I recently met a young woman named Wild Rose on an online chat forum. We struck up a conversation and within the first five minutes, Wild Rose – who is married, has a daughter, and lives in Texas with her in-laws – started telling me about her lover, a man called Saeran.
Saeran, she told me, is the illegitimate son of a politician who had grown up with an abusive mother. He is handsome, has white blond hair, golden eyes, a large tattoo on his shoulder. Wild Rose said that when she first met him, her “heart literally ached” and her cheeks “flooded with blood”.
She then paused and added: “But I don’t think Saeran loves me the way I love him. I love him genuinely. I’ll never know his true feelings.”
The reason: Saeran isn’t human. He is a character in a mobile phone game called Mystic Messenger, which was released two years ago by Cheritz, a South Korean game developer. It has since been downloaded by millions of people worldwide. The game is a mix between a romance novel and Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie Her, in which a man develops a relationship with a Siri-like character.