Europe and North America have the two biggest Quake communities. But there are many other places, where Quake get's played. Sadly not a lot is known about what happens in the other parts of the world. While living abroad in Japan I had the opportunity to become a part of the Japanese Quake community for a short period. I myself wanted to know more about this small community and I talked to Taharasan, an integral member of the community.

Taharasan, could you introduce yourself to people who may not know you?

Hello, I'm Taharasan and I used to play TFC, Quake 4, TF2 and Quake Live competitively under the nickname uNleashed. In addition to that, since I was 15 years old I've been organizing over 50 events and tournaments in the above mentioned games. Together with friends I also set up Japanese servers right after Quake Live launched. In Quake 4 I attended Quakecon and WSVG Toronto as a player. In Quake Live I participated at IEM Taipei and again at Quakecon. These days I play Quake Live and Overwatch casually while organizing a small number of C4 LANs, bring your own computer LAN parties in Japan. When Quake Champions comes out, I'm not sure yet whether or not I will play competitively, but I'll certainly want to go to Quakecon.

Could you tell us about the Japanese Quake scene?

I've been a part of the Quake community since Quake 4 Point Release 1.3, so I don't know about the whole history of the community. Even at it's peak the community didn't count more than 100 members and the last time one could see actual clan activities was around 2010. Japanese players seem to prefer CTF. These days there's a small community left playing on CTF and Duel public servers. By the way, Korean players seem to love CA. But looking at the server browser, there are barely any people left playing. When it comes to the age-composition, it seems that there's a polarization going on. On the one hand you have people like me, the so called <oldschool> players in their 30s, and on the other hand you have younger players that are around 20 years old. Of course, as everywhere else, most players are male.

It might be hard to imagine for European or American players, but because Japan is an island country there are physical as well as cultural restrictions. Because of that, there are very few points of contact between Japan and the communities oversees. For the longest time, the only oversee servers that Japanese players could play under a ping of 100 were Korean servers. And even there you had occasional ping spikes up to 150-200 because of bad routing. So you didn't really get a sense of stability. But lately the routing seems to have improved a lot and players from the far east of Russia, Taiwan and China are able to play on Japanese servers with a 50-70 ping. I'm very happy about that. In Australia there's an active FPS scene on a high level, but we ping around 150-280 onto the Australian servers, which isn't really enjoyable to play. The routing to Singapore for both parties are being improved, so Singapore might become the future community hub for the Asia region, enabling us to find more people to play with.

The other restriction I mentioned was the cultural difference. The biggest problem being the language. As a lot of people may know, in Japan everything gets localized. Even though Japanese students have 6 years of mandatory English in school, reading, writing and speaking still presents a problem for most of the population. That is why you can count the players who can gather information from English sites on one hand. The one site who acted as an information hub for the last 15 years concerning FPS games and eSports in general was and still is

1999: The now legendary first Quake LAN in Japan held in the ballroom of an Onsen-Resort.
17 participants brought their PC's and CRT's to the event. Source: Game Watch

Throughout the history of Quake, who were the top 3 duelers of Japan?

There weren't a lot of players throughout the Quake series, but separated into the different games the list would look like this:
    Quake/QW: HIGH-ROLLER, NoGuSo, muli, KAF
    Quake 2: NoHoHo, Akira, takapyon
    Quake 3: BRZRK, toriyama, serval
    Quake 4: taharasan, sis, Broken (that's all of the players there were)
    Quake Live: lainchan (Mono), Daphne, Radexql

Even though the game is quite old by now, there are still players around that continue to play it. What do you think is the fascination of Quake?

It's probably the feeling of speed and how good improving at the game feels. In reality it might not be the case, but compared to other games it feels like there are only a few aspects of the game that inhibits individual skill. It's a feeling of <if you're skilled enough, you can do anything>. You practice new techniques, deepen your map knowledge or strengthen your aim. After that you go into a match and experience your improvement first hand. A lot of people get addicted to this sensation of improvement. I think Counter-Strike offers a similar experience.

