My So-Called Virtual Life

Users can bring their digital girlfriends to a real world vacation spot.

Most of us are familiar with the idea of a virtual girlfriend, or at least with dating simulations.  Well, this idea continues to gain momentum in Japan, where men are taking their cyber-girlfriends with them on vacation.

This story is a bit dated now – it came out in The Wall Street Journal Digital Network on August 31 – but I still find it oddly entertaining.  Otaku in the United States have a unique perspective; unlike Japanese otaku, most of us will find this hilarious and desperate, but unlike typical Americans, we can understand it.  Seeped in Japanese culture, American otaku know about the desperation of many of these Japanese men, and let’s face it, the typical anime fan in the U.S. also crosses categories into that of the nerd, geek, or both.  And nerdy boys don’t usually get the girl of their dreams.

What made me a bit uncomfortable about the story was the loneliness the men in the video expressed.  A virtual girlfriend can become an obsession, but it can’t fill a the void that a healthy relationship can.  It’s easy to get caught up in virtual or fantasy worlds when our realities aren’t what we hope.  Most anime is escapism more than art, and I would dare say that most anime fans view it in that way.  Escapism brings enjoyment, but it can also both warp our views of the real world and prohibit us from doing what we should.

Any form of escapism – anime, television, games, music or even digital girlfriends – can suck away valuable time.  What loses out when we give so much of our life to these items?  Schoolwork, our jobs, our sleep and health, and most importantly, our relationships, can suffer.  There are a variety of answers to the question, Why are we here on earth? I think, however, one way to sum up the answers to that question is with a single word: relationships.

For Christians, we are figuratively God’s hands and feet.  He can do miracles – the Old Testament attests to that – but since the time of the resurrection, He has chosen to use His people to do good works.  His choice is for His sons and daughters to establish relationships with the poor, needy, suffering and lost.  Instead of providing miraculous healings (though there are many still reportedly happening today), He sends people to care for the sick and dying.  Instead of toppling the North Korean government, He ignites the flames of an illegal church.  Even for non-Christians, the point is similar: we, with our western luxuries and richness (for even the poor in developed countries may be considered rich elsewhere in the world), need to get off our butts and help others.

Many anime and movies have explored the idea of two worlds: digital and real.  It’s a common phrase to write “in real life” when discussing what one plans to do away from a chatroom or instant messenger.  But when we let our fake world take the place of our real one, it’s not just us that suffer – we also hurt those that need us.

“Internet: absolute communication, absolute isolation.”
– Paul Carvel

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
– Paul, I Corinthians 12:27


6 thoughts on “My So-Called Virtual Life

  1. Gotta love how Love Plus attracts people. Probably one of the smartest move Konami has ever done by giving everyone a virtual girlfriend of their own.

    The thing about virtual girlfriends is the very fact that they are limited to whatever the programmer has thrown into the game. One of these days, a player would probably find themselves bored of the “girlfriend” due to lack of new “content” and I can’t really think what happens when a player reaches that stage.

  2. I hadn’t thought about that, but now that you say it, it seems to be a given. People get bored of real life relationships where there’s a never-ending source of “new content.” In the end, Love Plus is still a game – a very consuming game for many – but still a game. My guess is that once a player gets bored, they’ll move on to the next hot thing, unless their commitment do their virtual girlfriend is stronger than that of most to their real life mates. Then, of course, marriage would be next –

  3. Ah yes, I remember about the marriage thing, caused quite a ruckus!

    Regardless, a machine is only limited by it’s programming. Unless it’s a learning program (skynet!), there’s only so much you could do with the program. Wonder how would people think when their “girlfriends” start giving the same response over and over again…

    Of course, there’s the “move on” kind of thing, but from what we’ve seen from the more extreme end of the otaku community, I find it pretty hard to think that otakus would actually “move on” to other things xD.

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