88: Fei Long and Justin Wong

"People don't always agree on why 'Asians are better at videogames,' but it remains a particularly complicated issue in the Street Fighter II community, no doubt because this perception of Asian and Asian-American players is reinforced by the very real presence of international competition from Japan. Very, very good international competition."

Fei Long and Justin Wong

Interesting analysis.

First time I ever saw that match, race issues were the last thing on my mind. I really, really wanted Daigo to win because his playing style is so beautiful to watch. Just look at the way he pressures Justin in the corner to set up that first throw. Genius !

It only started to make sense to me when I began to think in terms of vicarious victories. I'm accustomed to a culture where if you want to win, you first have to play. But this is more like a sport, where supporters and onlookers start to view their team's victories as their own. Then race is just another marker for one's own tribe. Not a problem, so long as the rivalries stay friendly.

"You had to be there." Maybe that is true after all because I fail to understand how you reached your conclusion. While your premises are interesting, and investigation nationalism and racism is always important, you have made out the different categories to be monolithic.

Like Don Camus, I first watched the video because I found Diago's style to be beautiful and very entertaining. Of course Diago doesn't use Justin's "turtle style," which contradicts your statement that

Pat Miller:
In Street Fighter III: Third Strike, however, Japanese players like Daigo are the robotic and mechanical Asian players.

Where did you get that impression from? If anyone was being cocky it was Diago, as evidenced by his numerous taunting moves throughout the match. Just as those taunts drew large cheers each time, the fabulous comeback (or 'EVO moment') was rewarded with a standing ovation. Which would be inexplicable if the 'non-Asians' were anti-Diago...

I think the burden is still on you to show that racial or national allegiance is a key factor in elite competitive gaming (XBox Live, along with WoW, is another story). It's my experience that the Daigo fan club cuts across racial and national demographies. Or is Diago's play style an exception to the rule? I think the reason why so many robotic, precise and methodical players crop up is that the game mechanics make it so effective. We only get to see the elite Japanese players, and they leave a skewed view. If we go to Japan we'll probably find just as many cocky, flashy, and impatient players bubbling beneath the elite. And they are more popular than the Justin counterparts. That's my impression anyway.

My point is that you might be over analyzing this. Sure gamers are conscious of race but we are a lot more conscious of skill. And because we play face to face, the other stereotypes that we might have had about race fade away with increased camaraderie. Or did I miss something? Was the EVO audience predominantly made up of Japanese players cheering their own?


you bring up some interesting points.

this article was actually adapted from a longer, more academic paper which goes into a little more detail about the subtle distinctions drawn in sf2 community between 'asian american' and 'asian' - and, specifically, how that plays into who the audience cheers for in the daigo - justin match. if i ever get THAT published, you'll be the first to hear about it. the goal of the article is not to claim that american sf2 community hates asian people, or asian american people, so to talk about 'non-Asians' being 'anti-Daigo' is kind of an over-generalization, as it is to assume that all asian / asian american people cheer for their fellow asian players. the point is more to describe how an individual's race changes the way we construct people as top dog or underdog players in any given matchup; the most interesting clash being the asian american vs. asian match that we saw in justin v. daigo.

re: daigo's play-style, first, i think there's a distinction between "turtle player" and "robotic". one CAN be 'robotically aggressive' - as Daigo IS, as evidenced by the way he plays Sol in Guilty Gear- but justin is not. furthermore, i ask you to keep in mind the methodology that i used for this paper - namely, a combination of my personal experience and a study of shoryuken.com forum post rhetoric - so you can understand the conclusions i reached. analyzing racial construction is a tricky thing; daigo umehara is a very aggressive player, but asian players AS a whole are seen (as the discursive analysis of the forum posts reveals, and trust me, there were pages upon pages of stuff that i didn't include in the Escapist article) as robotic winning death machines. so daigo is simultaneously both, in the match against justin.

thanks for your comments!

oh, i forgot to add:

"overanalyzing this"? clearly you don't read a whole lot of the Escapist, do you? ;)

Being an "Asian-American", myself; I think the assertion of two view points "American vs. Asian", seems a bit narrow in context of the event, EVO 2004. I was there to witness the action and entered a tournament or two. Although, there were a few dissenters among the audience, a good vibe was generally expressed amid the competitors and spectators. I presume a varying degree of inclinations incurred instead.

