Yuna says the appeal of virtual romance games lies in the dreamlike world they offer.“Women have a common frustration that they cannot enjoy romantic situations like those in virtual games,” she says.“They usually pick the alpha malefirst, which is more of a bad-boytype,” Amerson says.
Fortunately for Scorpio, Mook, a 24-year-old living in Bangkok, likes “fierce, tough-looking” men, and she is struck by a softness in Scorpio that only she gets to see. Scorpio, meanwhile, is a god and a former assassin—and a character in Star-Crossed Myth, a romance simulation app.
He comes courtesy of Voltage, a Japanese gaming company that specializes in romance games for women and that generated roughly $90 million in revenue in 2015.
They fulfill, says Arroyo, “the fantasy of a relationship that cannot occur so easily in real life.”Kitajima agrees, citing a “sadistic but charismatic” archetype popular among women worldwide.
In real life, Kitajima says, there may be an incentive to avoid this type as a boyfriend or husband, but in the gaming world, the characters provide an outlet for women to tap into their romantic imagination. And fantasies can evolve, as gamers cycle through the various types.
The characters’ neatly packaged archetypes (the seducer, the shy guy) belie complex themes of abandonment and abuse.
With Yuna’s guidance, the characters can find happy endings, or not.“Whether I create a catastrophic couple or the happiest couple is really up to me,” she explains.
Voltage estimates that a quarter of its 40 million players are overseas.
The company has already adapted 33 games for the North American market, and three years ago, it opened a San Francisco office. Where Nameless allows the gamer to play matchmaker, My Virtual Boyfriend, an American app, takes a more direct approach, providing a wide selection of male sims that peer out and speak to the player in a pseudo-relationship setup.
Nameless follows the story of Eri, a lonely girl who has obsessively collected ball-jointed dolls since the death of her grandfather.