LOULOU D’AKI

Tokyo, playing for love
Utano, a frequent player of Otome games, holds her favourite pin with the face of a game character after professor Yumi Asahi’s research presentation about Otome culture in Japan.

PLAYING FOR LOVE

Japan


In Japan, lonely men are falling for virtual girlfriends who are far from perfect. The digital beauties of today come without any artificial intelligence, they can react to their partner only within very strict paths of a pre written storyline. Yet they seem very real to many Japanese men, some of whom have long term relationships with Rinko, Manaka or Nene, one of the characters to choose from in the game 'LovePlus', played on a portable Nintendo console. 


The success of the LovePlus game series which has sold around 500'000 copies, shows that machines won't need perfect artificial intelligence to convince us of their human potential .
Many of these users have a very sane idea of the game they are playing and the imaginary quality of the girls they are dating. Others cannot tell fact from fiction anymore and are desperately waiting for the next update of the game which would equal the next step in the relationship. As it is there are no more updates, so these hardcore users keep playing the same storylines again and again. They're stuck in a love loophole.

For women there are a bunch of romance simulations on the market – a scene that contrasts the Science Fiction-world of LovePlus: The otome scene is in a phase of fast growth, but it's still deeply rooted in the traditions of romantic storytelling as in books or mangas.

As for now, romance simulation games are almost uniquely a Japanese phenomenon. These games might involve the player a bit more than a classic book because of the interactive features and the multimedia character of the games, combining text, music and illustrations, but finally they are just doing the same old trick in a new media: trying to tell a story in a emotionally convincing way.


Where Tamagotchi emulated pets, LovePlus emulates a human partner. 

And once again Japan proves to be the most advanced societal research lab when it comes to digital technologies.


View over Tokyo with Konami headquarters, the Love Plus game creators, in the front line.
Friday night, girls in dresses pass by a group of construction workers at work in Shibuya, downtown Tokyo.
The home of a 48-year old Love Plus player who has been dating his virtual girlfriend Manaka for 5 years.
nd the imaginary quality of the girls they are dating while others  no longer can tell fact from fiction. They love their virtual girlfriends sincerely, and they are desperately waiting for the next update of the game, the ne

A 48-year old man and Love Plus player since 5 years, sits in his one room apartment with the console he uses to chat with his virtual girlfriend Manaka

A 48-year old Love Plus player holds a picture of himself and his virtual girlfriend Manaka. taken during a holiday in Atami which was programmed in the game. The weekend included a possibility to beam your virtual girlfriend to life size in order to have a picture taken together thanks to a digital chip on the ground.

Hitomi, mother of two children and a frequent player of Voltage romance applications, poses for a portrait after work in Tokyo

Hitomi, mother of two and a frequent player of Voltage romance simulation games, poses for a portrait after work in Tokyo.

Hitomi, mother of two and a frequent player of Voltage romance applications, often plays her game while commuting to work in the Tokyo JR train line.

Hitomi, mother of two and a frequent player of Voltage romance applications, mainly plays her game while commuting to work in the Tokyo JR train line.

Tokyo night view.
Tokyo night view.
People visit the Star Wars exhibition in Mori Art Museum in Tokyo.

Visitors at the Star Wars exhibition in Mori Art Museum in Tokyo.

25-year old Tomomi, frequent player of Voltage romance simulation games, poses for a picture in front of a game backdrop.
Sunday morning sun shines on former Love Plus player Kosakis’ drawn bedroom curtains.

Kosaki puts a pair of manmade glasses on the doll he made by himself. He says that he stopped playing Love Plus when the creating company Konami stopped updating the game: ’Just like in real love, the story has to evolve, otherwise the relationship has no future’.

Kosaki with his home made doll.

Kosakis’ home made doll sits on a speaker in his living room. K., who creates robots for the boat industry, quit Love Plus when Konami stopped updating the game. He says that just like in a real relationship, the story has to evolve to be interesting.

