Jen, skimpily clad in mini-shorts and a tanktop, was my latest a€?love interesta€? in the app My Virtual Girlfriend. After reading stories about the game Love Plus and how there are Japanese men who would rather date virtual ladies than real ones (one man even got married to his on-screen girlfriend), I wanted to test out what it would be like to date someone who isna€™t real.
Love Plus, a Nintendo DS game, is only available in Japan, so I browsed virtual dating apps in the Google Play Store.
First you rank yourself, both physically and personality-wise, in a handful of provided categories (are you a bad boy? My Virtual GirlfriendMy Virtual Girlfriend offers thousands of different women to choose from. The main objective of the game is to make your girlfriend happy and, hence, fall in love with you. The girls play hardcore into whatever personality stereotype they've been designated, meaning that when I was dating a "modern hippie" girl, she was constantly referencing pilates, green energy, and how she loves hiking. It took time and effort to progress through the levels and if I closed the app and ignored my lady for too long, she needed some sweet talk before warming back up.
Unsurprisingly, she also hated my catcalling and, well, picking my nose lowered my love score too. Unlocking new options and figuring out how to prevent my girlfriend from getting outraged and breaking up with me made me feel like she and I were growing closer, even though she was just following an algorithm. Maybe I couldn't find anything like Love Plus because we just don't have a cultural equivalent. I called up the creator of My Virtual Girlfriend, a man named Mike Amerson, to learn more about the app. Traffic is high though: The free version of the app sees between 1,000 and 3,000 downloads a daya€”4 million totala€”and the two creators make enough from ads, in-app purchases, and downloads of the full, paid version to maintain a living.

The game technically has 35 levels but once you win you don't have to stop playing or start a new relationship.A Amerson hired a man on Fiverr to record a congrats message in a "Budweiser-ad" voice and the girlfriend dances around victoriously, but the game can continue "You can stay with it forever," he says. But it became clear talking to Amerson that maybe some people do wish we had a Love Plus equivalent, that they could be overcome by the same digital infatuation as those men in Japan. Because, really, we could all use a little more love, even if we have to get it through a tiny screen.
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I quickly pressed the thumbs up button and then scrolled through my list of potential a€?Actionsa€? before deciding to do a magic trick for her.
For example, I could date Stephanie, a geek who likes unicorns and 8-bit retro but dislikes blue screens and Nascar. You can pick things to do or say to her, give her gifts, react to things she tells you, physically "touch" her by pawing your smartphone screen, take her on dates, or make her changes clothes. She got mad at me because I touched her wrong!Pretty much all the girlfriends have cliche "babe" bodies, with enormous racks and itty-bitty waists, and they use the kind of cheesy lines that even an awkward, hormonal middle schooler would pass up.
After I a€?gave blooda€? to raise money to take us on a date, she chastised me for being too broke. In that game, you have to work your way through a more complicated romance (there are only three characters with very fleshed out personalities and you start by meeting them in school).

His wife a€” who he met in the early 1990s while he was working as a male stripper in Vegas a€” records all the narration for My Virtual Girlfriend.
Amerson created the game to be light and funny and, for most people, that's what it is and that's all they want it to be. Once again, we've complied a run down of the biggest and best stories from the tech, mobile, and app world. There has been a huge overhaul of how it looks on the inside as well, with a simpler, more minimalist design that puts more focus on your photos and videos. As you interact over time, you fill up her heart and progress to new levels, each of which unlocks new potential actions.
Plus, all the girls responded differently to different things and getting to know them proved surprisingly challenging at times. So, when I earned the option to flash my cash later in the game, I thought I'd try it since she clearly valued money.
Ditto with complimenting her eyes, though admiring her smile got her to waggle her hips and giggle at me. But instead of offering her signature giggle, she just looked revolted, quickly rebuking my attempt to win her heart with money. But, try as I might, I just couldn't find anything with more in-depth capabilities than My Virtual Girlfriend.
The app then serves you five different potential ladies, providing you with their likes and dislikes, where they rank in each aforementioned category, and their a€?typea€? (MVG lumps girls into five stereotypes: Geek, Modern Hippie, Urban, Alpha, or Diva).

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