A bit more background information should be given to readers about Justin Wong, and the warring opinions of "The East Coast vs West Coast" that plagues the competition. Between the fighting game communities, therein lies its own rivalries. In a particular game, MVC2, the competition is fierce within the U.S and Americans can claim to be victors. Most followers of the scene are quite familiar with the escapades of Justin Wong and his cohorts whom reside over in the eastern side of US. Brought with them was the challenge of besting the side with the most wins and a younger king, if you will, who has yet to be dethroned. Now compound that with legions that clamor for his defeat and you can see the passionate outbursts of their reactions.

However, the points you bring up our astounding, be it bad or good, your article gives some knowledgeable insight into the many different social issues in the melting pot that is America. And it's great to see some different commmentary on the theme within the industry.

To Don,

You say:

"We only get to see the elite Japanese players, and they leave a skewed view. If we go to Japan we'll probably find just as many cocky, flashy, and impatient players bubbling beneath the elite. And they are more popular than the Justin counterparts."

It'd seem that it's precisely a matter of point of view. It may be completely reversed in Japan, especially more when taking into account the negative bias against gaijin people, and the spirit and nostalgia of pre-WW2 memories. You'll probably find japanese players, who has a parent that's either American or Chinese. And then the problem would probably be the same over there.

Let's take an extreme. In football (soccer for others), I've seen behaviours which left me speachless. Nazi wannabes will like to say that their "nigger" has scored a goal for their national team, so, huh, somehow they like him, but there's too much of those "niggers" in their team, and it would be better if there were more white people. You got all sorts of clichés associated to skin-coloured people, sometimes related to their skills regarding their sport activity, sometimes not.
Depending on the point of view, who's opposed to who, and regarding the context, an individual can be soullessly shifted from one side to the other.

Though fortunately, this extreme is not reached in video game communities (as far as I can tell, but I'm certainly not all knowing), like in so many communities, there's still an influence of some sort, something that still remains, an unpleasing feeling you won't be able to shrug off.
However, I'm certainly not putting everybody in the same basket, and I'm not claiming that it's generalized to all gaming groups, nor applying to every individual in those groups.
It's always down a core of individuals whose standards seem to change depending on their beliefs and needs. More or less, labelling becomes extremely convenient.

Somehow, a question would have been why would have video game competitions been spared that phenomenom? It's still about humans fighting other humans.

LOL! Talk about overanalysis!

The crowd cheered Daigo in that match because he whacked, with verve and panache, a player notorious for being a gutless ultra-turtle. It is *that* simple. Asian-vs.-non-Asian, American style vs. robotic Asian style, "yellow peril," -- none of that stuff was an issue. Take any two guys of any race, national affiliation, cultural background, whatever; the one that plays like Wong will be booed, the one that plays like Daigo will be a hero.

You saw the same thing during Daigo's first visit to America, back in the Alpha 3 tournament (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P533Ea0Du_0 ). His Gen barely lost to Graham Wolfe's turtle Dhalsim. Realizing what he was up against (i.e. the hardcore turtling that was the weapon of choice of most of Sunnyvale's top players), he switched to Guy -- and the rest was history. The crowd went nuts as Daigo laid absolute waste to his next five opponents, of whom only the venerable Alex Valle didn't fall back on turtle tactics. (Incidentally, Valle had more success against Daigo than any of the Northern California players, save Wolfe.)

You saw it *again* when Daigo took on John Choi in the Sagat/Ryu/Balrog SSF2T match (i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnG-OBPYa2I ). John Choi played turtle Old Sagat the entire match. Tiger, tiger, tiger, tiger, tiger, tiger, all damned day. No balls at all, play to win, no style, no class. Boring. So, when Daigo had had enough, he switched to Balrog and mowed Choi down like a weed garden. The crowd went wild with glee.

No one likes a coward. That's all you need to know.

-- M. Cooper

The article really opened my eyes as to the significance of that famous Daigo/Wong vid. and brought to the fore some issues that I never thought about. Even today, when I watch that video, I get chills because you're truly watching people at their best, even if it's video games. Aside from all that, the writer, Pat Miller, blows it big time by referencing him as Justin FONG(?) at the end of the article. WTF? Man, talk about stumbling at the finish line, ala Justin Wong, I guess.


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