WARNING: This is a re-post from four years ago. Not sure if this place is still thriving but boy, wouldn't you like to see the mastermind pitch this on SHARK TANK?
Remember those songs like “Lonesome Town” and “Heartbreak Hotel”, metaphoric destinations for the lost and lonely? Imaginary havens for love’s refuse. Well, it turns out one such place actually exists!!
There is a seaside resort town in Japan named Atami. It used to be a romantic getaway for young lovebirds. Well, either business was bad the women were stealing too many hair dryers but the town decided to go in a different direction. Atami now caters to a new clientele – the world’s most pathetic losers.
To increase tourism, the town has become the destination for male enthusiasts of Love Plus, a dating simulation game. This is according to Discovery News.
The town has partnered with gaming company Konami Digital Entertainment, the creators of Love Plus, to establish a resort that brings together the virtual girlfriend and her real-world boyfriend in a beach-side setting.
Yes. Yikes. Hang on. It gets worse.
Love Plus is an extended scenario in which the real-life "beau" plays a high school boy character in a relationship with a virtual girl. "The goal is to see how good you can be to her [the virtual girlfriend] and to build a relationship." And what better way to capture the heart of a screen cartoon image than by whisking her away for a romantic weekend by the sea?
Wow! And I thought the Burning Man festival was weird.
Now I know I shouldn’t be judgmental here. No one’s getting hurt (although some of the virtual girls might get their hearts broken or fail Algebra 2 because they’re spending too much time with their beaus), it’s all in good fun, but I’m sorry – middle-aged guys acting out fantasies with high school girls… in public – that’s a Sunday drive into some serious dementia.
The Discovery article explains how it works:
In 13 locations around the town, players can find 2D barcodes to scan and call up images of the young women in the game. The girls wear different clothing from their typical in-game looks. One hotel has gone as far as putting a barcode in its rooms, allowing players to see their "girlfriends" in a more private setting wearing summer kimonos.
Double yikes! Triple yikes!
Over 2,000 guys made this their summer vacation this year. I wonder if the iPad has a virtual condom app.
Again, my apologies but this is a giant cry for help. Please, somebody, create virtual therapists!
And here's what scares me. I’m sure there are congressmen reading this right now and booking their trip to Japan for fact-finding expeditions. At least four Florida beach towns and one Six Flags will flip to this next summer. The Fox reality series should hit the air right after the World Series. And worst of all, people will confuse me with the Ken Levine who created Bioshock and think that I created this game.
But the good news is this: You can now go to Comic-Com, wear whatever ridiculous tin foil superhero costume you want, and you're still the well-adjusted one.