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Game On

When I have time, sometimes I like to pop into a Japanese arcade for a few rounds of video games. As some of you may have figured out already, I’m a big Street Fighter fan. Any adult male my age is at least casually familiar with Street Fighter II, the game that re-defined the arcade experience. But while most people played a few rounds and moved on, I’m of the select group that really dedicated ourselves to the game. Like, I used to go to tournaments and what not.

I had mostly hung up my fighting hat a few years ago, but this past summer Street Fighter IV was released in Japanese arcades. Those of you not familiar with the franchise may not know just how big of an event this was, so let me try and explain it for you. Street Fighter II was the game that hooked us all. That game was released in 1991. That was seventeen years ago. Seventeen years ago, George Bush Sr. invaded Iraq for the first time. Seventeen years ago, Rodney King was asking why can’t we all just get along. Many of you reading hadn’t even been born yet. In that time, we got three brand new Star Wars movies, Rocky, Rambo, The Terminator, John McClane, and Indy Jones have come back to the big screen, and Bryan Adams was The Shit™. And yet numerically, Street Fighter has only gone from II to IV.

While arcades in America are a dying breed, in Japan they’re still alive and kicking. They are usually nothing special – a room filled with video games, guys who play them far too much, and enough cigarette smoke to bring about instantaneous lung cancer. They’re usually nothing special. But its always the exception to the rule that gets you, isn’t it?

***

I was in an arcade one day that’s not too far from my home. While the proximity is nice, I don’t often go – it’s also home to some of the best ass-kickers in the world, and my ego can only take so much damage. But I was there one day getting some SFIV games in, and as I was playing I noticed a group of high school boys wandering around. I couldn’t help but to notice one in particular – he looked terribly familiar, as if I’d seen him before. As I was looking at him, I caught him also staring at me. And not just the “hey look it’s a gaijin!” stare we foreigners usually get, but the “Hey, I know this guy!” look that I was also shooting at him. At pretty much the same time, we both came to realize how we knew each other.

I was looking at Watson.

Yes, that Watson. The boy who since his ichinensei days had made it his personal mission to grab my dick, to not waste the one chance he may have in his entire life to grab the dick of a black man and confirm whether or not the stereotype is true with his own hands. His curiosity was superseded only by his diligence, as not a day went by where he didn’t try to molest me in one way or another. He’d graduated during my last year on the job, but here he was in my life again.

It was a moment I can’t really describe. Imagine He-Man, some 50 years later, old and decrepit in a nursing home, and as he wanders the halls looking for the shuffleboard game he runs into Skeletor, looking as evil and bony as ever. It was kind of like that.

He hadn’t really changed at all. He looked the same as he did two years ago, just proportionally bigger. He was attending a high school in the city. He was hanging out with his friends and we couldn’t talk long, but he seemed to be doing well. And no, he didn’t try to grab my junk for old times sake or anything like that. People grow up and change I guess, and Watson is no exception.

Although the dick-grabbing is what I’m most going to remember about him, even 50 years later when Street Fighter VI finally comes out.

***

Speaking of molesters…

I was in the same arcade I ran into Watson at a few weeks later. I was playing, and actually had a modest win streak. Although this is a stereotype, most Gaijin who wonder into an arcade are tourists, or even if they aren’t they don’t have the skills to keep up with these fighting game monsters. While I know I’m not a top-level player, I’d like to think I have decent skills at least, and can stomp anyone who isn’t on the top of their game. So that’s kind of rare in Japan, and occasionally I get people peering around the cabinet and being moderately surprised to see a foreigner administering ass-kickings.

There was a guy standing next to me, maybe in his 40’s or so, watching me play. After beating one guy, the guy next to me came in a little closer and spoke. “Oh! Very good job!” he says in broken Engrish and gives me a handshake. Well, that’s not so bad. Japanese arcades aren’t exactly cozy dens of friendliness, so this could even be a good thing.

See, it’s always the escalation that gets you.

I get linked up to a new challenger. Looking at his stats, this guy is pretty good. It’s going to be a tough fight, and I’ll need to concentrate and focus in order to compete properly. The match starts, and as expected, my opponent is a difficult match-up. I’m doing fairly well though…but that all changes as I feel something behind me.

Is it…yep, it is. Old dude is now rubbing on my head. Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve gotten felt up randomly here in Japan, I was starting to forget all about it.

The normal response when some old dude is feeling you up, I believe, is to run, deck him square in the jaw, or perhaps a nice combo of both. But I was in the middle of a SFIV match! I couldn’t get up off the machine, and taking my attention away from the match could have been disastrous.

