The fighting game community gets a bum rap. Sometimes it's deserved. Often it's not. There are good people in the fighting game community. People like Daigo Umehara. People like Osamu Ichikawa. And people like the folks at Shoryuken.
Osamu has cerebral palsy, a condition he was diagnosed with when he was one. For his whole life, Osamu has lived in a wheelchair. "Video games give me the chance to be free from the physical disadvantages and differences," Osamu told Shoryuken. "I can communicate with no problem, but I cannot move the rest of my body below my neck."
After seeing Daigo play Street Fighter, Osamu was inspired to take up the game, playing Street Fighter by using his chin and his cheek. But what Osamu really wanted was to challenge his hero.
"What I love about video games is the fact that everyone can stand on an equal footing regardless of his/her age or physical strength," Daigo recently told Kotaku. "Equality is there, but the reality is that Osamu is still handicapped with physical difficulties the other people do not have."
Continuing, Daigo said this about Osamu: "But why did he chose Street Fighter? It's simply because he loves it. Osamu loves Street Fighter. Who would have gone through such a trouble otherwise? Without his passion, he could not have stuck out."
Osamu's dream has been to play at the big EVO tournament and go up against Daigo, and Shoryuken banded together to help send Osamu to EVO. Meanwhile, Daigo worked with arcade Taito Station to help the gamer realize his other dream: play in an arcade against other gamers.
"There is no reason to give up if you really love something. And if you truly love it, the passion would not let you quit."
Going into an arcade is something most Japanese gamers take for granted. Osamu has tried to go to arcades in the past, but unsuccessfully. Either there was no elevator, or the elevator was too small. And even if there was an elevator, there was not enough space to navigate the rows of arcade cabinets. Yet, Osamu's never gave up his dream of playing Street Fighter in an arcade against other players.
In an age when everything is digital and online, arcades are still a place that gamers can gather and interact with each other. That's all Osamu wanted to do. That, and play.
Daigo can see where Osamu is coming from , telling Kotaku, "I can totally relate to him with the passion and the 'simple' reasoning of 'I just love the game.' There is no reason to give up if you really love something. And if you truly love it, the passion would not let you quit."
"I commend his strength and commitment," Daigo added. "I have so much respect for him as a fellow Street Fighter and a person."
This weekend, Taito Station is holding a special event in which Osamu will face off in an exhibition match against his hero, Daigo. The event starts this Saturday at noon Japanese time and will be streamed via Ustream. Osamu is thrilled, thanking everyone involved and telling Kotaku, "I have never imagined the day I would be able to play at an arcade. I cannot tell you how grateful and happy I am!"
"I am going to have so much fun," Osamu added. Yes, Osamu, yes you will.
(Top photo: Kara Leung/Shoryuken/Taito)