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See also: entertainment technology
Traditionally, bored humans entertained themselves with books, board games, theatres, music bars, and so forth, with the occasional travelling performers or festivals to break up the monotony. In more recent years, technological advances have led to the creation and popularization of video games and home entertainment systems.
Since games and stories have broad appeal and can be easily adapted for different types of humans, entertainment trends in Empyria tend to be bigger and more widespread than those of fashion or architecture. If an author invents a fresh new literary device, one can expect to see knockoffs of it on the other side of the world within the week.
Storytelling & Games
Stories about war and large-scale conflict are generally unpopular in Empyria. There are many theories as to why - perhaps the ongoing apocalypse has made people more conscious of the horrors of war, or maybe the average reader is already sick of dealing with monsters in their real life. Board games tend to be cooperative or have the players race to reach a common goal, rather than pitting them directly against each other. While violence features heavily in some narrative genres, it tends to occur between small factions, and be highly metaphorical; the onscreen violence is merely a physical representation of the characters' clash of ideals, and a rousing speech is interchangeable with a tactical maneuver.
Despite this, tales of adventurers remain immensely popular. To the average civilian, who has never left their hometown, adventurers represent a tantalizing glimpse into a world of exotic possibilities. There are hundreds of cheap novels about these mysterious wanderers, often depicting a heavily-romanticized version of life outside the cities with minimal actual combat.
One example of a popular board game is Tower - a game about heroes climbing to the top of a spirit's shrine. Each player has several tokens representing offerings or members of their party, and takes turns rolling dice and moving them across the board. Each token has certain rules on how and when it can be moved, and in some regional variations certain squares of the board have special effects as well. The first player to move all of their tokens to the top of the eponymous tower wins.
Since most settlements in Empyria are small isolated towns, many professional entertainers travel around to reach a bigger audience for their work. Some bands and theatre companies hire adventurers to protect them from monsters while travelling; others are composed of adventurers themselves.
The arrival of a travelling performer is almost universally a very exciting event, since stories and songs from faraway lands represent a rare break from the ordinary. A bard needs only to park themselves in the town square, and they'll be quickly surrounded by inquisitive children and nosy old ladies, asking for encores and tales from the outside world.
Light theatre (or light puppetry) is a unique post-Cataclysm performing art. The basic principles behind spellcasting also allows humans to draw non-spell shapes in the air; with practice, puppeteers can hone this skill to draw and animate figures made of mana. Masters of the art can manage multiple 3D characters at the same time, and even send puppets swooping into and interacting with a delighted audience.
Simpler applications of the same principle are often found incorporated into other performing arts. For example, a band's road crew might use it to supplement the performance with flashing light effects.
People in Empyria regard holidays as a time to focus on community and family. Since most people are loyal to their hometowns and treat outsiders with some level of suspicion, this results in many hyper-specific local holidays that can't be found anywhere else. Events honouring the local spirits are common, as well as those celebrating local natural phenomena or resources. In more insular communities, it can almost feel in-jokey; one might visit a small town during a spirit festival and see watermelons everywhere, for some obscure historical reason that nobody will explain.
There are some common holidays that one can expect to see variations of in most cities, but even they can vary wildly in mood, celebrations, and even date:
- Harvest festivals are almost ubiquitous.
- King's days celebrate the current monarch's birthday (though some choose to celebrate on a past king's birthday, for the sake of tradition or to make a statement). These are mostly celebrated in large cities with close ties to the capital; further away, loyalty to the king drops off pretty fast.
- Founding days commemorate the day the last brick was laid in the city wall. They symbolically mark the start of a peaceful life, and are a major celebration in many places, especially nests.
- New Year's is the closest thing to a universal holiday. Since the modern calendar set the last day of the year as the day of the Cataclysm, New Year's marks another year of humanity's triumphant survival. People all over the world feast, watch the story reenacted in high-budget stage plays, and get roaringly drunk at fireworks shows.
Major holidays are celebrated with several-day-long festivals, building up to one big event on the final day. Food carts, game stalls, and performers set up in public spaces like town squares and shrines. Races and physical challenges are held to crown a "hero" for the year. The hero gets to perform some special part in the final event, such as lighting the bonfire or riding on a special parade float.
The role of the hero used to be very religiously important, and can be traced back to traditional spirit worship practices where a chosen hero would be elected to speak to the spirits on the citizens' behalf; in present day it is much more ceremonial. Some cities restrict the competitions to children only, since they tend to be the ones most excited about the role.