Strange holiday traditions

 

Cultures are strange things, and they bring with them strange traditions. These may be some of the strangest of them all, however.

During Christmas in Japan, people line up outside of KFCs and reserve buckets of chicken for their family. This, according to GaijinPot, has been a tradition since the 1970s when an expat decided it would be a good replacement for turkey, which wasn’t available. Word quickly spread up the grapevine and corporate embraced their newfound role in the country’s christmas traditions.

Or, as GaijinPot says, “it might just be because Colonel Sanders looks like Santa Claus.”

KFC at Christmas

Another strange Christmas tradition, this time from the Catalan people in northern Spain, is known simply as the Caganer, or “the shitter.” The Caganer is a staple of nativity scenes in this region, and is depicted as a figure crouching and pooping.

Over the years the Caganer has expanded from a peasant wearing a red beret to nearly everything conceivable. You can find Santa Caganers, Yoda ones, politicians, Oscar award statue Caganers, superheroes and villains, or even the pope.

Caganers

Over in the UK, there’s the good ol’ Cheese Rolling Festival, during which contestants chase a wheel of cheese down a 1/2 gradient hill. That’s steep. And dangerous. People often dress up for the occasion, running, and quickly tumbling, down the slope in banana costume or dressed as Waldo from “Where’s Waldo.” Injuries seem to be a very common occurrence at this event. What’s the goal, you ask? Well, it’s to be the first one to grab the wheel of cheese, of course!

Cheese Rolling Festival

Back to Christmas, a strange tradition some European countries have is “Krampus,” which is essentially the antithesis of Santa. Depicted with horns and a mangy beard, this legend has its origins in the 1600s with Krampus joining St. Nicholas for his Christmas feast trek each December 5. Krampus would go around and punish bad children with not just coal, but by sometimes stuffing children into his sack to deliver them to hell. Today the legend lives on, with people dressing up as Krampus to chase children through the streets.

Krampus

Finally on our list of strange holiday traditions: Groundhog Day. In America, we have an annual celebration in which we allow a groundhog, most notably Punxsutawney Phil, predict whether or not there will be six more weeks of winter, or if we will be blessed with an early spring. This tradition began in the 1800s and it’s still well and alive today, even inspiring a Hollywood movie by the same name as the holiday.

Groundhog Day

Cultures develop some strange traditions, but it’s important to keep in mind that just because a celebration seems strange to you doesn’t mean it’s strange to those who celebrate it. Or heck, maybe it it also strange to those who celebrate it, but they enjoy the tradition anyway. I know Groundhog Day makes absolutely no sense to me, but I think it’s still sort of a neat holliday. We all have our quirks in this world, so we might as well enjoy them.

Foreign and domestic: similarities and differences between video game blogs across the world

While reading both American and foreign blogs about video games over the last few months, I’ve realized there are some distinct differences in how they are written, but they also have many similarities. In this blog post, I’m going to take a look at what distinguishes and connects blogs from across the world.

In order to look at these differences, one first has to look at how the blogs are published. Both blogs from the U.S. and blogs from other countries have multiple ways in which they reach audiences. The first is through the bloggers’s own website, in which they’re the only one who writes and they’re really the only reason to visit the site. This seems to be a popular way to blog in both the U.S and other countries, but the blogs I came across like this seem to get more attention in other countries compared to similar blogs in the U.S. For example, “Sun Rising Blog,” a Japanese blog dedicated to video games and anime, gets comments on many of the articles posted by the only writer, Michael Vincent. Comparable U.S. blogs receive comments sometimes, but it doesn’t appear to be as often as “Sun Rising Blog.” Perhaps this is due to the oversaturation of U.S. centric blogs, that is to say that people wanting to read about games in the U.S. have more places to look to find gaming news they care about. This spreads the consumer base out, leaving many blogs with few readers. People in other countries may have fewer options of what to read when they decide to go search for blogs about their passion, and so the blogs which do exist garner more attention and thus more comments.

