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He heads to a central Tokyo café, chooses a quiet table in the corner, orders hot chocolate and waits for her to arrive.A few minutes later Manaka appears, wearing a pretty blue dress, her long black hair loose and a coquettish smile.
It makes me feel as if she can’t live without me, which is what charms me most.’ There was perhaps a strange inevitability to the pairing of those two words, 'virtual’ and 'girlfriend’.Laid-back in a blazer and shirt, Uchida outlines the aim of the game.'I wanted to make a game specifically designed to be played on a hand-held device such as Nintendo DS.Our aim,’ he continues, 'is to make people feel the girls inside the game really are their girlfriends: that they are pretty and have real feelings for them.’ So real were the feelings of one besotted player that he 'married’ his virtual girlfriend, Nene, in a mock ceremony streamed live on the internet last year.'It might seem strange to have feelings for a game character, but people have feelings for characters in novels or TV dramas.It is a tense gathering: Uchida’s is the only relaxed face amid a row of suited Konami communications officers.
Some virtual-dating games are sexually explicit and Konami is extremely anxious that it’s made clear Love Plus is not in the same vein.
The man behind the phenomenal success of Love Plus is Akari Uchida, a cult game creator with years of experience.
He has granted Stella a rare interview, which takes place in a meeting-room at Konami’s headquarters, set in the gleaming Tokyo Midtown development in the Roppongi district.
Ask it who shot JR in Dallas, and it will fire back the name Kristin Shepard. But when it comes to devices that more closely imitate human life, Japan is way ahead.
There, virtual dating games in which real people interact with digital characters have been around almost as long as personal computers (the first went on sale in 1982).
Dramatic advances in technology, particularly in artificial intelligence, meant it was only a matter of time before virtual relationships became possible.