(forum correction please?)
First off, hello everyone. I’m newly registered to SRK as of April, though I have been lurking here since 2005. So, yes, I’m a damned '09er as far as you’re concerned.
Before your skepticism kicks in, this is NOT a “USA vs Japan” complaint thread. I promise it is worth educating yourself on its contents.
One of the ongoing subjects I’ve noticed over the years in the forums is the hotly debated competition status of USA vs. Japan.
“Why is Japan so much better than US?”
“US is crap vs Japan when it comes to fighting games”
“Japan has WAY more people that can hang with Daigo, we don’t have many people that can hang with Wong”
Along with 300 versions of these statements come trash talk, slandering, ass-kissing, you name it. The problem is, no one seems to get why there is such a drastic difference in the competition.
The reason why this gap exists has little to do with fighting games themselves. In fact, the explanation lies in the culture of the two countries.
America is a very individualist country. In the typical life of an American, one pretty much does everything on his/her own. Their parents do serve as caretakers and guides (feeding, clothing, health, transportation, etc.), but otherwise it’s up to the person to do everything on their own. You are responsible for carrying yourself through grade school (and college if you choose), feeding yourself, putting your clothes on, cleaning yourself, and seeking the appropriate attention in the event of health issues. Heck, as soon as you turn 18, your parents are legally allowed to kick you out of the house and let you live on your own. From then on, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you have a place to live and that you are taking care of yourself, and for the lucky ones, someone else and a family as well.
Moreover, when Americans identify themselves, you may notice that they typically define traits, activities, and properties that are solely unique to them. Ask Justin Wong to tell you a few things about himself, for example, and I guarantee you will get answers like:
“I am Justin Wong. I live in this state in this country. I play this game or this sport. I go to this school, this college, and I own an apartment or house in this area. I have lived here for X years.” So on and so forth. Obviously those answers may or may not be those exact words, but he will definitely talk about himself as an individual. Pretty typical of Americans.
Now, you might be wondering what’s so spectacular about this on its own. It isn’t, but it is when you look from a different perspective.
Japan, on the other side of the token, is a very collectivist country. I don’t mean this in the sense that they are socialist, and that their government and economy are controlled by one central power; I simply mean that their communities are far more concerned with groups, clubs, family, and areas of interest that pertain to multiple individuals. Yes, each person has their own responsibilities just like everyone in the world, but their focus is mostly on what they can do with and for their families and friends, rather than being an individual that grows to work hard, attain his or her own career, and get what he/she wants (American Dream). I don’t know what their laws are about age and independence, but I know that, for example, it’s not a big deal in Japan to live with your family past a certain age (say, high school or college graduation), but in America if you’re a healthy American, and if you live with your mom and you’re like 25-30 years old (unless you’re obviously disabled or handicapped and require the attention), then it’s generally frowned upon. However, in Japan (and even some Spanish countries too) it’s not that big of a deal.
Based on that, when the Japanese identify themselves, they will usually name or point out the groups that they are associated with, rather than the individual things they do themselves. Similar to my America example, just ask Daigo Umehara to talk about himself. I bet you $20 he will say things like
“I am Daigo Umehara. This is my family, who I live with in ____, Japan. These are my friends, who I play this game or sport with. I am in this club, with this organization, and these are the people I associate with. We have lived here for X years.” So on and so forth.
Now, look at this interview vs. the Justin Wong one. Any differences? If you notice, Justin Wong uses more personal and independent traits to talk about himself, whereas Daigo identifies himself by his friends, his groups/clubs, and his family. I’m not saying this is 100% accurate, because obviously each person is different. However, for the sake of the argument, a typical interview with an American person vs. a typical interview with someone Japanese will look like the mock ones I posted above.
So, what does this have to do with Street Fighter (or any fighting game for that matter)? A hell of a lot more than you think. More to the point, in America, we play and learn fighting games on our own for the most part. One of the simplest explanations for that is the popularity of Arcades, which is obviously higher in Japan than America. Alternatively, we play from consoles and machines that can go online (Xbox/360, PS2/3, PC, etc.) so that we can play with competition from all across America (all over the world, even). The thing about that is, most people play consoles in the comfort of their own home, which is generally away from large crowded areas such as malls, arcades, or game stores (all of which can house some sort of arcade cabinet). This goes along with the theme of Americans simply being independent and doing things on their own. Fighting games are no exception.
Based on that, the list of the best US players is going to consist of shining individuals from different parts of the country. East coast, west coast, midwest, you name it, there are probably many regions where individuals stick out. Since these amazing players live in these regions, and rather obviously cannot travel coast to coast and play everyone all the time, they shine in these particular areas.
In Japan, however, things are a little different. Online gaming (especially with fighters) isn’t AS popular over there as it is in the US. Again, going with the collectivist and group theme, they play in arcades with all of their friends consistently, rather than playing people online from home. I think I’ve heard a couple of times that Daigo doesn’t even have his own fightstick. It’s not very relevant, but if it’s true, then that provides even more support for the point that he is probably not used to playing very much on his own, he would rather just play in an arcade with his friends, at tournaments, whatever the occassion.
Since Daigo plays at arcades frequently, his competition is more likely to get better in all ways, be it learning his playstyle, his character, how he uses his character, whatever there is to be learned from the best of the best. Daigo is still possibly the best Street Fighter player ever, but the reason so many people from Japan (versus only a few people from the US) can “hang” with him is because they actually do hang with him. A lot. I can tell you right now, Daigo probably spends a large majority of his time playing with his friends in fighting games, rather than learning execution and combos on his own.
Case in point, country to country, that’s just how we do things. In America, we learn and grow independently; in Japan, they do things in groups. This is why, for example, the best players in the US can celebrate, trash talk, and hype the hell out of live crowds for tournaments, whereas in Japan, individual celebration over victories is considered extremely disrespectful. Since you did it on your own in America, you have every right and liberty to flaunt it; however, in Japan, since you likely spent most of your time playing in groups with friends or strangers, and since that’s how you likely identify yourself as a Street Fighter (or whatever game) player, individual brag or boast is not something that Japan is very concerned about.
So, if you’re wondering why there is such a large gap between the US and Japan in competition, it’s simply because we operate differently than they do as a country and as a culture. We play more on our own, and they play more in groups; so naturally, the flavor of competition is going to be much higher there.
Just as a general disclaimer, this post was not intended to offend anyone, or make anyone feel hopeless about their potential as fighting game players; it was just made to explain the gap in competition. I do apologize for the length, however.
On an unrelated note, I can’t wait to find out what happens at SBO this year, though I’m pissed that they took MBAA out, damn you Ciel and Akiha for having retarded infinites