Four years after its original publication, Daigo Umehara’s book, The Will to Keep Winning, is soon to be available in English for the first time ever.
The book, which will be sold exclusively at Evo this Friday and Saturday at the Red Bull booth, will set you back $15. The first 200 interested parties can opt for the $30 “limited edition pack,” which includes the book, a Daigo Evo 2016 t-shirt and a rally towel.
In addition to offering his book for sale, The Beast will also be hosting a “book club session” followed by an autograph session at noon on Saturday, also at the Red Bull booth.
Below, we have included the book’s preface in full.
I turned thirty-five this month, and yet I’m still playing fighting games. It’s been twenty-five years since I started, but nothing has changed. My plans are to keep up my childish lifestyle as long as I can and give my best effort, one year at a time.
As my approach to gaming hasn’t changed since, we’ve decided to leave the content without updating. Here’s an update on what’s happened in my life since.
This year, I signed with a new sponsor—Red Bull. Joining up with my new team of Red Bull Athletes has rekindled my competitive spirit and strengthened my resolve. I also took on this new challenge in publishing a book in English for the first time. We’re currently making our final corrections to the text in a mad rush to finish it in time for EVO in July.
When I was growing up, “pro gamer” wasn’t a career option. I never thought I could support myself by playing games. I thus left the fighting game world for a few years, first trying my hand at mahjong, then working as a caregiver at a nursing home. Apparently, some American gamers even thought I had died. It may seem a roundabout way of doing things, but I needed time away to appreciate the importance of fighting games in my life.
Street Fighter V was released this year for home consoles only; for the first time, there are no machines in the arcades. As someone who’s been hitting the arcades daily since childhood, playing games at home alone is a desolate experience. I got hooked on fighting games not just from the excitement on screen, but also because I loved the arcades and the crowds that gathered there. As a pro, I thus see working to build offline gaming opportunities as one of my responsibilities.
While Japanese players remain among the top fighting game players, only allowing us to play online will make it difficult for us to maintain our edge. It’s no surprise to see complete unknowns who didn’t play SFIV climbing the podium at SFV tournaments. As I discuss in the book, success in one game doesn’t guarantee success in its sequels.
Recently, I don’t worry too much about how much time I spend practicing. I did practice SFV for over ten hours a day immediately following its release, but recently I’ve settled back into playing four or five hours a day, and then spending the rest of my day living life. But even when I’m not playing, I’m thinking about games. Add in this mental aspect, and I still probably devote ten hours a day to gaming. Operating a joystick is second nature to me at this point—I’ve been using them since I was a kid, and it’s not like there are going to be any major innovations in joystick tech, so I don’t need to practice that.
I haven’t changed my play style much for Street Fighter V; I’m still more interested in improving my own skill than in winning tournaments. I’m not saying that I don’t care whether I win or lose, just that if you’re strong enough, the wins will follow. With enough ability, practicing less keeps your mind fresh, which is necessary to get results. Luckily, SFV is a masterfully crafted game. I sincerely enjoy it—playing it is a pleasure and only half feels like work.
In May 2016, Japanese satellite channel WOWOW finally aired Life as a Pro Gamer, an internationally produced feature-length documentary. The documentary crew followed me closely for a while, along with other pros like Momochi, ChocoBlanka, Gamerbee, Luffy, and Justin Wong. The documentary is of course a production, but it isn’t manufactured. There are no lies and no attempts to make eSports any bigger than it is.
I’d love to see more candid representations of eSports like this. Fighting games used to be nothing more than games, but recently they’ve taken off along with the increased worldwide popularity of eSports. This is a good thing, but overly romanticizing the pro-gamer life will turn the eSports boom into a bust. I don’t want prospective gamers to be dazzled with the prospects of status, honor, and prize money; I want them to honestly experience the wonder of eSports without making it out to be something it isn’t.
I recently donated my entire runner-up prize money of $60,000 from the Capcom Cup Finals 2015 to the Evo Scholarship Fund for the Department of Game Design at New York University. I’m grateful for the opportunities the gaming industry has provided me and wanted to give something back. I know there are young pro gamers out there struggling like I did, unsure what the future holds, and I want to help them. I’m happy for the support my new sponsor Red Bull provides me, and I hope they’re willing to take a chance on some of the new blood out there. We pros depend on a thriving gaming industry to make a living.
My motives in donating the money were purely for the gaming industry, but for some reason my actions resonated with my father. No matter how much public praise I get or prize money I win, gaming skill means nothing to my father and others in his generation. After my donation to NYU, six years into my pro gaming career, my father paid me a rare compliment. Compliments were rare in my household—not surprising, given all the trouble I put my parents through over the years—so his appreciation made me feel that I’ve grown as a person.
I’m grateful to have gained such a creative, powerful ally in Red Bull and to have this book translated into English so that I can share my ways of life and thinking with a wider audience. In addition to fighting game fans everywhere, I hope that non-gamers will read it and get something out of it.
The release of this English edition has made me reflect on what has changed since the Japanese release. While my outlook on life, the fighting game community, and my sponsorship situation have all changed, my commitment to fighting games remains as strong as ever. I’ll keep putting in the effort and trying to stay humble so that I can continue to win.
Daigo “The Beast” Umehara
Feature image ©Maruo Kono / Red Bull Content Pool