All's fair in video game love

Laugh at them if you must, those Japanese men who are so serious about playing a dating video game that they recently took it one crazy step further: They took their digital dollies on a real trip to a honeymoon resort town outside Tokyo.

But I think they're onto something.

In case you missed this latest dispatch from the world of Japanese wackiness, a recent Wall Street Journal article reported on a wildly popular Nintendo DS game called Love Plus that is available only in Japan. It sounds rather sweet: Rather than wreak bloody havoc on the world, players of this game try to win over one of three virtual girlfriends.

Now, before you get any R- or X-rated thoughts, this is strictly PG — players earn "boyfriend points" by completing tasks like doing their homework or exercising, and all that a stylus tap on the screen gets you is a little handholding or a chaste kiss between you and your gal. Or I guess your avatar and hers.

If you rack up enough points, apparently, you get to go on a virtual trip to Atami, which in the Journal's rendering sounds something like the Tokyo version of the Poconos: one of those honeymoon spots that have seen better days as the just-married increasingly flock to more glamorous locales. The city decided to latch on to the popular game, though, and recently promoted real-time visits to Atami to the real-life Love Plus players and their pretend girlfriends.

Some 1,500 "couples" showed up.

I can't pretend to get this, being entirely the wrong demographic and all. For one thing, the three possible girlfriends, described in the Journal as "goodie-goodie Manaka, sassy Rinko or big-sister type Nene," seemed mostly indistinguishably cute in that big-eyed, sailor-outfitted Japanese anime way.

But it got me thinking: Why can't the rest of the world operate in Love Plus style?

Imagine the possibilities. Here are mine.


Husband Plus

Sensitive-to-your-moods Sam, handy-around-the-house Hank and — oh, forget the faux fellows — George Clooney compete for your affections. Earn valuable husband points thusly:

Replace the toilet paper roll before it has dwindled to a single square: 10 points.

It is a Sunday in the fall, and you are:

On the sofa watching football: 0 points.

On the sofa watching football and saying, "Honey, can you run out for more beer?" Lose 60 points.

Driving with your wife to dinner at her mother's house: 1,000 points — and immunity from having to take the trash out for two weeks.

When asked what movie we should see Friday, you say:

"How about 'Machete-Wielding Predator Killer Barbarian 2, in 3D'?" Lose 25 points.

"What's that one where the unattractive guy with all the loser friends gets the hot girl?" Lose 50 points.

"Oh, honey, let's go see the one you want, the one with the cute guy with the British accent who picks the slightly chubby smart girl over mean supermodel": 100 points.


Candidate for Public Office Plus

Budget-balancing Brittany, Clean and Green Gene and Safer-Streets Susan compete for your votes by:

Promising to cut taxes: 50 points.

Promising not to cut any services: 50 points.

Promising to both cut taxes and increase services: 0 points.

Running a campaign in which you trash the government you're trying to join, Lose 30 points.

Airing an ad in which you surround yourself with police, a sparkling Chesapeake and cute little kids: 100 points.

Airing the ad every *&#%$ 10 minutes: Lose 100 points.

Getting in office and doing nothing about crime, the environment or schools: Lose 1,000

Getting in office and immediately getting down to the task of … starting your re-election campaign. Lose 2,000 points.


Orioles Plus

Peter, Andy and Buck try to regain that lovin' feeling from disenchanted fans. They try everything:

Raising ticket prices while fielding a losing team. Lose 75 points.

Sweeping the Yanks this week: 100 points.

When there's a sparse crowd in the stands for a hopeless game:

Ushers let fans move down to the expensive seats: 50 points.

Free beer for every run the Orioles manage to score! 100 points.

A walk-off victory, 1,000 points.

Getting rid of the polyblend gray shirts the MASN boys wear: 25 points.

Three words: Bobbleheads every night: 50 points.

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