Akari Uchida, producer of the Love Plus dating simulation game, poses for a picture in Akihabara district, Tokyo. He left the company 6 months ago and plans to start writing novels.
Girls dance on the strest after the Niconico Chokaiki weekend fair in the outskirts of Tokyo.

Girls dance on the street after the Niconico Chokaiki weekend Anime fair in the outskirts of Tokyo.

The double room in Ohnoya hotel in Atami, one of the destinations for a weekend trip with a virtual girlfriend for the players of Kotami’s dating simulation game Love Plus.

The double room in Ohnoya hotel in Atami, one of the destinations for a programmed weekend trip with a virtual girlfriend for the players of Kotamis’ dating simulation game Love Plus.

Masano has played Love Plus since the beginning and has chosen Rinko as his girlfriend. He brings his console everywhere he goes.
A male guest in a bathrobe looks at the rooftop view in Ohnoya hotel, Atami, where Love Plus players were programmed to go for a weekend trip with their virtual girlfriend.
A male guest in a bathrobe looks at the rooftop view in Ohnoya hotel, Atami, where Love Plus players were programmed to go for a weekend trip with their virtual girlfriend.
A UFO-catcher machine and sofas in a backroom of the Adult museum, one of the locations on the list for a Love Plus player taking his virtual girlfriend to Atami for a weekend.

A UFO-catcher machine and sofas in a backroom of the Adult museum, one of the locations on the list for the  Love Plus player who would take his virtual girlfriend to Atami for a weekend.

Masano uses a Nintendo pen to chat with his virtual girlfriend on the playing console. The Love Plus dating simulation application also permits its users to give your virtual girlfriend a caress which might make her blush.
Masano uses a Nintendo pen to chat with his virtual girlfriend on the playing console. The Love Plus dating simulation application also permits its users to give your virtual girlfriend a caress which might make her blush.
A doll on display at the Adult museum in Atami, one of the program points for the Love Plus dating simulation game players who brought their virtual girlfriends on a weekend trip to Atami.
A doll on display at the Adult museum in Atami, one of the program points for the Love Plus dating simulation game players who brought their virtual girlfriends on a weekend trip to Atami.
Japanese men in bathrobes, sing karaoke in the empty Ohnoya hotel bar.
A 23-year old girl reads Manga books in a private booth at Café 801, a library and café in Tokyo’s Otome district which focuses especially on the Boys Love cathegory of Manga culture.
Books lie on the floor in a private booth at Cafe 801, a library and café for girls specialized on the Boys Love cathegory of Manga books and magazines.
Books lie on the floor in a private booth at Cafe 801, a library and café for girls specialized on the Boys Love cathegory of Manga books and magazines.
25-year old Ao holds up his favourite book as he visits Cafe 801 which specializes on Mangas about Boys Love, a cathegory mostly read by girls and young women.
Jennai, the producer of Waldburgsgedichte, with a story booklet in her lap.

Jennai, the producer of the new romantic game Waldburgsgedichte, with a story booklet in her lap.

A female Cosplayer checks her makeup before a photo shoot at the Niconico Chokaiki Anime fare in Tokyo.

A female Cosplayer takes a selfie with her smartphone before a photo shoot at the Niconico Chokaiki Anime fare in Tokyo.

Boys in school uniforms play with their smartphones and watch publicity ads as they wait for the light to turn green at a crossing in Akihabara, Tokyo.
Boys in school uniforms play with their smartphones and watch publicity ads as they wait for the light to turn green at a crossing in Akihabara, Tokyo.

The audience listens and sings along to a DJ show during Niconico Chokaiki weekend Anime fare in Tokyo.

Utano and Prince Sama, frequent players of Otome games, stand in front of their game gadgets after professor Yumi Asahi’s research presentation about Otome culture in Japan in which they are a part.

Professor Yumi Asahi with Utano and Prince-Sana, frequent players of Otome games and a part of her research on the game culture in Japan.

A women watches a player in a Patchinko hall on a Friday night in Akihabara, Tokyo.

