Hot Docs 2017: Q&A with Takao Gotsu on Living the Game

The documentary Living the Game centers around the world of professional gaming, particularly the rivalry between number one player Daigo “The Beast” Umehara and up-and-comer Momochi. The film is part of the extensive Japanese line-up at this year’s Hot Docs, presented in partnership with TokyoDocs. I had the answer to ask Living the Game‘s filmmaker Takao Gotsu a few questions about his work on the film.

What struck your interest about the world of professional gaming?
I thought it was “wrong” as the choice of a decent job – their job is not one to be socially proud of, and they know that. They are social outcasts in a way but they are the stars in gaming at the same time – that contrast attracts me a lot.

Why did you decide to focus only on Street Fighter tournaments?
I chose them not because of their game genre, but because of the charm of players.

The rivalry between Daigo Umehara and Momichi is a primary focus of the film. What interests you about them and their different views of professional gaming?
Daigo is a very smart guy who also has the view of society and others, where as Momochi is a very sensitive guy and very human. We can see ourselves in them.

The film emphasizes the differences between professional gaming in Japan, where they play for pride, and North American, where they play for money. What are your thoughts on this, especially in how Umehara decides to donate his prize money to charity.
No one can escape from money – we need money to live.
At the same time, you can not buy confidence/self esteem with the money.
So Umehara’s choice is the right one in the long term.

Pro gaming has risen in popularity over the last number of years, but there is still a societal stigma towards gaming culture. Do you believe that there will ever be mainstream acceptance of professional gaming?
More game tournaments are coming in with high stakes. But it doesn’t mean that they are more accepted by society.

One of the themes of Living the Game is playing for fun vs playing to win. What do you think the ultimate message of the film is?
The theme is “Gaining confidence of themself” – not winning and losing.

How has the career of the subjects progressed since filming concluded?
Some of them got sponsors – the game market has been growing!

The international premiere of Living the Game screens at the 2017 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival  Thursday, May 4, at 8:45pm and again on Sunday, May 7, at 6:15 PM. Tickets can be acquired from

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).