Lonely hearts seek virtual girlfriends at Hong Kong fair

Cosplay fans take selfies at the Ani-Com and Games fair in Hong Kong.
Cosplay fans take selfies at the Ani-Com and Games fair in Hong Kong.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HONG KONG• Virtual reality games usually promise shoot 'em up adventures, but in Hong Kong last Friday, lovelorn tech fans donned headsets to go on imaginary dates.

At the city's annual Ani-Com and Games fair, thousands queue to try out the latest consoles or buy comic-book collectibles, often while dressed up as their favourite characters.

But for those who had spent too much time alone in their rooms, a new virtual-reality app offered some romantic solace.

Users can choose from four female models and take a vacation with them in either Japan or Thailand, joining them on trips to cafes, hot springs and karaoke.

They attach their smartphones to plastic headsets and are then immersed in dates, during which they can choose activities.

Promoters of the Hong Kong- made app, which is known in Cantonese as "leoi yau" or "VR travel friend", said it was to help otaku practise dating. Otaku is Japanese for geeky fanboys of manga and anime.

"We want to allow more people to try out what it's like to date a girl because there are a lot of otaku who don't know how to communicate with girls," said Ms Margaret Ming, the app's communication officer.

"This game can teach them how to get to know girls," she said, adding that there is some flirting involved in the story arcs with the models.

Student Wong Wing Yeung, 14, said he enjoyed trying out the app at the fair last Friday as it could be hard to interact with the opposite sex in real life. "Maybe it can help those who are shy with girls," he said.

The app is free while the plastic headset and the magazine introducing the dates cost HK$48 (S$8).

The show at the city's harbourside convention centre is one of the biggest of its kind in Asia and was packed with teenagers, many of them in coloured wigs and costumes similar to those of their favourite Japanese comic-book heroes.

Die-hard comic fans posed with life-size ultra-realistic models of Wonder Woman, Thor and the Hulk at the stall for Hot Toys, a local firm famous for its figurines.

Others posed for selfies with people dressed as Star Wars stormtroopers.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2017, with the headline 'Lonely hearts seek virtual girlfriends at Hong Kong fair'. Print Edition | Subscribe