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The Flyjin and the Fallout

David A. Graham | 3 Apr 2012 12:00
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It's hard to explain why I feel guilty about leaving Japan. I still feel like I should have done something to help but at the same time, I felt powerless. What could a foreigner, who spoke just enough Japanese to order a hamburger, do to help? Being unable to fully express myself made me feel even more impotent. In the end I felt more like a burden. It may sound monumentally stupid, but playing this silly post-apocalyptic game made me feel better.

I still feel guilty about leaving and being what has become known as a "flyjin," a foreigner that abandoned Japan when they needed me most.

In games with a morality system, like Fallout, I tend to avoid being either good or evil, preferring to remain as neutral as possible. Each character I make is a shade of grey. But in last play-through of Fallout, I helped everybody. I was a paragon of justice in a broken world. I still feel guilty about leaving and being what has become known as a "flyjin," a foreigner that abandoned Japan when they needed me most. That's the sort of guilt that lasts a lifetime. However, while I felt powerless to help anyone during the crisis, while I felt weak and useless in the days following the earthquake, in Fallout I felt strong and, most of all, able to help people in need even though they were just NPCs.

This guilt might have be the reason I avoided almost all things Japanese for months. I stopped watching Japanese news, I didn't read Japanese books and I even stopped eating Japanese food. (The last one was partly due to how hard it is to find good ingredients in the United States; seriously, why can't I find good udon in this country?) This purge might be why the feelings of Japanese homesickness hit me so hard. Suddenly I wanted to binge on everything I was avoiding, and most of all, I wanted to go back to Japan. While I couldn't afford a plane ticket, I could afford Catherine.

When people try to describe this game one word often comes up: Japanese. Parts of this game were like going home. The apartment the main character lived in looked just like mine. The bar the characters frequented looked just like the one I went to. Overall, the game just feels like Japan - aside from the bits with sheep and the giant demonic babies.

Playing Catherine wasn't so much a part of the coping process, more a sign that I was getting over the quake. I played World of Warcraft to avoid thinking about anything and everything going on in Japan and Fallout helped me address my fear and guilt. Catherine on the other hand, in a small way, is a bit like going home. It's been about a year since the earthquake and the nuclear crisis and there's nothing I want nothing more than to return to Japan. I'm done hiding from the world; I'm done feeling afraid and guilty. I just want to go home.

David A. Graham is a fledging games writer. He also writes plays and fiction. His work had appeared in various literary magazines, theatres and websites, including his own neglected digitalpunchandpie.blogspot.com blog.

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