Hikaru No Go Effect
MrKoala: I guess I'll start. In France, Hikaru no Go has had a great effect bringing youths to discover the game of go.
My former club (when I was a student last year) in Toulouse has tripled in size in one year. Last year, it had around 40 federation licensed members. Now, they're over a hundred (something like 120). JSYN, Toulouse is a great student city. During school year, one fifth of the population are students. (100 000 out of 500 000) The go club even had to change their meeting point! Formerly, it was in a nice pub (near Pont des Demoiselles), now they're parasiting Toulouse Bridge Club! (Town center, same building than M6 and Air France)
Now, I'm member of the go club in Nice which counts a dozen members every bishop's death (french idiom meaning "not often") and I see some high school student coming at the club who want to discover go. And the first thing you see is they handle the stones correctly while they tell you that they only played on internet. You can even feel that they enjoy this! Hikaru no Go is great.
I guess it's the same in Bordeaux, Montpellier, Lyon, and Paris. If people from this town could verify this suspicion, it would be great!
For the overall figures in France, there were 800 federation licensed players at the end of last year, now there are (waiting for the wc -l to finish...) 1100, and we're only in the middle of the year, which means that not every formerly licensed player has renewed their federation license and that newcomers are still to come.
Dieter: Belgium has a Dutch speaking part and a French speaking part. Recently we have seen a major increase in attendance on the southern front, in particular in the Liège club. While the personalities of the people in charge surely plays an important role, the Hikaru effect is undeniable. The northern clubs are still struggling with keeping the inflow leveled with the natural outflow. Now that Hikaru is being translated into English - which has become the Flemish' natural second language over the last decade, before it was French - we hope for a similar effect in the next few years.
Blake: I wonder how much longeivity the 'Hikaru no Go' inspired players will display? The anime and manga are already finished, I understand--what will happen when they get old? This burst of interest may be a false start.
Dieter: Every start may be a false start. We learnt the game through quite an obscure book. Hikaru may be finished but it will not so soon glide into oblivion, I reckon. Every sport or hobby needs a critical mass. Hikaru may well have brought us across that critical mass.
amc: I saw a story once (here?) by a member of a Go club that said that the youths coming in and taking their first steps at Go after reading HikaruNoGo were already into the traditions of the game and such, like knowing to hold the pieces correctly even before knowing what an Atari is. Do you guys confirm this? Do the kids go for the whole ritualistic aspects, or just be typical kids? Do they say "Please", "Thank you", hold the pieces correctly, and all that? If so, it would be a quite interesting development.
- mAsterdam: My daughter (12) holds the stones better than I do. She really would like to have a legged goban. She eats Ramen - Hikaru's favourite noodles. She had me try canned coffee (Relax in a cup of total enjoyment - tastes good :-) and started learning Japanese. She is rapidly catching up on me. Exceptional? I don't know.
Blake: I discovered Go because I installed a Linux distribution (mandrake, if I remember correctly) that had cgoban in its 'games' package. While toying around with the distro, I discovered the program, and the game... I don't suppose there could be a more prosaic way of finding it, and I suppose someone watching Hikaru no Go and seeing the game for the first time has at least as good a chance of sticking with it as I did :) Perhaps, eventually, it will be a genuinely lively game in the West.
Tamsin: I suspect what needs to happen for go to take off in the West would be the appearance of an exceptionally strong American or European player (a player on a par with Go Seigen or Sakata Eio rather than Michael Redmond, wonderful though the latter's achievement is), somebody who would win major titles in abundance in Japan or Korea. That might attract major media attention in the West. In other words, we need not so much a Hikaru No Go Effect as a Bobby Fischer Effect.
Charles Actually, I disagree with that - though it is representative of the way chess players think about things. Go can perfectly well expand steadily by doing sensible promotion, rather than just hope to grab a great deal of prestige by some major coup.
Velobici: The emergence of a very strong American or European player will not result in large numbers of people learning to play Go and playing regularly. Lance Armstrong has won the last four Tours de France and is well placed to win five in a row, thereby becoming the second person in history to do so. Even if Lance wins six or six in a row, cycling will continue to be an insignifcant sport in the United States. The same will hold with Go.
Rather the effect that mAsterdam cites above will create growing number of Go players over generations. As parents play and their children learn, knowlege and love of the game will spread in the Western world. (Provided of course that go players, often well educated and financially better off, choose to have children. Given current demographic trends in the United States and Europe, this outcome is in doubt.)
Tamsin: Lacking the Windows 2009 Edition of "Crystal Ball", who can say what will happen when a truly great Western player emerges? Personally I don't want to see another Bobby Fischer (think of the damage such an attitude would do to the courteous traditions of go in the Far East), but I do hope my friend and teacher Alexandre Dinerchtein exceeds all expectations and succeeds in his stated goal to make go much more popular in the West.
Lutin: Just to let you know that I stumbled on SL the other day, found the reference on Hikaru No Go and got hooked (again) on Go after I left it for a while (I'm still a beginner but can too easily get interesting in too much things at the same time :). The problem is that I don't have enough time to play. Maybe I should try to convince my wife that the game's interesting, but I doubt it. Besides, our 5 months old daughter still need more attention than Go :-)
HolIgor: Make a truce with chess clubs. Let them be chess & go clubs. I found an interesting interview on the site of the Ukrainian go federation. The interviewed person was a guy who won European championship in under 12 division. His parents brought him to a chess club to play chess. But it seems they played more go than chess in that club. It is a club in a comparetively small town. The coach there is a 1d guy. It seems he raised about 10 kids of the 1d or 2d strength. Most of them will leave active go after school for sure but will remain quite good players.
The idea is that while chess attracts more random people, the game of go will take its share of them. The basic rules are simple. This is not shogi or xiangqi or chess. Those games have too many rules to learn even before you can play the first game. With go a person can put stones on the board in 5 minutes.
LaTomate: I'm actually member of the Bordeaux Go Club, and the Hikaru effect has a big influence in the influx of new players. The person who taught me go 2 years ago is a friend of mine and a fan of Hikaru (although I am not). Before that I had hardly ever heard of go! The Hikaru effect has a negative edge though, which is that most people hope to turn pro in 2 years like Hikaru, and end up leaving after 2 or 3 club meetings when they discover it isn't an easy game (I now beat my initiating friend at 9 stone handicap, since he quit the game). But the effect still is a good thing, since many people stay on, and persevere!
sidek?: I am a member of a Go club in Canada. When Hikaru No Go was serialized in Shonen Jump, we saw a huge swelling of players (I, actually, had just started playing go after having given up chess, although I didn't find go through Hikaru) . Until the end of its serialization, our beginner nights were full. None of the "Hikaru Wave" stayed playing go, though. The only beginners from that time that are still at the Go Club weren't exposed through Hikaru, so I question whether it really did swell the ranks of Go players. Can anyone else comment on how the members of the Hikaru Wave fared in their Go clubs?
TallGuy?: I can't comment on the Hikaru effect on my go club since there isn't one in my hometown, but I discovered go through Hikaru no Go and I have taught three of my friends how to play and I've taught my friends 8yr old son how to play. None of them have seen or read Hikaru no Go, despite my urging. We'll see how long they and I last, but I intend to stay with this. I love Go. :)