Yes, Street Fighter is serious business, folks.

I tried my best to shoo him away and move my head out of the way of his gently caressing hands (dodgehead?) while keeping my attention on the match. Needless to say, my concentration had been broken pretty fucking hardcore, and I lost the first round. But I’ll be okay, right? I shooed the old guy away, so just re-group in round 2 and make my comeback like LL Cool J.

Again, it’s always the escalation.

Old dude comes back in the middle of round 2. And now…he’s feeling up my tits! Ok, I don’t have tits, but he’s got himself a nice handful of my manly chest. I know Japan has a big problem with groping and all, but I’m pretty far removed from a young Japanese girl. The head thing maybe, maybe I can understand, but my chest? Why would…no…no no no, scratch that, I don’t wanna know.

At this point, any hope for winning the match is just lost. I’m thoroughly freaked out now. I shoo the old guy away again but I can still sense him hovering nearby. He’d gone from stroking my hair to feeling up my tits. I’m not a woman, so I don’t fully understand the process of getting violated, but the rules of escalation dictate that there was only really one more area he could have gone for – the Golden Zone, and I’ll be damned if I was going to let that happen. I lost the match, grabbed my player card, and bailed the hell out of there.

Old guy is, of course, looming in the area. “Oh, too bad you lost,” he says in Japanese. “Yeah, my opponent was really tough!” I say as I continue to speedball my way out of the arcade. Maybe I could have put up a better fight if you weren’t fondling me half the damn time. Is there no place I can go in Japan without getting felt up? And why can’t the 18-40 year old women of this nation have the same interest in me that young boys and old men do? Why am I asking myself this question yet again? I refuse to accept that this is my fate.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to say this…but I’m not making this stuff up, swear to goodness.

***

It’s pretty common knowledge that girls and video games don’t exactly mix.

That’s a pretty broad stereotype of course, and as is the case with many stereotypes, it’s often off the mark. Girls do like video games to some extent. Mostly stuff like Animal Crossing or Wii Sports or Barbie’s Horseback Adventures, or The View: The Game. What the fuck ever women play. But they’re not really suited to the beat-em-up/shoot-em-up/kill-everything-that-moves games that we men love.

Again, I realize there are exceptions. But if you step into an arcade in Japan, 95% of the people there will be guys. 4% may be girls playing the Beatmania games or UFO catchers, or perhaps just accompanying their boyfriends. 1% may actually be there to play games.

So when we guys see a girl in an arcade, much less playing a fighting game, it’s kind of a rare sight to behold. Sort of like the magic of seeing Jordan, Bird, and Johnson together on the original basketball Dream Team. Half the time, we have to actively restrain ourselves from proposing to her on the spot; or if not marriage, at least offering to engage in some sweaty awkward sex while discussing the best ways for Ryu to combo into his super hadouken fireball.

One day, I was out drinking with some friends. Its sort of a semi-weekly event, and the venue we choose just happens to be located above an arcade. …We’re all gamer nerds, bite me.

I got a phone call, and as the place was crowded and noisy, I left to go outside and take the call. As I was coming back and passing through the arcade, I noticed a girl playing Street Fighter IV. I figured she was a girl because of the pink frilly dress. This was such an eyesore, such a “Find The Leprechaun” moment for me, that I just had to circle around to get a better look at this girl gamer. Which, unfortunately, I did.

In the words of the great Austin Powers…”It’s a man, baby!”

Yep. The girl in the pink frilly dress…was actually some middle aged dude, in a pink frilly dress. Playing Street Fighter. And using E.Honda, no less.

I knew that people weren’t going to believe me when I told them, so I had the good sense to take a picture.

Upon taking a closer look, I saw that his player name was “Cross-Dressing E.Honda Player”. Well, if nothing else, it’s accurate…

Okay, so you’re a middle aged Japanese dude. Sure. Who likes to wear pink dresses. That’s far out there, but whatever gets you your kicks, man. And you like to play Street Fighter. Yeah, it’s a great game. But what I can’t figure out for the life of me is – why E.Honda? I always figured cross-dressers would go for Chun-Li, or I dunno, maybe even Zangief, but Honda? I’m going to guess that this is also something I just don’t want to know.

I feel bad for the guys playing next to him. I mean, I completely lost my shit when some old dude came and felt up on me, but I can’t even fathom trying to play seriously when there’s some middle aged guy in a pink frilly dress playing Honda next to me.

It’s these moments of random, unthinkable circumstances coming together to form incredible WTF situations, that really makes life worth living, I think.

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Categories: Gaijin Smash
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