Behind the Story

12/27/2021
PUYO PUYO TETRIS
:: ぷよぷよテトリス
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  • Amemiya Taiyou
  • I used to win that much; I spent my whole life winning (laughs).
  • // Chapter 1
  • “I hated studying. I mean I really couldn’t stand it. Liberal arts, STEM, I don’t know these concepts. I majored in Tetris (laughs)!”

    He’s been a lover of games since childhood. Although he’s known as a “god” in Tetris, he has other talents. He’s similarly one of the country’s best players in both Puyo Puyo and Zoo Keeper. In elementary school, he also enjoyed shôgi. In just a year, he achieved the rank of 4-dan in amateur shôgi rankings. It is said that he even caught the eye of professional players.

    After hearing all this, you’d be forgiven for picturing Amemiya as a game-obsessed, indoorsy type, but that’s not the case. His favorite subject was gym. Influenced by his older brother, he was on the middle school soccer team, and could run 1500 meters in under five minutes, one of the best times in his entire grade. As a student, he “broke bread with anyone and everyone.”

    “I played the card game ‘Yu-Gi-Oh,’ so I was involved with that whole crowd. I love card games, so I crossed paths with a lot of different people. So yeah…I’m an all-rounder (laughs).”

    As a middle schooler, he had a revelation: “I’m so unbalanced, I don’t think there’s anyone more unbalanced than me.” Though an “all-rounder” when it came to socializing, he just couldn’t find his niche in academics. “Compared to others, I…well, I just always had a talent for games, so I thought it would be nice if I could use that somehow. My parents said the same thing.”

    His parents told him, “It’s your life, so do what you like.” They continue to be a supportive presence in his life to this day.

    “I have to say, I’m grateful to them. Without their support, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
  • // Chapter 2
  • When he says “where I am right now,” Amemiya means his status as the most popular Tetris player and streamer in the country.

    “I’m incredibly aware of my role as a professional and a streamer.” Thus his acceptance of the invitation to Kemonomichi 4. It’s an opportunity to draw attention to his streaming from people outside the Tetris community. If Tetris gets attention, Taiyo Amemiya gets attention. And vice versa. “Really that’s the most important thing,” he says.

    Things weren’t always going well for Amemiya as a streamer. There was a period during which he was just barely getting by, balancing YouTube streaming with his late-night job. It was a time of trial and error, propelled by the vague notion that it would be nice to make a living off gaming. There was no shortage of harsh comments during his streams, either.

    “People in the comments often talked about how I was good but not entertaining. ‘He’s good but Mokou is more fun to watch.’ I got that kind of comment constantly.”

    Mokou is a famous let’s-play streamer and Puyo Puyo champ whom Amemiya admires as his “YouTube mentor.” During a crossover stream between Mokou and Amemiya (who also plays Puyo Puyo), they received comments saying Amemiya wasn’t fun to watch. Wasn’t it awkward to receive complaints even as he won matches? “No, I actually thought it was better to go that route, so I got over it.” He continued to work hard as a streamer, using even the negative comments as reference to improve little by little.

    “My viewer metrics shot up when Tetris 99 came out. It was like it tied together everything I’d done up to that point, all my experience thus far, my skill as a competitive player. I think that was a lucky break.”

    Tetris 99 is a competitive game with ninety-nine players. Matches have a not-too-serious atmosphere that differs from that of a one-on-one match, making it a perfect fit for a mass livestream audience. Tetris 99 was the missing ingredient that brought all Amemiya’s prior diligence to fruition.
  • // Chapter 3
  • A few years ago, when he and his opponent, kazu, were in the habit of engaging in rensen(1) Amemiya reigned supreme and undefeated. kazu says he lost to him some “fifty times.”
    1:rensen – A long set of matches where a player must win dozens of times. A standard measure of ability in the Puyo Puyo Tetris scene.

