After a very eventful 2012 year, which finished with Capcom’s 25th Anniversary Tournament, I was fortunate enough to have a quick online Q&A session recently, with arguably the greatest fighting game expert of all time, Daigo Umehara, a.k.a. “The Beast”. The interview was originally in Japanese, and translated by yours truly.
SATO: Hello Mr. Umehara, I’d like to start out by saying Happy New Year, and thank you for joining us on such a short notice.
DAIGO: Hello, and thank you for having me.
You’ve been promoting Gunslinger Stratos during most of last year, and I’ve read in the recent SRK interview that you’re still playing it. It’s quite a different genre from your regular fighters, what makes it special to you?
I’ve always been known for fighting games, but I’m still a gamer at heart. I think what goes beyond the genre is the competitive level. I’ve always considered myself a competitive person and I always welcome new challenges. Gunslinger Stratos has a very competitive fan base, which keeps me coming for more.
Ah, that’s right. You’ve also played Samurai Showdown and Guilty Gear back in the day. Has that helped you become a better Street Fighter player over the years?
Those titles bring back memories! To answer your question, yes, I believe so. As a competitive player, I always try my best to learn from everything. Whether it’s an online shooting game or a fighter, I believe there’s always something we can learn from, to become better as a player. Even if a game is just fun, it stays just as that. I only find true values in things I can learn from to become a better player.
Considering that you’re Daigo “The Beast” Umehara, I’m sure you get this a lot, But, how do you respond whenever someone asks you to teach them to become a better player?
I simply tell them “feel free to watch me play”. I believe there’s only so much I can do by giving people tips and advice. There’s a lot more that goes on, that can’t really be explained by words, and it’s much better to just watch and observe. Understanding the game for yourself is much more valuable to becoming a better player, than just learning a trick or two. I believe that games are best learned visually first, then followed with your own understanding. Once you understand how things work, the rest will unfold itself for you.
To put it simply, rather than just observing what makes a player successful, try to also understand why it worked for them.
On a slightly unrelated note, did you challenge the world of Mahjong with a similar mindset during your hiatus, a few years ago?
Yes and no, Mahjong is obviously quite different compared to a video game. There aren’t as many things to learn visually, but it is all a battle of wits instead. There’s a saying that only 10% of people in a competitive world are true winners.
This goes back to what I said earlier, but these winners can give you all the tips in the world on how to win, but it will only be as useful as an advice. I believe that players should master the basics, then find their own ways of winning and what works best for them. We’re all different as people and what may work for one person, might not work for another.
The fighting game genre can be a bit tough to jump into, due to the high level of competitiveness, which can crush a player’s hopes of ever being pro or even on the same level. Do you have any advice for newer players and those who’d like to take their game to the next level?
The most important thing I can say about that, is to never give up. Having the patience and knowing how to lose is the key. There will always more challenges out there, not even the best players in the world goes undefeated forever. Don’t take a loss as a motivational drop, but consider it a lesson learned. For every loss, there’s always something we can learn from it. Try asking yourself why you lost and think of ways you can prevent that in the future, by working on your own weakness, you’ll become a better player. It may be a very slow progress, which won’t be noticeable right away, but it’ll definitely make you a better player.
So it’s similar to a work out, in a way, slow progress is still progress!
Exactly, it requires the right determination for anyone to better themselves. This can apply to anything, not just gaming.
You’ve been a world champion on many occasions already and have been competitively gaming for over 15 years now. How do you keep up with the game, year after year?
I believe it has a lot to do with my mindset of always wanting to become better. Like I said, knowing how to lose is very important. Winning feels nice, but I believe that players can go soft after winning several times. That’s why I try my best to continue training after a win. The more you win, the harder it is to continue winning, because people will try that much harder to beat you.
The competitive level is always growing and players have to do their own part at keeping up. Learning fromm others also helps a lot, whether it’s by watching or playing against them.
Many people from around the world watch your fights and try to emulate your style. Were there any particular players from back in the day who you learned from?
There are just too many to name, people come and go from the scene. However, I wouldn’t say that I learned from just watching one person in particular. I believe there are so many players we can learn from and people should do just that.
Again, what works for one person might not always work for you, so simply trying to emulate their play style, won’t get you too far.
When you observe a player, what goes through your mind?
I study the better player’s success. For example, if a someone shows great results at a tournament, I would compare him to the other players around. I watch and try to understand exactly did he do differently from everyone else to finish with the better result. Over time, it becomes a natural process and you will easily be able to spot it out. From there you can apply it to yourself and also learn how to fight against it.
I think we can all learn from that! Before we run out of time, I’d like to say best of luck for what’s ahead. The arcade promotions with funds going to charity for the disabled, NPO Borderless, is a very noble cause.
Arcades have been great to me for most of my life; I’m simply returning the favor as a way to help out the arcades in today’s gaming world and also the community, which has also been great to me. I’d like for us all to work together to make things better for everyone around us.
Sounds great! Keep up the good work, it’s been an honor having you.
Likewise, and thank you too.
Street Fighter – Justin vs Daigo
The entire fight from EVO 2004 between Justin (Chun-li) and Daigo (Ken). This match has over 3.5 million views on YouTube and is one of the most famous gaming matches of all time.
For more information about Daigo Umehara visit http://daigothebeast.com/