Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween 2007

Halloween isn't officially celebrated in Japan but there are pockets of celebrations. One of the most famous is the controversial Yamanote line "party" (covered here on Japan Probe) in which members of the foreign community along with their Japanese friends party on trains on the most heavily traveled train line in Tokyo. They dress up, drink, and are generally noisy and get in the way of regular travelers when they try to use the train. Some people find it highly interesting and some find it annoying.

In the past, language schools have also been known to make a lot of hay at this time of year. Nova used to hold parties in which teachers could freely associate with students in their off hours for the sake of free food and drink. When I worked at Nova, students had to pay a fee to go to the party but attendance was not mandatory for teachers so I didn't go. The dressing up part of such parties was very attractive even if the begging door-to-door for treats hasn't caught on.

My friend Shawn, transformed into a giant conglomeration of candy corn, stands in front of a trick-or-treat goodie bag.

For me, I found my celebration in the same place I always do for holidays that aren't observed in Japan, in the online game Guild Wars. It's virtual but that doesn't make it much less fun and it certainly makes it far less troublesome. I don't have to put up with nasty little children ringing my doorbell incessantly and demanding candy under threat of eggs on my door or toilet paper around my trees (not that I have any trees where I live now).

My friend Shawn looking strangely sanguine in the mouth of a Charr as it chomps him down in its cardboard jaws.

My bestest buddy Tankarific Carl chats with a real Charr. He's offering the Charr some catnip and a ball of yarn if he promises not to use him as a scratching post.

The Guild Wars experience allows us to travel around to areas decorated with pumpkins, ghosts, and a cut-out of an enemy which we can stand behind and put our faces in as a way of looking like it's eating us. People are everywhere wearing pumpkin heads and various masks as well as changing into candy corn (thanks to transmogrifier potions). We also get to drink absinthe and get virtually bombed and spring ghosts out of boxes.

Mad King Thorn bosses us around amongst the ghost posies. A candy corn guard stands by in case the crowd develops a taste for pumpkin pie and splits open his head to feast on the goo inside.

The real treat of the Halloween festivities though is being present for the arrival of Mad King Thorn. This is where you play games within the game for bags of treats. The King asks you to play rock, paper, scissors with select players, a version of "Simon Says", and orders you to deduce a required action from statements he makes. If you fail at any time, he kills you. It's a lot like childhood party games in more ways than one, well, except for the dying part if you fail. The funny thing is that you're just as likely to mess up on something like "Simon Says" at your keyboard as you are in real life and everyone around you laughs at you when you screw up just like they would in real life.

Tankarific sports the scarecrow mask he got at the end of the King's first visit. He also has a mummy mask from a subsequent visit.

In the end, you get a Halloween mask as a gift when the King leaves no matter how many times you fail at his games and commands. Since I'm worse at his simple games than I am at the far more complex real game, it's good for me that he's generous even to the most incompetent players.


CMUwriter said...

I used to play a first person shooter called Rise of the Triad and every holiday they would have something on the load screen to show that it was the holiday. A cupid would be on the screen or a guy would be wearing a pumpkin head. It almost makes me want to start playing Guild Wars seeing this stuff. Only if I can be the candy corn guy all the time.

Shari said...

The modification of the game for holidays is one of those touches that makes the experience that much nicer. I think they do this sort of big makeover 3x a year (Halloween, Christmas ("Winter's Day"), and Chinese New Year) and smaller modifications twice more at Easter and St. Patrick's Day.

Guild Wars is an RPG but for us the main benefit is the opportunity to take our Carls out for a stretch. Well, that and the fact that it's not one of those subscription services which require you to pay monthly. You buy the game and play online for free (though they do release expansions which you can choose to buy as well).

BTW, you can be candy corn all the time if you get enough transmogrifier tonics from the king. ;-)

Sharon said...

Guild Wars, in my opinion, has a lot of the advantages of an MMORPG with few of the disadvantages. The action portion is instanced, while the towns are not, which means no waiting in line to get your chance to kill the boss you need to to progress. There are guilds which tend to be rather small, Alliances of guilds which gather small guilds together, or you can go guildless and solo the game.

The nice thing is that if you feel a need to walk away for a while, you can without losing anything because you don't pay a monthly fee, and your account does not go away. I know some WoW players feel they have to play a certain number of hours a month to get their money's worth out of it.

The addition of the fun things like holiday events, special items/potions, and inside jokes on movies and games just makes it an interesting experience.

Anonymous said...

Totally unrelated to today's post:

Your style of writing and the obvious thought you put into it made me think that post might inspire some discussion.

Anyway, Happy Halloween!

Shari said...

Michael: That's a very interesting post and you have a good writing style. One point that I should make though is that the list you give is pigeonholing foreigners in the same fashion that you see them pigeonholing Japan/Japanese people. Blogs aren't representative of the people behind them but rather just of the parts they feel will be of interest to others and that they are willing to share. Okay, I don't include myself in that statement except for the latter half. I write about stuff I'm sure people aren't interested in as bookmarks of experiences in my life.

We all write from our own perspectives because we are not capable of having anyone else's (though we are capable of recognizing that others exist and acknowledging them). The main difference between people is that some people believe their perspective is 'correct' and others recognize that it's not about what is correct or incorrect but rather simply about expressing your feelings and ideas.

As for my answer to the question of what I think of Japan (which is part of the post you linked to), I'm never paralyzed. My answer has been and always will be that it's just like anywhere else. It has its good points and its bad ones. They are just different good and bad points to life back in the U.S. or other countries.

I'm linking to your site though as I think you've got an interesting perspective.

Many thanks for taking the time to comment and provide a link.

Anonymous said...


My apologies for the misunderstanding. Though I would like to, I cannot take credit for the post or blog at the link I gave you. It was just an FYI.


Shari said...

That's okay. It's not a big deal because the end result (that I got to read an interesting post) was the same. :-)

Thanks again!