    “I used to win that much; I spent my whole life winning (laughs).” Depending on how you look at it, you could argue that Amemiya is the one who raised kazu. He would even upload videos for him at times. The fact that kazu has now bested him, Amemiya says, is in no small way a positive factor in the Kemonomichi 4 face-off.

    “I think it’s a big deal that I’m no longer undefeated. I think the way I lost was key—that’s what’s allowed me to come to terms with it.” He says he doesn’t remember the details, but that he “just played normally and got beaten normally.” It was a “normal” loss because his opponent had the necessary skill to win fairly.

    Before Amemiya’s streaming found its momentum, he says he felt antsy. Weren’t people watching him specifically because he was so good at the game? Wouldn’t losing be bad for his channel? At times he felt walled off by fear and doubt.

    “That’s how I felt at the time, but not now. I don’t feel that way at all anymore.

    “There was a time…a period where my stream viewership didn’t grow at all. That’s why I think the way I do now. If, say, my traffic had grown a ton when I was still undefeated, I’m sure I’d still feel how I used to.”

    Having an opponent who sometimes wins, sometimes loses, has taken the burden of being undefeated off Amemiya’s shoulders. Many online say kazu has had the upper hand since his first win against Amemiya, but Amemiya doesn’t mind. “I mean, there’s always ups and downs, plus luck is a factor. So I don’t care, I really don’t. I’m not particularly aware of people saying that stuff. I can’t tell from my stream chat. I’m just streaming here.”

    He says he has quelled countless online braggarts by getting back at them in tournaments. That track record is probably why he doesn’t pay much mind to the noise.
  • // Chapter 4
  • “He plays a more offensive style than anyone, and that aggressiveness allows him to overwhelm a lot of people. But I’m not going to fight on my opponent’s terms, I’m going to toss out curveballs and find other ways to get the upper hand.”

    Amemiya describes his opponent, kazu, as “one of the best offensive players.” Amemiya’s style is defensive, watching and blocking his opponent’s moves. One could also call it a reactive style.

    That defensive, reactive style is backed up by Amemiya’s precise control and mental fortitude during competitions. He says these strengths will be majorly enhanced by the fact that Kemonomichi will be held offline.

    “When Tetris is laggy, I misplace blocks all the time. I think you can probably imagine.” Latency issues caused by connection lag are an inevitability in online gaming, but an aggressive, firepower-heavy style like kazu’s is relatively unaffected by online issues, says Amemiya. In contrast, Amemiya’s defensive, reactive style is majorly impacted lag. It is common for a single misplaced piece to result directly in losing the match. In an offline setting, Amemiya will be able to maximize his control precision without being impacted by lag.

    “Online and offline are completely different games. He has to learn that.” Since kazu is still in school, he’s sure to have little experience in offline tournaments. Amemiya seems to think there’s a big difference.

    “I don’t think there are that many people out there evaluating you based on your online wins, however much you might be winning.” Game tournaments, including officially sanctioned ones, are generally held offline. In Tetris, too, “you’re evaluated based on winning offline,” he says. kazu might not understand this.

    “I’d like to show him the difference between online and offline. That’s the main thing, really. It’s not as easy as he thinks.”

    Did Amemiya ever have his own offline “reckoning”?

    “No, on the contrary, I was always the one dishing it out at tournaments.” Amemiya has shut down the biggest talkers online by besting them in offline tournaments time and again, and he seems to be bringing that same confidence against kazu.

    “As long as neither of us make mistakes placing our blocks, I think it’ll run pretty long. So I hope I can win the long game.” To Amemiya, time is another important factor. “In general, a 100,000-point match would be a long one in Tetris, but I’m hoping we’ll have a lot of matches that exceed that score in a row.”

    Score—that is, the number of points earned—has no bearing on who wins or loses. However, it does serve as a measure of the match’s length. kazu’s aggressive style is capable of producing extremely high scores. Amemiya must hold out long enough for that score to exceed 100,000. To use tennis as an analogy, it would be like continuing to return the ball and keep a rally going for a long time. With fewer mistakes likely in the offline setting, the potential to create this situation is high. Meanwhile, the longer the match, the more of an impact Amemiya’s mental fortitude will have on the outcome.

