A virtual dating game on the App Store aimed at young girls has been accused of being loaded with violent sexual statements and references to acts of paedophilia.
Boyfriend Maker by Japanese outfit 36 You Games enables players to dress up, cook for and chat to a virtual boyfriend on their iOS device.
The game's description claims said virtual boyfriend is "always there for you", and encourages players to "make cookies for him everyday" to "keep a happy and sweet relationship."
However, PocketGamer.biz was contacted by one user who claimed the game's lead character quickly strayed from all things "happy and sweet" when asked some probing questions.
"I was testing the limitations of the system and seeing how it dealt with inappropriate questions, which has long been the challenge for chat bots," the player, who wishes to remain anonymous, told us.
"The response was more explicit than I ever expected."
The game's innocent opening screens
Indeed, we've since downloaded and played Boyfriend Maker - which comes with a 4+ age rating - and sampled similar responses ourselves.
In less than a day's worth of play, we've witnessed the game's 'boyfriend' discuss everything from using sexual acts to hurt the player, to references of sexual activity with unconscious children.
In Boyfriend Maker's defence, our tests suggest such statements are generally triggered by an initial suggestive question, though that's unlikely to placate the app's critics.
An example of how a suggestive question can trigger an alarming response
In fact, a quick scan of the game's user reviews on the App Store suggests there are tamer questions that also deliver abusive or sexual responses.
One user claims their virtual boyfriend has discussed the "illegal substances he likes to take" and "the size of his manhood (when I asked him his name)".
The reviewer continues, "...this should really come with some age restrictions as it is pure filth."
Crossing a line?
Boyfriend Maker has been thrust into the spotlight after being featured by Kotaku. The appearance of a Tumblr blog designed to highlight some of the game's most bizarre replies has also raised the game's profile.
Titillating as some of the responses highlighted by the blog are, however, 36 You Games' decision to pack a game primarily pitched at young girls with rather more extreme replies often delivered at random could land the firm in trouble with Apple.
On the other hand, the fact Boyfriend Maker managed to slip through Apple's net in the first place could be considered equally astonishing.
We have contacted 36 You Games for its take on the issue.
UPDATE: The game's page on the App Store comes with a disclaimer stating that the responses delivered within the title's chat mode are "generated and powered by a third-party engine" and are "the sole responsibility of such third-party engine (API) and not of 36You."
The third-party engine in question appears to be SimSimi API, which according to the firm's website learns responses suggested by users.
Indeed, developers discussing Boyfriend Maker on Twitter have speculated the game's chat-bot may be programmed to pick up particular words and phrases from players themselves, later recycling them in conversation with other users where the engine deems appropriate.
If true, that's a particularly risky system that's vulnerable to abuse. What's more, it's a system always likely to deliver responses unsuitable for players as young as four years old.
(Indeed, as has just been pointed out to PocketGamer.biz, SimSimi's own chat app for iOS comes with an age rating of 17+ and enables users to report and remove bad language.)
"The fact that a particular statement or information contained in the responses, replies and/or answers is used in Boyfriend Maker does not mean that 36You has endorsed that statement or information in any way or verified the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any statement or information," adds the disclaimer.
"Under no circumstances will 36You be responsible for any loss or damage resulting from anyones reliance on statements or information contained in the responses, replies and/or answers in Boyfriend Maker."
36You is yet to respond to our request for comment.
You can read more about Boyfriend Maker debacle here.
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.
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