#2. Dragon Quest Is a Cultural Touchstone in Japan
Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior in America) is a series of video games that are so insanely popular, they're legitimate cultural phenomena, having sold enough copies for 25 percent of the population of Japan to own at least one game. But so what? Americans have bought shitloads of Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto games, right?
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"Well, we know you wanted insulin, but we got you this instead! Happy birthday, Sister Mary Daniel!"
But it's so, so much more: Dragon Quest has a theme bar/restaurant in Tokyo, a ballet interpretation performed by the Star Dancers Ballet of Japan, and annual orchestral performances of its original score that have been held since 1987. That's more dedicated fanfare than most religions get in the United States, let alone video games -- America tends to convert popular games into one or two shitty movies starring people in leather pants, which incidentally is the exact same treatment afforded to classic works of literature.
The national love for Dragon Quest is so strong in Japan that the game's publisher, Square Enix, supposedly made an official policy to only release new Dragon Quest games on weekends, because evidently they're worried that the productivity of the nation would grind to a halt as a result of all the rabid Dragon Quest fans ditching school and work to pick up their copies. The story goes that when Dragon Quest III was released back in 1988, lines at game stores stretched along for blocks, filled with truant teenagers and adults who had called in sick to work (supposedly people were even getting mugged for their copies).
Three to five years was a small price to pay for some of that sweet 8-bit goodness.
So, Square Enix decided from that point on that they would only release Dragon Quest games on weekends, because both professionals and students would already be off for the day, and Japanese muggers apparently only operate on business days. A cynical person might say that the move was just a ploy to bolster the legend of the game, but they stuck to that schedule for the next two and a half decades. So basically, if you're thinking about invading Japan, do it on Dragon Quest day.
#1. People Lined Up at Shipping Docks (and Charles Dickens' House) to Learn the Fate of a Character
Do you remember when the whole Internet was going nuts waiting for the Breaking Bad finale? Trading fan theories, speculating about character fates, hunting for spoilers? Well, imagine for a minute that the Internet (and broadcast media in general) doesn't exist and you're hearing this article as an internal monologue echoing against the four walls of your own mind. Imagine that, instead of sitting down to see the final episode pop up on your screen on Sunday night, you instead have to wait for it to be physically shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, arrive in some major shipping port, and then slowly be doled out to your local store via horse cart.
This was the exact situation faced by fans of Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shoppe, a weekly serial written by the author a few years after he'd made it his sovereign duty to earn every shred of his income by writing about adorable starving orphans.
They were the Johnny Depp to Dickens' Tim Burton.
Charles Dickens was a hugely popular author in his day, especially in the United States, sort of like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King riding a tandem bicycle. As any fan of serialized drama knows, people become very attached to the characters and almost ravenously desperate to find out what fate, cruel or otherwise, is going to befall them. The Old Curiosity Shoppe was no exception, and fans of the story urgently wanted to know what happened to a character known as Little Nell, so much so that thousands of Old Curiosity Shoppe fans lined the wharf where the book was being delivered and yelled at the sailors unpacking it, demanding to know Nell's fate, as if every single one of the barely literate crewmen had read the damn thing.
Meanwhile, in Dickens' home country of England, crowds of Old Curiosity Shoppe fans (we'll call them Shoppers) were so concerned for Little Nell that they actually gathered outside Dickens' house while he was writing the story and screamed desperate, commanding pleas at him not to kill her off. Amazingly, despite the wishes of all the obnoxious people yelling at him from outside his house, Dickens killed off Nell anyway, almost as if he'd already had a story in mind that he wanted to tell. Either that or he was just a cruel, bearded literary troll gleefully murdering characters for his own grotesque amusement.
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If anything happens to Tyrion Lannister, we can't be held responsible for our actions.
Robert is a columnist for Freakin' Awesome Network and would like for you to follow him on Twitter. Karl wants you to check out his friends' YouTube channel full of gaming-related goodness. Catch more of Sam's writing at the Hilltop Views, or visit him on Facebook and Twitter.
Related Reading: Fan dedication is one thing, solving a riddle three movies before it's answered is something far more insane. And all that isn't nearly as impressive as the complete statistical analysis of all 900 Lord of the Rings characters. Those fans may have been crazy, but at least they weren't as obnoxious as these guys.