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Laid-back in a blazer and shirt, Uchida outlines the aim of the game.
It makes me feel as if she can’t live without me, which is what charms me most.’ There was perhaps a strange inevitability to the pairing of those two words, 'virtual’ and 'girlfriend’.
He heads to a central Tokyo café, chooses a quiet table in the corner, orders hot chocolate and waits for her to arrive.
A few minutes later Manaka appears, wearing a pretty blue dress, her long black hair loose and a coquettish smile.
Even so, they’ve always been seen as a marginal concern and the preserve of the socially inept recluse. Spearheading the shift in public perception is a game called Love Plus.
Launched in September 2009 by the games creator Konami, it has become the leader in the virtual-dating world.