WHAT'S COOL IN JAPAN
Imagine this: Through the power of the Internet, you have your own small island and are the owner of a pet known as a Livly. You feed it diligently and take it on walks to the park or for trips to other islands. Sometimes your pet's natural enemies appear from nowhere, and you fight them using special skills. . . . This mysterious world, called Livly Island, is currently popular among middle and high school girls in Japan.
Some 400,000 virtual pet owners have signed on to Livly Island, which was created by Internet service provider So-net in July 2003. The game is easy to play. Users select their pet from among a collection of creatures resembling cute animals and fairies, give their pet a name, and raise it on their own miniature garden-like island.
Livlys feed on insects. Each pet's body shape and color changes depending on the types of insects it is fed each day. There are currently 30 types of Livly and over 100 different sizes through which each Livly can grow. And by taking walks through parks, fields, and other islands, Livly pets gain experience and acquire new skills. Taking good care of the Livly every day turns it into a completely original pet.
Another fun aspect of Livly Island is that players can go shopping. The waste excreted by the pets is used as currency, which can be saved and used to buy such virtual items as insects for feeding, clothes, or even islands. An online shop selling real Livly goods like calendars and stuffed toys opened in May 2004.
"One of the best things about Livly is how cute the characters are. It's also fun how each time you reach a higher level, your pet learns new skills. Plus you can view the profiles of other users and islands and communicate by posting bulletin board messages," says a high school student who is also a three-year Livly veteran. More and more girls are getting hooked on the fantasy world of Livly Island.