshita is a fan of romance simulation games. A booming market in Japan that is winning the hearts of women looking for unconventional loving.

“It’s very addictive,” Takeshita said.

“Even though the game characters aren’t real, you start to develop feelings toward them.”

That is the the whole point, said Natsuko Asaki. He is a game producer at Cybird, creator of the popular Ikemen series. Named after the slang term for handsome guys.

“The story is most important, but the characters are also important, and the twists and turns,” Asaki said.

Ikemen games have been downloaded some 15 million times. Since the first app was launched about five years ago, and the firm released an English version in 2014.

Riding on the smartphone boom, female-targeted virtual romance games have ballooned into a market worth about ¥15 billion yen a year in Japan, according to the Tokyo-based Yano Research Institute.

Some 80 percent of its fans, including a growing number of married women, play just before bed, according to a Cybird survey.

The games do not rely on complicated algorithms but instead offer multiple-choice scenarios that let the player escape into a world where they create their own love story with digital hunks.

Takeshita does not see anything strange about flirting with her smartphone sweeties.

In fact, she can engage with them whenever she likes – something real-life spouses do not always provide.

“The games also have sexual overtones, but they’re express.ed less crudely than in simulations made for the male market,” Cybird’s Asaki said.

“It’s an ideal love story – there are no female rivals and no sad endings.”

But is there any risk in a bit of smartphone hanky-panky?

“Becoming an addict,” said a single female fan who .asked to remain anonymous.

“You can even start to feel a little guilty if you do not .play regularly – it’s a bit dangerous for teenage girls who are still immature.”

Romance games are one of the culprits behind a trend that has seen some young Japanese lose interest in finding a real partner, according to a study .last year by the Meiji Yasuda Life Foundation of Health and Welfare.

“The relationship that does not ha.ppen in real life happens perfectly in the game – that can lead some people to give up looking for love, at least for a time,” said Ai Aizawa. a marital relations specialist at the All About website, which offers daily lifestyle advice.


 

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