Dating Goes Virtual in Japan, Girls Excited

by VR Sreeraman on Sep 22 2008 1:43 PM

Dating Goes Virtual in Japan, Girls Excited
Japanese girls are virtually swooning over their virtual boyfriends. Webkare (Web Boyfriend in Japanese) has proved a smash hit.
A mix between a social network and dating simulation site, Webkare, turned out by the Nippon, is termed the newest web sensation. Geared exclusively towards girls, the site attracted over 10,000 members just 5 days after its release on September 10, racking up 3.5 million page views in the same time frame, Wired website says.

Girls sign up and become members of a social network but also users of a dating simulation in cartoon style. They have to try to hook up with one of four male Anime characters (who are the “stars” of the site) through “conversations” and must collaborate with other Webkare members in order to move on in the game. Eventually they conquer the heart of the chosen cartoon boy.

Dating simulations have been popular in Japan for quite a while now, but Webkare marks the first time the concept has been brought online and combined with social networking functionality.

Girls choose between one of four different male cartoon characters they want to hook up with upon registration. They can then “communicate” with their digital crush in cartoon-like sequences to try to win over his heart over the course of the game. It’s also possible to meet other boys later in the story, which uses a virtual high school as the main setting.

Interaction is quite limited, as users themselves can neither type text nor “speak” to the characters. Instead, Webkare will display a short cartoon clip if you click on the boy you like (some of the clips include voice samples such as “What’s up?”, “Do you always stay in the class room until dark?” “Leave me alone!” etc.), driving the love story forward step by step.

Important conversations or events can be stored in the album section of the site as “memories”.

On the surface, Webkare’s social network functions are kept to a minimum. There are profiles (including the “Propeta” feature that lets you decorate your profile with small branded icons, similar to the HotLists used in HotOrNot profiles), a direct messaging system, a discussion board and a Twitter-like microblogging function. But the social aspect is actually quite distinctive, as members need to befriend each other and collaborate.


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