    Amemiya has the determination and skill to embark on a long fight. “It’s common to get nervous during a tournament and make mistakes. But I put a lot of emphasis on preparing for that.” He has the confidence to remain “cool and neutral” in any situation. Whether he wins or loses, he says he’ll be able to produce the full extent of his true skill. This is no simple feat. “That’s true, it’s hard to do. Especially in tournaments and other big events, it’s hard to pull off.”

    Red Bull 5G 2021 was just held on November 27th, 2021. It’s fair to call this event the biggest tournament in the Puyo Puyo scene. Amemiya won the event—his third consecutive tournament to renew his undefeated record, alongside the 2015 and 2016 tournaments.

    That’s not to say there weren’t moments along the way where he was in jeopardy. In the qualifier, he lost three matches in a first-to-five set, and the possibility of Amemiya the “Tetris god” being taken out had the audience in an uproar.

    “I could hear their voices. I thought, ‘Yep, this is what an away game feels like (laughs).’”
    There was a possibility he might lose, creating tension, but he managed to overcome his nerves and land five straight wins. It was a dramatic comeback that had the whole venue astir.

    “Strong under pressure? That’s right. I think I’ve been in more tournaments than anyone else in the Tetris scene, after all.” Real-world experience at major events isn’t something you can gain overnight. In this regard, Amemiya is second to no one in the Tetris scene. Offline; long set; mental fortitude—these are the factors that will conspire to put victory within his grasp. This is Amemiya’s strategy.
  • // Chapter 5
  • “It’s a big deal to gain global recognition. That’s huge. I don’t understand much English, though (laughs).” Kemonomichi 4 will be streamed across the globe. As a streamer himself, Amemiya finds that aspect of the event a major draw.

    Amid a daily schedule he describes as unpredictable, Amemiya follows one routine. “I think it’s really important to do something every day on YouTube. That’s what I focus on most of all, just posting updates. Every day. Even if it’s my day off, I still post a video, so I effectively don’t have days off.”

    Streaming starts at 10pm sharp. There was even an esports athlete who said they would watch Amemiya’s streams overseas to check what time it was in Japan. That’s how consistently punctual he is. He never takes a day off from streaming. The recent Red Bull 5G 2021 tournament was an event spanning two days, so he prepared two days’ worth of videos before setting out. It was this pro streamer mindset that made him decide unhesitatingly to participate in Kemonomichi. His biggest motivation is that it’s a chance to gain recognition from people all over the world.

    “I think there are a lot of people who don’t know who I am. I’ll be very happy if I can win and gain their recognition.” There are two Taiyo Amemiyas who want this: Amemiya the world’s best Tetris player, and Amemiya the streamer. The two have a symbiotic relationship, and are inseparable.

    “I’d really like to get serious and make some changes. In some sense I’ve been phoning it in a little during my regular streams. It’s been a really long time since I’ve done something like this, so I can’t wait.” As a streamer, being good at the game isn’t his only strength. Now that he no longer has to expend an inordinate amount of effort worrying about being the best and winning, he can tap into his full potential and take on big challenges as much as he likes.

    Shudder, world, before the terror of a Tetris god unleashed.

    ※Taiyo Amemiya’s Youtube Channel
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  • // Other Story
  • ・SUPER STREET FIGHTER 2X :: Kotaka Shoten.

    ・SUPER STREET FIGHTER 2X :: Yuvega

    ・DODONPACHI DAI-OU-JOU :: fufufu

    ・DODONPACHI DAI-OU-JOU :: SPS

    ・PUYO PUYO TETRIS :: kazu

    ・PUYO PUYO TETRIS :: Amemiya Taiyou

    ・STREET FIGHTER 5 :: Kawano

    ・STREET FIGHTER 5 :: Tokido