Recently, a newly formed group in Japan announced the “pro licenses” for specific players to get around Japan’s strict gambling laws. If you don’t know, tournaments in Japan cannot issue cash prizes that come from entry fees like in the West. Most people were excited that this system meant the potential for cash prizes in Japan, but Momochi shared some other thoughts. Maybe not too interesting if you’re not connected to the Japanese scene, but whatever.
In Regards To the Japanese Pro-Gamer License System
This article is for everyone who always is supporting my life as a pro-gamer as well as my partner, Choco. For all of you who support us like we are family, these are my thoughts.
I’ve always been bad with crowds, and in regards to this matter as well, I’m not thinking to just, “discuss with my fellow pro-gamers and come up with a strategy,” or, “to match what everyone else is doing.”
Rather, I think that I should “express my own personal opinion first.” This is what I feel is the most sincere thing to do for all of you, and what I think is the action I must take as a pro-gamer.
Therefore, what I will write here is my opinion and mine alone; this does not reflect the views of anyone around me, gamers, or the community.
With this opportunity, please allow me to share my opinion with all of you on the current system as the pro-gamer and Shinobism representative, “Momochi”.
First of all, I would like to say that I am not completely against the idea of a license system.
Since the beginning, there have been times where we’ve struggled to define, “what is a pro-gamer?” I am also hoping that the we can make progress on this discussion and eventually reach a clear definition. However, there are a few points I am concerned about…
“Why does a newly formed specialized group have the right to “define what a pro-gamer is?””
Up until now, we have been exploring for a solution to that definition by ourselves, and even now as we continue to search, we are met with people who just think, “Who are you guys? Are you just a group that likes games?”
What I wish for everyone to think about, is exactly who was it that built and raised the merit of a “pro-gamer” in Japan.
The things called “games” in Japan have gotten big because of the initiative of all the communities that dot the entire country. With those communities supporting us, we were able to perform and work as pro-gamers; but I think the fact that we are even respected as professionals is because of the power of the “community” and “all of the players.”
Therefore, to ignore the people who one-by-one built up the value of a “pro-gamer” in Japan, decide on the “License System” in some unknown conference room, then come out and arbitrarily make an announcement to the community and players… I feel like this way of doing things is in no way sincere, and it is difficult to feel any sort of affection for games or the people involved.
-Who Are The Licenses For?-
In this regard, I would also like to hear everyone’s thoughts. For me personally, I think the initiative to turn things into a business is not a completely bad idea. That is because things that don’t become businesses are things “that will probably disappear someday,” in my opinion.
Community run events as well- in Japan these events have traditionally been handled on a volunteer basis by players who have other jobs. The result of this is that the games and communities have grown big and lively, but there still isn’t a system for the organizers to properly earn money and compensate others for their work.
I think there needs to be a change in the way money is spread, or maybe in the entire structure itself; which I think requires us to venture at raising our social status and merit as gamers. Therefore, I think we should not be against this licensing initiative itself.
However, at the same time we need to think about “who wants this License System?” and, “whose sake is this for?” Will the players really be happy with a system like this? Or is this just “a plan for those seeking to make a system in order to one-sidedly gain something?”
If this system is something that prioritizes “the creators own desires and self-interests” over “games themselves;” if this is something that deceives players with songs about a bright future while ignoring the voices of the community and players…then to prevent those people from acting as a government tool and taking advantage of our community, I am here and prepared to fight.
I think that one should always be listening to the voices of the community; and for me personally, who is allowed to act as a pro-gamer and interact with game communities around the world, I think I have a duty to always be considerate and never act in bad faith towards each and every person.
I feel that this license should be something that is for the sake of everyone and should be endorsed by the players themselves, therefore I think it is with the utmost important that we first discuss everything together as a group.
-What Is a Pro-Gamer?-
I wrote, “we still haven’t found an answer to this definition;” but currently, even with just the VIK system (no cash prizes, only goods/objects) there are players who are called “pro-gamers” and I feel like the definition of a pro-gamer is changing along with the times. I also felt one of these changes in the current talk of the pro-license
If you don’t have a pro-license, does that make you not a “pro-gamer?”
Does just having a license making you a pro-gamer?
How do you all feel about this? And what kind of future do you imagine? There is also a possibility that even with this license, only a very small fraction “specialized pros” will be able to earn an income..
