My Bro is a bi-weekly Zikoko series that explores and celebrates male friendships of different forms.

Toby and Shonnen became friends in 2013 through their love for games and anime. On today #ZikokoMyBro edition, these young men share their friendship story of watching anime together and playing online games to bridge the distance between them.

Over a decade of friendship

Toby: We’ve been friends for about ten years. But we were acquaintances three years before we actually became friends.

Shonnen: We’ve known each other since 2010, our first year of secondary school.

Toby: We became friends in JSS 3, when we found out we had things in common. We started hanging out to play games and then got into anime together. 

He was already into anime, but I was quite new to it. I’d only watched one season of Naruto. So one day, I saw him exchanging a season of Naruto with a classmate of ours, and we got to talking about it. Then we started exchanging CDs and would talk about the episodes every chance we got.

Shonnen: Our love for anime and games brought us together. Naruto had a lot of seasons, and we couldn’t afford to buy them all, so we came up with the idea of buying different ones and swapping them. We used to swap PC games too.

Toby: Especially the role-playing ones.

Shonnen: The good old Naruto Base days. Life was so simple then.

Our first impression of each other

Toby: He was a cool kid, one of those who also wore ironed uniforms. He’s always had a crazy imagination, which drew us closer because we could concoct stories on paper and build storylines for days.

Shonnen: He was one of those loud and playful kids. I was playful too but nowhere near his level.

Toby: I became gentle later, but omo, I overplayed for a while.

Shonnen: But after we started sharing anime and playing games together, I realised he was more than just the loud classmate. I really got to know him as a person.

Toby: Over time, we both moved towards the midpoint of our extremes. I became a bit less playful, and he got a little more outspoken.

Growing up together

Shonnen: It was a lot of fun.

Toby: We always found ways to hang out, play games and have a lot of adventures together — we had crazy imaginations, so we created storylines and universes based on just words based roleplaying. We’d build a character and level it up well with nice characteristics and basically roleplay them in our imaginary world all with the words and texts we came up with.

Even after graduating from secondary school in 2015, we kept in touch online and reached out whenever we were home from uni.

Shonnen: Now, we have less time for fun with adult things to worry about. Also, I stayed back in Ibadan since I entered uni, while he frequents between IB and Osun state.

Toby: We don’t see each other as much because when I’m not in Osun state with my family, I’m on a work trip. But we keep in touch via online games and social media. 


But distance only affects the time we spend having fun together, not our friendship itself. The connection is always intact whenever we link up.

Our friendship outside of anime and games

Shonnen: Our tastes in everything else are almost worlds apart.

Toby: Actually, they’re not completely different.

Shonnen: He’s like an Alan Walker (producer and electro pop DJ) guy, while I’m more of a Sufjan Stevens (alternative and rock/indie folk artist) guy. He listens to upbeat music generally, and I prefer calm and slow music — indie, alté and the likes.

Toby: That’s the summary. But we jam to the same music sometimes.

I’m more of a beat lover than a lyrics person. I’m more passionate about the symphony, beat and tempo of the whole song. It’s why I enjoy DJ fusions.

Shonnen: But our shared interest in anime and games, and the constant search for money, is what holds our friendship together. Hanging out once in a while just to game online or enjoy anime together is how we hold it together.

Toby: Our friendship is the type where, no matter how long it takes for us to hang out, we always pick up right where we left off. It never feels like we’ve not seen each other in a long time. We still know ourselves at the core; the things that brought us together are still very much things we are interested in.

Shonnen: And we discuss great money making ideas.

Getting used to a long-distance friendship

Toby: It gets weird sometimes. I feel like I might’ve missed a bunch of things that went on in his life, but when we get the chance to catch up, we talk about everything and get each other up to speed. It just comes naturally because we understand that we get busy. No matter how far apart we are, when we’re gaming, we feel like we’re in the same room.

Shonnen: We spent a lot of time growing up together, so a few months of not communicating is nothing.

Toby: We don’t see it as ghosting. We know we’re always a DM away. Chatting online feels almost the same as chatting in real life.

You came through for me

Toby: The first time I ever earned money, in 2020, he was the one who got me the gig. 

I do crypto. There are a lot of times when it gets frustrating, like when I get hacked or lose a lot of money. He’s always there to encourage me, and sometimes, even lend me capital to start over.

Shonnen: One time in 2022, things were a little rough financially, and he put me on this arbitrage stuff — to gain from the difference in FX bank rate and black market rate — and I made enough money till things got better. We come through for each other whenever it’s needed.

What I’d change about you

Shonnen: Maybe have him make less noise, or tune his music taste to be a bit more similar to mine. I’d also change the amount of time we spend together.

Toby: I don’t want any changes. But if I had my way, things would remain the way they were when we were in secondary school. We plan hangouts every now and then, but it’s never enough. I travel a lot for work, and outside that, I split my time between Ibadan and visiting my family in Osun state. When I’m finally in Ibadan, I don’t feel like leaving home for weeks. It takes a lot of willpower to visit him.

Shonnen: We actually have a hangout planned. He should be in IB on Monday (July 17). 

I want you to know

Toby: I always tell him everything I need to tell him without any sort of filter. 

He doesn’t visit enough. I know your side is more active than mine, but I don’t always have to do the visiting.

Shonnen: I’ll visit more.

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