Scooter vs Japan

Coping with hobbies, or, the Closet post | July 16, 2015

This picture is just adorable.

I like doing things. Hey, who doesn’t? To say I have a lot of hobbies and interests… I’m not sure if that does the topic justice. Sure, I’m a pretty boring guy and I only do a handful of things normally, but I’m pretty flexible and always open to trying new things.

So when I went to Japan in 2009, I started doing some research to see what kinds of things I could do there and which I couldn’t. There are movies theatres, stores, and even rental shops, so that’s a big check. There were gaming stores near where I lived. In fact, I was living close to Namba/Den Den Town, the hobby and electronics district of Osaka. I even found some board game groups made up of teachers and other expats. I could go to amusement parks, travel, do some very light urban exploration (mostly walking around town, nothing illicit), and do most of the things other I could do in Canada. I even picked up some new interests and rekindled some old, forgotten ones when I was there.

And of course, there were things I couldn’t do. I build replica movie props, but had to leave that hobby back in Canada. Aside from a few sessions, I largely had to give up roleplaying. Even watching TV or going to a theatre was complicated and ended up falling to the wayside.

Sure, there were some adjustments, but I knew that I could get by and keep entertained. So when JET rolled around, I already knew what I was getting myself into, to some extent or another. Thus, I’m pretty calm and prepared this time around. Things are going to be a bit different though (much smaller town, no immediate access to any gaming stores or notable expat communities that I am aware of, etc), but I can generally take things in stride.

There is, however, one thing I’m struggling with; one new interest in my life that I’m a little concerned with, and can’t quite figure out how to reconcile. While I’ve been pretty content to keep this one on the down low due to judgements and misunderstandings, I couldn’t pass up the chance to come out with it now and use it as a learning opportunity. See, of all my hobbies, interests, activities, and thoughts, nothing quite represents that struggle and adjustment of this one activity. And that activity is Second Life.

What the heck?!

That pretty much sums up SL.

Yes. I play Second Life. Shut up and stop judging me (*bites his knuckle and tries not to cry as everyone judges him*). For those not aware, Second Life (shortened to SL usually) is essentially a massively multiplayer online sandbox game, though there are people who like to get their panties in a bunch when you call it a video game. You interact with other users in a similar fashion to other online games and it’s not Microsoft Office (so there :P). Anyways, Second Life is entirely user generated. Everything from buildings and forests to clothes were all made by someone from the community. Even inworld events are community run. There’s no central theme, no scripted quests, no NPCs, and no control. SL is a sandbox, where users can do anything they’d like. Do you want to play in video game-like event? You can do it. Do you want to use it like a 3D chat room? You can do it. Do you want to roll into a Tim Horton’s, grab a cup of coffee, and roleplay with everyone else there about the weather (I’ve done this)? You can do it. Sightseeing? Race car driving? Play on a sports team? You can do all of this. SL allows users to do whatever they want, provided that they or someone else can create whatever props or controls are needed.

Why exactly is this a problem?

Well, I need to talk about what I do in SL before I can explain why I maybe can’t do it as a JET. I play a kid, an 11 year old boy (STOP JUDGING ME!). I wanted to make a kid because I was very new to this kind of experience. As a kid, I can make mistakes, ask questions, and do general stupid things without breaking the immersion of the other players (“He’s just a kid. He doesn’t know any better”). Also, by playing a kid, I can take part in a variety of activities that I might otherwise not do if I were playing an adult. I go to school, where we pretend to be in class and have field trips and short little homework assignments. I play sports, like the school’s soccer team or that baseball group I can never make it out to. I sought out a roleplay family, where we do things like help each other when we’re sad, see movies together (actual movies, not pretend), and getting looked after when I got sick. I go to some kid-themed clubs, where I can just be a kid and hang out. I’m even in Scouts, where we go on hikes and are trying to plan a camping trip.

So what’s the problem? Since this isn’t a single player video game, all of these activities involve other people, many of whom are in dramatically different time zones from where I will be. Worse, many of these activities are timed events, like school being at a certain time of the day, so this raises serious questions on viability and attendance.

Me in SL in a few weeks.

Now, this doesn’t mean that SL is a total write off for me. Most of my roleplay family lives in Europe, so I’m not dealing with a half day’s difference there. When I brought the move up with my Scout troop, the alphas were saying they were actually thinking of changing when we get together, so there is a chance the timing will be better for me. And I can still talk with my friends even if I don’t see them very often.

But just like with my other hobbies, there have to be adjustments and compromises. One of the biggest problems with SL is that, at least from everything I’ve seen, the game is very Amero-centric with its timing. I talked to the school’s principal, and she said there was no chance of a midnight class or something more fitting for me happening, even though there is an audience for it. And attending any concerts or DJ sets? Unlikely. Since so many events are based around North American living, I’m going to miss out on a lot.

How to cope

So once again, I’m going to have to adapt. Maybe I don’t get to keep going to school. Maybe I need find different roleplay groups to play with, or look for Aussie clubs to go to. When doing family time, we’ll just have to do it during their morning instead of in the evening like we’ve been doing. Time permitting, I can still enjoy SL, but I’m going to have to change how I do it and what I can participate in.

Ok nerd, how does this apply to me?

Stop judging me (*cries*). Anyways. Like I said, this is a really good example of how to approach hobbies and other activities as an expat. You aren’t going to be able to do everything you are used to doing, nor can you expect those around you to bend to your needs. While we are working away and having fun in the Mystic East, there is a whole world outside of those borders. We can still interact with it, but we are going to have to be flexible and a little creative. Some of us will be fortunate and find activities that are just as easy to enjoy as they are back home. Many more will have to adjust and adapt to the situation before them, while some will have to wave goodbye to their hobbies or aspects of them. Like I mentioned in my post “Meloncaly and the Infinite Sakura,” enjoy what time you have with your hobbies, since that time will soon be gone. That’s not really a bad thing, but you have to learn that nothing lasts forever or stays the same.


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About author

Scooter is an ESL teacher and Japanese anthropologist. He hopes to document his thoughts of living in Japan, continued cultural studies, and to provide advice for others looking to hop the pond.







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