Furthermore, a pro-gamer is just one part of the many groups that are involved with games. Now in the game I play, Street Fighter V, there are many players who are not professionals but are just as strong as the pro-gamers. Thinking like this, there is a likelihood that this this system will just create an ambiguous boundary between the groups. Furthermore, while there are some people who are happy about the idea of “tournaments with cash prizes;” we know nothing about the frequency, amount, or scope of these events, so we can’t say anything it.
-A Pro-Gamer’s Duty-
To change the subject, we pro-gamers have been performing our roles all the while searching for various answers. One of these pro-gamers is my partner Choco, and I think it very important to think about her when discussing the definition of a pro-gamer.
Choco is not a player who has her name listed on the top of the world rankings. She has been working on public relations for games even outside of the fighting game genre, invigorating the gaming community as a whole, appearing in media and events, and so on. Through these activities, she has a role of publicizing and sharing information of the gaming community to those in the outside world. I think this is also one style of a pro-gamer.
Winning your matches, gaining world championships, using your prize money to survive… I think being a pro-gamer is not just about being the strongest. Aren’t those who are compensated to perform their duties and and work to expand the possibilities of the community we live in also fine pro-gamers?
We started a company called Shinobism that handles duties such as hosting events and training the next generation. Of course this was something that we wanted to do as individuals, but I think this is also something we are doing as pro-gamers. However, there are times where I think this goes against the nature of pro-gamer. I think some people might look and say “you should be focusing more on games”, while others might say, “pro-gamers shouldn’t be making companies or raising the next generation in the first place.”
But to me, I think that having various types of pro-gamers is a good thing, and we are the embodiment of just one style of those “various types.” But on the other side, you can also say this is because the industry is still not mature.
When those who are unfamiliar with games hear the word pro-gamer, I think they tend to imagine “strength” and “results” as what defines a “pro.” In particular, many people are most interested in hearing how many thousands of dollars we’ve won in prize money.
But to get into detail, I think pro-gamers have a side determined by public opinion; so things like popularity, personality, charisma, and so on are also necessary. However, for me personally, there has not been a single moment in my life where the thought of, “for the sake of money”, has overtaken the thought of, “I want to win against this opponent in front of me.” Even when I won the World Championship, I was able to fight with all of my might out of a single-minded desire to be “the best at that moment.”
I think such a way of thinking might be a characteristic of Japanese players; but even so, I will not change from here on out and continue to act as a pro with that mindset, putting on matches for everyone watching that I won’t be ashamed about.
In the future, if the business world steps in and the market in Japan matures, then players without strength or results may end up getting left behind…or they may not. However, I think either result is fine. “At this very moment I want to properly perform my duty,” is how I always approach my matches.
For this reason, the point I want to get across is:
“Becoming a pro-gamer is not the goal.”
In the end, what’s important is “after” becoming a pro-gamer. As I mentioned before, every single player involved with games is different. Out of those, the ones with the role of “pro-gamer” need to be absolutely certain about, “what it is they want to accomplish as a pro.” That is more important than anything else.
Become #1 in the world; make money through gaming; become famous. There are a lot of different motivations, and I think that’s a good thing. In addition, you must answer those who cheer for you, give you work as a pro, and support your activities by putting on good matches. And then, as much as possible, speak properly and take your behavior into consideration. Also do not set up a strange wall between yourself and the community, but instead get close and lend them your ear. Always pay respect to your opponents.
These aren’t written down anywhere, but all of these things, as well as our thoughts, our history up until now and from here on out; whether or not these can be summarized and defined by this License System, I am here now saying that it cannot.
Generally, I don’t write long articles like this so it took me days to compile my thoughts, but thank you for reading this. I am not completely against the idea of a license system, but in the end I firmly believe in, “walking forward on the path you believed in, together with the community.”
In regard to the license system, I agree with and welcome the points where it will define what a pro-gamer is and help bring excitement to the scene. However, if I cannot sense affection or vision towards gaming, or respect towards the players and communities, then as someone who has bet his whole life on gaming (not as a pro-gamer; but as Yusuke Momochi, the person) I cannot ignore this.
In the future, if we have the chance to reach common ground on this system, and there’s a way for us to work together, I would like for it to be decided after coming to an understanding. But in any case, what I want to say now is that I don’t want “to get carried away one way or another in a big stream.”
People are only talking about tournaments with prize money; before that we need to discuss the problems at the core- that while discussing and planning the regulations in Japan, the people in charge left out discussion about the “players” and “community.” Nevertheless, this current state of industry in this country shows that the one sided way of doing things has led to, “esports in Japan not flourishing.” Therefore, I am hoping that both parties can meet halfway, and together we can create a brighter future.