Love and Producer

By Qi Xijia Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/17 19:07:25

Popular new virtual dating game is literally winning the hearts of Chinese women

"I feel blessed to meet you again." Twenty-eight-year-old Shen Zhaohe couldn't help but blush as she received this text message from her virtual dating partner, Bai Qi, one of the four characters in the phenomenally successful new role-playing dating game Love and Producer. Following King of Glory, the game was one of the most downloaded free games in China this past month.

Two young adult Chinese female gamers discuss their favorite virtual boyfriends in Love and Producer. Photos: Lu Ting/GT

What women want

Released on December 20, Love and Producer positions itself as a mobile game for surreal love management. As one of the most influential domestically developed otome (Japanese for "maiden") games, it targets China's female market with the ultimate goal of developing a romantic relationship between the female player and several virtual male characters.

The player role-plays as a 22-year-old "producer" who must find guests for programs to save her father's film company.

As the plot unveils, the player will encounter four male characters in the show, each who is an ideal and perfect model cast from a Mary Sue plot: the 22-year-old humorous and cheerful superstar Zhou Qiluo, the 24-year-old considerate and responsible SWAT team officer Bai Qi, the 26-year-old gentle, thoughtful genius scientist Xu Mo and the 28-year-old successful CEO of a financial company Li Zeyan, who also happens to be a good cook.

These perfect men - with attractive appearances, nice personalities and lots of money - can call you, text you, send "likes" to your virtual WeChat account and also ask you out for dinner or speak love's prattle to you on the phone (voiced by prestigious voice actors).

The life-simulation scenes, fine quality imagery and euphoric voices have earned the game over 7 million users, with over 200 daily active users as of January, Jiguang, a big data monitoring platform, revealed.

The Global Times recently spoke with several people of different ages and genders who play the game to share their opinions toward Love and Producer.

As young women are the main target of the game, statistics show that female users account for 94 percent of all users while those under 24 years old account for over 70 percent.

Many see the game as an outlet for their own romantic fantasies, which are getting harder to fulfill in today's world. This is especially true among single Chinese women in their late 20s, whose daily lives are filled with career advancement pressure, boring men met during blind dates arranged by their parents or the fear of becoming "left behind" and growing old without experiencing any romantic adventures.

Shen, in her late 20s, is one such player. After several failed blind dates, she downloaded the game after it was released in the hopes of experiencing the feelings associated with falling in love. Now at level 50, the highest level in the game, Shen enjoys receiving hugs and whispers from her four virtual boyfriends every morning upon waking up and every night before going to bed.

"I want to know what it is like to be in love, because I have never had a serious romantic experience before," Shen told the Global Times. "I think I was first struck by love while interacting with my favorite character, Bai Qi. My heart beats faster and my face burns as he suddenly pulls me to his chest," Shen said.

Exploring love

To gain more interaction from her virtual boyfriends, Shen must pay real-world money from her bank account to unlock new scenes and deepen romantic relations with them. So far she's invested over 300 yuan ($46.66) on the game, which she believes is a good bargain.

"It costs 300 yuan for dinner and a movie on a real blind date, but I gain nothing in the end, as those dates usually do not lead anywhere. But here in the game, for 300 yuan I can enjoy a fantastic plot, simulated love and practical dating experience," Shen said.

In addition to single women, the game has also provoked curiosity among married women or those in relationships who fantasize about what else is out there waiting for them.

Lou Keke, a marketing specialist in China's automobile industry, has a boyfriend in real life, but earlier this month she downloaded Love and Producer to "explore different types of romantic relationships."

Now at level 26, her favorite character is Bai Qi, with whom she feels quite safe around. "I like when he tells me, 'Girls shouldn't stay up too late,'" Lou said.

That said, she is not naive enough to believe that the characters in this game can ever replace her real boyfriend, whom she has been with for over five years and experienced many ups and downs with.

"To me, the plot is a little bit simple and sometimes too idealized; a real relationship is more ruthless. You have to go through a lot of challenges and face all the trivial things of life," said Lou.

She believes the game only focuses on the developing and ambiguous stages of a relationship, which are often "sweet and alluring" yet overlooks what happens after two people move in together.

Screen shots of the game

Role models for real men

"Love is not all about fine dinners and going on outings. Sometimes if a man is busy at work he has no time to reply to a message, unlike Xu Mo, who can reply to your messages while conducting scientific experiments in a lab," said Lou.

Her real-life boyfriend is aware of the "affairs" she is having with these virtual guys, but does not seem to mind. "He told me, 'I won't be jealous of those living in a two-dimensional space.'"

Some men are even exploring the game themselves. Mo Han, a young man working in the graphic design industry, belongs to the 6 percent of male gamers on Love and Producer.

Though at first he feels awkward and even ashamed about role-playing a female character and dating male characters, he admits that he has learned much from them about what women want and how to treat them well in a relationship.

"I felt more comfortable after finding out that other men are playing the game as well," Mo said, explaining that he tries to focus more on how the male characters interact with women so as to improve his own behavior.

"To some extent, they represent the ideal boyfriend in the eyes of Chinese women. I would like to learn their skills so I can become more attractive to women," Mo said.

Shen also encourages her bind dates, who she criticizes for either being too shy or only talking about their jobs and salary on dates, to download the game and learn how to be more romantic from their virtual male counterparts.

"I think they can become role models for all the clumsy boys who perform badly in China's blind date market," Shen said.


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