Daigo Umehara recently released a book called “勝ち続ける意志力” (The Will to Keep Winning), in which he gives sage advice from his experiences as the world’s most successful player in major Street Fighter tournaments. He also gives some personal stories from his upbringing as a gamer and a loner. One such story involves the meaning of friendship.
According to his story, when Daigo was in his first year of junior high school, he was already an avid gamer and a regular at a video arcade. Having no local arcades around his home, this particular arcade required that Daigo take a train to get to it. In elementary school Daigo had been the boss of his class, but in junior high school, with classmates joining athletic clubs to play soccer or baseball, he became more of a loner, and by the end of junior high school, there was hardly anyone he could call a friend at all.
At the arcade, though, Daigo found he could be himself. Few people who regularly went to video arcades were “well-rounded” individuals and most had problems of their own. Arcades were places where people went to escape the harshness of reality. Daigo, who felt he had no place in school, found himself at home there. Back at school, social norms dictated what sports to be interested in, what TV shows to watch, what music to listen to, and what was popular was more important than personal tastes. But in the arcade, Daigo found himself among like-minded people he got along with because of a common interest they already shared.
One such regular at the arcade was a man about five years older than Daigo. The man had long hair, brown teeth and a strange face that made him an outcast among outcasts. His strange appearance made even the other gamers avoid him, but when Daigo tried talking to the man, he found the man to be very interesting and the two got along almost instantly.
One night, when Daigo had been playing at the arcade later than usual, he accidentally missed the last train home. Daigo called his father and was immediately yelled at and told to take a taxi home at once. With not enough money for the taxi fare and no idea what to do, Daigo found himself at a loss. The man he had befriended in the arcade came up to Daigo and pointed at a bicycle and said, “Need a lift?”
The trip home took over 3 hours. All during that time, Daigo was lost in thought wondering why the man was doing this for him. It was a summer night, so by the time they reached Daigo’s home, the man was drenched in sweat. Dropping Daigo off, the man simply said, “See you.” and pedaled away.
Writes Daigo, “I stood there staring at him getting smaller and smaller in the distance, and for the first time I realised, ‘Oh, this is what friendship is.'”
Fifteen years later, Daigo is still friends with the man. Daigo writes in his book, “My life is the video arcade. I can say this proudly, largely in part due to the friendships I found there.”