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Team Liquid Nemo & John Takeuchi's interview at Japan

The arcade culture, still living in the Japanese fighting game community

Aug 092018

You cannot talk about Japan’s presence in the fighting game scene without mentioning their arcade culture, which is focuses around their proving grounds: the game center. Gamers around the world, such as those living in the North America, who have been looking at these spots as a sacred place may have stronger admiration for the arcade game than the gamers in Japan, who have been familiar with a game center all their lives.

Every time a Japanese gamer does a great job, the question, “Why are Japanese gamers strong?” is repeatedly asked, and the conclusion has been always emphasized again and again, “After all, the existence of arcade games does matter.”

Two Japanese gamers, Nemo and John Takeuchi, both belong to the North America’s prestigious Team Liquid and are participating in the Capcom Pro Tour for Street Fighter V. Although the two are different in age, both have trained their gaming skills and finally have become professional. What do they have to say about a game center, which can be called their hometown?

Nemo, the elder of the two, expresses his encounters with game centers:

“I had been to BIGBOX Takada-no-Baba and Shinjuku Playland Carnival since I was 10 or 11 years old. Indeed, children of that age tend to feel it as a naughty thing. I felt the same way and with good reason! I gathered all 10-yen coins in my house and asked the clerk in the game center to change them to 50-yen coins. And I waited for a long time till all of the players except me went home because I wanted to play the game alone so that I did not lose in the battle."

"I think I started playing in real matches probably when I was a junior high school student. I just tried, and I realized that I could win, pretty much. Then I started to feel excited about competition. I sometimes received complaints and was even punched, but I didn’t care about that very much. It was just because I loved game, after all.”

“I believe that approximately 70% of the reason Japanese gamers win internationally is an existence of the game centers. In my case, I started to play fighting games when I was 15 years old. I visited a game center in Ikebukuro at a time when I got confident that I could play games pretty well. As you might expect, I completely lost at first. Since then, the place became the arcade where I looked for strong players whom I could try to compete against."


"I then went to a new game center to battle with a strong player and I lost badly for the first time. But I repeated the battle again and again till I could win at last. That is the ultimate charm of a fighting game to me.”

Nemo says that he already sees a large influence due to that fact.


“The time played at a game center is definitely more fruitful than the time spent playing on a game machine for families. It’s because I am a part time professional game player while working as a company employee, and I am often asked, “Do you have enough time to play games?” I always answer, “I am just doing nothing but playing games.”


"In my house, I have a TV, a PC, and comic books, but at a game center, I only play fighting games. I would go to a game center right after school, and I still go directly to a game center after work. I have lived such a life for nearly 20 years. I believe the simple total time of playing games and the amount of experience which I have gained greatly supports myself.”


John Takeuchi cannot hide his feelings about the future of the arcade culture, however.


“In the past, there were strong players in game centers in each area. I think that the competition at such game center was the motivation, partially at least, of many players. But now, you will have very little opportunity to meet with people to play against unless you live in cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka. Top players often get together and practice the game face to face, but it is undeniable that we recently have less opportunities like that."


"In my case, I got familiar with Monster Energy during play at a game center. Since I must play for a long time, I definitely need to keep concentrated. This is also true in a competition.”


The words from those two players contain a strong appreciation and a lot of sense of belonging to the community. It supports human relationship formed around the game centers, a concept towards the game, and the foundation for personality formation. It is “nothing but a blossom of youth,” says Nemo.


Street Fighter V was launched in February 2016. Two and a half years have passed since then. That means the same length of time has been passing since a lot of players left a game center. However, players certainly keep having intuition and philosophy of the game learned at arcade games even now. This is reflected in the same answers from Nemo and John Takeuchi when asked,


“Would you like the arcade culture to be revived?”


Nemo: “Absolutely yes. We are starved for it. I really want it to be revived.”


John: “I want to play in a tense place again.”