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Late last month The Daily Mail published an article about Hong Kong’s Ani-Con and Games fair and the debut of a virtual reality (VR) game, “VR Travel Friend”, which allows otakus (obsessive manga or anime fans) go on dates with beautiful women.
The company that created the game says it’s meant to help male gamers learn how to flirt and communicate with women. If that’s the case – cool. But, if “VR Travel Friend” is a substitute for the real thing because the otakus think they cannot attract women or don’t deserve a girlfriend – not cool.
Every decent person deserves to be loved and to be in a relationship if that’s what he wants. To shortchange himself with an artificial second-best or to tell himself he doesn’t deserve a real girlfriend is tragic.
I have not been able to find information on how many people think they are not worthy of a relationship but from what I’ve read it’s rooted in low self-esteem.
I saw an example of this in the docuseries, Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On. Have you seen it? It was inspired by the documentary Hot Girls Wanted, which is all about the amateur porn industry. The series goes beyond the original subject to discuss the intersection of sex and technology—cam girls, online dating, the role of tech in sexual assault, etc.
The episode that stayed with me the longest is about a man, Tom McDonald, who lives in Australia. He has a relationship of sorts with a cam girl, April Frost, who lives in the US. They connect on her cam girl channel. He pays by the minute and, over the four years he’s been visiting her chat room, their relationship has become something more than just sexual. So when he invites her to visit him in Australia, she obliges.
Alice is happily married and while she treasures her friendship with Tom and is open to polyamory, you can tell she’s not feeling romantic or sexual chemistry with him. On the other hand, Tom is in love and thinks they’re in a relationship.
Once she arrives to Australia, it’s evident the computer screen was a major buffer. Alice feels she must be in her cam-girl persona the entire time she is with him, which takes its toll on her, and they never shake off the awkwardness and get into a comfortable rhythm.
But there’s a happy ending: After they say good bye at the airport, Tom tells the camera he has come to a realization: This was a pseudo-relationship and it’s no longer enough. He wants more. A real girlfriend. And now he knows he is worthy of one and is confident there is someone out there for him. A true happy ending.
Tom was lucky because he had his fantasy interrupted by Alice’s IRL visit to Australia and it made him realize he could aspire to more.
The otakus in Hong Kong using “VR Travel Friend”, on the other hand, will not have that kind of luck because their VR girlfriend will never jump off the screen and give them a talking-to that makes them realize they have it in themselves to be in a relationship and they deserve to be in a relationship with a real human being.
I think it would be a wonderful gift to society if these VR game manufacturers could create a self-esteem campaign that helps otakus realize they can live a life beyond the computer screen.
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