Tom Baker Quib.ly Staff Writer Derby, UK
I'm not talking about the totally healthy love of a young man for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (purely platonically), but rather, falling for a character in a videogame. Actually it's already happening in – you guessed it – Japan.
Dating sims are big business in the country, soothing the lonesome souls of awkward men nationwide. Recently, however, it's been kicked up a notch by LovePlus: a DS game where turning off doesn't mean you've stopped playing, it just means your virtual girlfriend will be annoyed at you for ignoring her. Like a more articulate Tamagotchi. Or Animal Crossing, except with fishing for compliments.
In fact, the game has been an international hit, with lonely hearts around the world seeking solace in the (non-existent) arms of a digital love. It's a big topic at the moment: Spike Jonze even made a film about it. Her might even end up being his least weird film, since future developments in technology could make falling for a digital avatar all the more appealing.
The LovePlus girls can only respond to a handful of stock phrases, spoken into the mic that is built in to the DS, and have vocabularies themselves. Surely, as artificial intelligence continues to develop, we could end up talking to a digital 'person' who's as adept at conversation as their real-life counterpart, or even more so? They'll start looking more real too, as computer graphics get more realistic and we can interact with them in virtual reality with the likes of the Oculus Rift.
At the moment becoming hopelessly devoted to a videogame seems pretty weird and silly; in the future, it might start to look like a more viable option. One way or another, tech is going to affect relationships, why not this way?