By TatsurouXIII 29 Comments
Did you know this guy in Japan actually married a video game? Well, a video game character to be exact. What is your first reaction to this little piece of information? Do you ask yourself if I'm joking or just go WTF from the lack of a more elaborate response to something that seems absurd? It is no joke: a man known as Sal9000 married a character from the insanely popular, Japan-exclusive DS dating sim, Love Plus. This happened two years ago and you probably already knew about it before reading this. However, what you probably don't know is that it didn't stop there, it's an ongoing process. More and more people are doing similar things. And I don't mean listing a character as your girlfriend on Facebook. I mean real, actual devotion to artificial beings. Have you ever wondered why people do that kind of stuff? Or perhaps more to the point, have you ever thought that it's a shame that a certain video game character is not a real person? If you answered yes to either one of these, keep on reading because I'm about to attempt some kind of explanation to all this madness.
First I want you to think about your favorite video game character, protagonist or NPC. Now, they are your favorite because of many things, like their looks, their personalities and abilities, among others obviously. It's no surprise that just like in the movies, they were designed to appeal to people in certain ways. Like my favorite, Geralt of Rivia, from The Witcher games. He may not be the best example as he was actually a book character in the beginning, but I should proceed with him to prove my point. Geralt is a badass. He runs around killing monsters, saving kingdoms, changing the world. A master swordsman, a mage, a hunter. Geralt is kind of like a rock star: all the guys want to be him and all the girls want to... be with him. Of course he was designed in such a way. He is a perfect person.
In the context of Geralt, what is a perfect person? It's a character whose personality, physical appearance and traits are the result of a study of certain groups of people. Geralt is perfect because he seems to be undefeated, the best of the best, has a great, albeit a bit dark sense of humor, has shiny white hair, manly scars all over his body. He is a textbook example of a badass cool dude. These features alone don't make him, or any other character perfect. Geralt also has flaws. Major flaws. They are there because a player cannot identify with a flawless character. So they (or actually in this case the book author, but never mind that) made him has a weakness for women, making him not so much a stud as a man who is easily manipulated by women. He gets his share of the action, but who comes out on top is never clear until the very last moment. His womanizing is both a sign of his coolness and weakness. Same goes for his constant quest for neutrality. It actually is impossible to be neutral, which makes him an idealist, and this in turn makes him a romantic character. When you break it down like this it's easy to see why he makes such a strong impact on people. It's the incredible detail of personality that makes him so appealing. This is the part, when people can actually feel sorry that he is not a real person. Because who wouldn't want to meet Geralt of Rivia? A nekker probably wouldn't. But they don't socialize that much anyway.
Alright, now for the really important question: what about the women? It's no secret that female characters in games, both playable and NPCs are created in the sexist way to make guys go crazy about them. Maybe it's nothing to be proud of, maybe it's just natural - I'm not here to discuss whether boob physics are a sexist marketing tool or not. I personally enjoy a pair of nicely animated breasts.
I don't know about you, but when I think about a perfect video game girl my mind instantly shouts BAYONETTA! Ah yes, the Japanese stripper/acrobat/witch/everything else. For honesty's sake let's just say it, Bayonetta is in no way a deep character. She barely has any story behind her, but she was not designed to move you. She was made as a treat for those of us that don't need much to be entertained. And all her features make her perfect for that. She has this glamour thing about her, very stylish, talks in sophisticated English with a posh accent and that's the half that's, impressive in a way. But then she has this whole other side, where she's a witch and she dances like a stripper and she makes her potions and shoots things. Super classy plus sleazy equals product sold. But in this case, were not only buying the product. We're buying the character, because it's not the gameplay that will make you buy Bayonetta 2. It's the girl. The gameplay is just like in any other DMC clone. The girl is not. That's the hook. Bayonetta is a perfect person, because she represents things that normally don't go together. She is also a looker, probably designed using the harvested dreams of sleeping teenagers. She's perfect, for certain people, and I'm willing to bet, that many many guys would like to exchange an actual person from their lives for a Bayonetta. And this is exactly my point.
I started out here promising some sort of explanation for the phenomenon of people actually getting emotionally involved with digital characters. The answer is painfully simple: because why not? People did it for decades, falling in love with movie characters. They also did it for centuries with book characters. The thing is, with video games it's so much easier. A player can interact with the character, and if the game is specially designed to be some sort of a simulation of human relationships, do they really control it? Think about it: did Sal9000 wonder how ridiculous his idea of human-computer interface sounds to an average person (especially a westerner)? No, because maybe the whole thing suited him. Just like it suits so many other people who'd rather live in a fantasy of being with a Bayonetta, or a Marcus Fenix or any other video game character designed in part for catering to our more primal needs, than with being with an actual person. They look around and see only people who are so regular, so bleak. When they get offered the chance to spend time with a perfect person, how can they say no? This is probably the reason why some go crazy and take it that one step too far. Then again, who am I to say what's going too far? My personal experiences from the past couple of years make me think being like with an actual human female is taking it too far. I'm probably one of those people more subjectable to the "Love Plus Treatment".
This could go on for pages and pages, and turn into a diatribe about how virtual reality and the simulacrum that it is more and more replace the physical world in our minds, habits and lifestyles... but let's not go there. Let's end this on a positive note saying that everybody has a right to be happy, no matter what their definition of happiness is. Whether it's with a real person, or a digital one, at least they're not alone. I find that oddly comforting. Don't you?
Thanks for reading!