A waitress dressed as a cosplayer tries to hand out a flyer to a passer-by on a street in Akihabara, a district famous for its electronic shops and Otome cafés in Tokyo.

A girl shops for Boys Love Manga books in an Anime shop in downtown Tokyo.
A girl shops for Boys Love Manga books in an Anime shop in downtown Tokyo.
An employee with a sign, chats to his colleague outside the Patchinko bar where they both work in Shijuku area of Tokyo
24-year old Rieto, a frequent player of Voltage romance simulation games, poses for a picture with her umbrella after work on a stormy night in Tokyo.
Visitors of the Mori Museum Star Wars exhibition watch the view from a window on the 52nd floor.
Mr. Masano arranges the desk before the doors open to a fair and an event he has arranged for Love Plus users to gather with a possiblity to plug their playing consoles to a larger screen.

Mr. Masano arranges the desk before the doors open to an event he has arranged for Love Plus users to gather and play, their consoles plugged to a beamer for an almost life-sized girlfriend screened on the wall.

A Love Plus playing married couple show pictures on their smartphones of dolls who resemble to the game’s virtual girlfriends Rinko, Nene and Manaka, during a visit to the Octoberfest in Germany. Beside the phone stands a little figurine of Nene with hand

A Love Plus playing married couple show pictures on their smartphones of dolls who ressemble the game’s virtual girlfriends Rinko, Nene and Manaka, during a visit to the Octoberfest in Germany. Beside the phone stands a little figurine of Nene wearing handmade clothes.

25-year old Love Plus player Naoki Miyashita wears a t-shirt with a print of his virtual girlfriend Manaka, holds a doll made to ressemble her outside the building where a gathering for Love Plus players in Tokyo is held.
Mr. Masano gives a brief introduction to the event he has arranged for Love Plus users during a weekend fair, before the doors open to the public.

Mr. Masano gives a brief introduction to the event he has arranged for Love Plus users during a weekend fare before the doors open to the public.

A man with a briefcase covers his mouth as he starts laughing while chatting to a waitress on the street in Akihabara, a district famous for its electronic shops and Otome cafés in Tokyo.

A man with a briefcase laughs while chatting and with a waitress dressed as a Cosplayer on a main street in Akihabara, a district famous for its electronic shops and Otome cafés in Tokyo.

Men with briefcases ascend the rolling escalator towards the game machines in a Patchinko hall in Akihabara, Tokyo.
Men with briefcases ascend the rolling escalator towards the game machines in a Patchinko hall in Akihabara, Tokyo.
A player of Love Plus, indicates the itinerary of a programmed weekend in Atami on a map. The players were to take their virtual girlfriends on a trip and to follow the game instructions once there on where to go and what to

A player of Love Plus, indicates the itinerary of a programmed weekend in Atami on a map. The players were to take their virtual girlfriends on a trip and to follow the game instructions once there on where to go and what to do.

A married couple, frequent players of Love Plus, holds up their playing consoles, each one with a picture of the virtual Love Plus girlfriend they date: Manaka to the left, Rinko the the right.

Jyunichi and Emi, a married couple and since 4 years frequent players of Love Plus, hold up their playing consoles, each one with a picture of their virtual Love Plus girlfriend: Manaka to the left, Rinko the the right.

Men in suits play games in a Patchinko hall after work on a Friday night in Akihabara district, famous for its many playing halls and vivid Otome culture in Tokyo.
Players of Love Plus, a love simulation game, meet at a fair for Anime and Otome related culture during the Japanese holiday ’Golden Week’ in Tokyo. All players bring their own consoles and gadgets related to the game. The Love Plus love simulation app ha

Players of Konamis’ dating simulation game Love Plus sit around a table with their playing consoles and game gadgets during an Anime fare in Tokyo.

A man reads a Manga cartoon while waiting for the train after a day of work in Tokyo.
A man reads a Manga cartoon while waiting for the train after a day of work in Tokyo.
25-year old Tomomi, a secretary and frequent player of Voltage romance simulation games, with her umbrella caught in the wind.
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