When one looks further than one-person websites, however, the amount of community interaction increases drastically both in the U.S and other countries. All around the world there are larger websites which host writings by bloggers, giving the writers a larger audience and the websites which host them more pageviews. Blogs which are featured on sites like these can get hundreds of comments, as opposed to rarely ever making it into the double digits of comments on self-hosted blogs. There are, however, some differences in who hosts these blogs. In the U.S., these blogs are hosted either on sites dedicated to hosting people’s video game blogs, such as Kotaku, or in a section of a dedicated video game news website, such as IGN’s blogs section. In other countries I managed to find video game blog sections on mainstream news websites, such as The Guardians’s video game blogs section. Despite having not been posted to in about a year, The Guardian had something I couldn’t find on similar U.S. websites.

One effect these differing strategies have is the ability for blogs to make it to a mainstream audience. In both cases, they don’t seem to be able to, but in the U.S. people seem to have to go less out of their way to stumble across a blog post. For example, to see a blog about video games on The Guardian’s site, one has to specifically go to the video game blogs section, something which isn’t too easy to accidentally stumble across. Kotaku, on the other hand, is made up entirely of blogs, making it easy for people who go to the website to find them. IGN often features well written blogs on their front page, so consumers of their content also can often stumble across community blogs instead of professionally written articles. While this may make it seem like video game blogging content is easier to find for a normal person in the U.S. (that is, someone who doesn’t typically consume video game news), people in the U.S. would still have to consciously go to IGN or Kotaku to find that content, meaning it seems to be just as unlikely to pop up in everyday life in the U.S. as it is in other countries.

Other countries seem to also have “regular” blogs which feature games in some of their posts. That is to say that instead of the entire blog being about video games, just one or a few posts on the blog are about video games. For example, “Ask a Korean,” a blog about all things within Korean culture, has had a couple of posts dedicated to video games (namely, StarCraft and Homefront), and a few other posts have mentioned gaming or games within them, but the blog itself is not centered around video games. In my search of video game blogs, I did not come across any instances like this in American blogs.

It’s been an interesting few months following blogs from foreign countries I may have never even heard of if not for this class. Seeing just how similar gamers are no matter where they come from creates the feeling of a tight-knit community spanning the planet.

StarCraft in Korean culture

Video game culture in South Korea is often quite distinct from its western counterpart. Among the most popular video games in the United States are Call of Duty, Halo, and League of Legends. In Korea, they’re StarCraft, FIFA, and, well, League of Legends.

My main focus here is StarCraft, however, as for a long time and in some ways still today, StarCraft was a way of life in South Korea.

StarCraft is a real-time strategy game, meaning the player is essentially god and tells his units where to move and what to do from his camera in the sky.

 

Photo courtesy of  Blizzard Entertainment

Photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

 

Now when I say StarCraft is a way of life, I don’t mean it in the same way as people who say “fishing is a way of life,” or “music is a way of life,” heck, I don’t even mean it in the same way as people who say “SEC Football is a way of life.” It goes beyond any of that.

When milliseconds matter and the number of actions per minute (APM) you do is measured in the hundreds, only the best can win tournaments to make a living playing a video game.

In Korea, professional StarCraft players often live together with their teammates in houses in which the sole purpose is to play StarCraft and improve. They play nearly constantly. The worldwide StarCraft community divides itself into two groups, “Korean,” and “foreign.” That’s how seriously they take the esport.

That’s right – esport. Short, of course, for electronic sport. These competitive gamers play in StarCraft tournaments with prize pools upwards of $250,000 (notice the top three players’ country of origin – South Korea).

At one point there were two cable TV channels in Korea focused on broadcasting competitive StarCraft matches.

So why is this game so popular in Korea? Well. according to “Ask a Korean,” it’s due to the Cyber Cafes, or “PC Bangs,” in the 1990s. PC Bangs in Korea aren’t like what many Americans think of when they think of CyberCafes. Why they are often run by small business owners, PC Bangs often have hundreds of high-end computers for use, not three or four old ones.

The initial popularity of the first StarCraft when it was released in 1998, followed by its support from PC Bang goers and owners, followed by its television and tournament presence, turned StarCraft and its sequel into a video game phenomenon yet to be felt in, dare I say, any other place in the world.

 

Other sources:

Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski

KoreaBang.com

EatYourKimchi.com

TechCushion.com

HardcoreGaming101.net