One could say that Japan is the Mecca of fighting games, but what about First Person Shooters?

First I have to mention that PC Gaming has a rather small community compared to consoles. FPS games in general are a minority in the Japanese gaming scene and in that small scene arena-style FPS is even more uncommon. You could say that among the arena FPS games Quake had the biggest community, but overall the numbers aren't that big.
A lot of people are playing console FPS games and as such I get the impression that it's on the rise. When it comes to the PC games community, you can see a general trend in popularity, also probably because of the influence of League of Legends (but one could argue, that it's still not enough).

But if you asked me about the PC FPS scene in general, it's very hard to say. There are a lot of so called „Online FPS“ in Japan („Alliance of Variant Arms“, „Sudden Attack“) that people from Europa or America never heard of. They probably have the biggest communities. When you talk about titles that are played in Europa and America as well, then I think the Battlefield series has the biggest player base in Japan. The exception is Overwatch. More than 300 players participate in tournaments or casual online events regularly and it's only getting bigger. I don't really know how big the CS:GO scene is, but in tournaments up to 16 teams fill the brackets. There are a lot of theories about why FPS games aren't as popular in Japan, but personally I think that the different platforms (consoles/PC), the huge amount of different genres to chose from and the difference in taste are the biggest reasons.

youtube preview

Japs - Quake Live
A Japanese CTF/Duel movie made by Agekara

Considering the rise of eSports that is happening in Japan as well, do you see the upcoming Quake Champions becoming a popular game in Japan?

I hope it get's very popular! But in reality I think it's going to be difficult. Firstly, I think at this point in time there aren't a lot of people who think „Hey let's try that“. Or to put it differently, there aren't a lot of gamers who know about Quake. Even if they know about it, they wouldn't try it. It is probably because the game has the image of being very punishing to new players. If you compare it to fighting games where one match is over in 2 minutes, in Quake a duel or a potential beating lasts 10 minutes. A lot of Japanese gamers associate Quake only with duel and are not aware that CTF or TDM even exist. I think that a lot of them start up Quake, play a duel and leave again after having a bad experience. Japanese players think that forfeiting a match, even if they wanted to, is a bad thing and get the worst possible experience out of a duel.

There's also a problem with taste. It's not a question of bad or good, but the majority of Japanese associate the gothic science-fiction style of Quake or Unreal Tournament with sweaty muscular assholes beating each other up. So naturally it's hard for it to become popular. One of the reasons why Overwatch became a success in Japan was because of the artwork having a certain anime style. In addition to that Square Enix is in charge of the marketing for the game. They hired famous Japanese voice actors and thoroughly localized the whole experience. As you might know, but the so called Otaku's attachment to voice actors is unreal. I'm a devout believer of the Quake gameplay, but even I never thought of the artwork as cool. I do like the metallic science-fiction design of „Natural Selection“ more than the usual „anime design“ though.

When it comes to the development of the new Quake I think it's going to be difficult but I'd really like to see a variety of player model, weapon and map skins. As I said above it's going to be a challenge to get new players into Quake. But it is true that there are a lot of non-players who enjoy watching big quake duel tournaments. The alteration to spectator functionalities for TDM as the base game mode could be difficult, but by doing so you could maybe attract new players into the community, resulting in a virtuous circle.

Whether Quake Champions is going to be successful or not: Me, the Japanese Quake Community and all the experienced players are aiming to reduce the barrier of entry for new players by organizing events or providing information etc and build up the Japanese Quake scene! Bethesda and id Software might not be targeting the Japanese market, but please provide us with some servers located in Tokyo, we will gladly help however we can!

Where can one find the Japanese Quake community?

We made a Discord channel for Quake Champions, you can find a lot of players there. At the moment we are around 150 members, 2/3 of them seem to be new players. If you're interested in the Japanese Quake community, come and join us! > Discord Invite