Smash Bros Competitive Gaming
Commentary and Experience
By Dan Tucker
Have you played a Super Smash Bros. game (known in the land of the rising sun as Dairantō Smash Brothers)? I’m guessing you have, since Smash as a series has been a Nintendo staple since 1999. We’ve been smashing and meteoring our friends to grisly, explosive deaths for the better part of 20 years now. That’s a lot of burnt stocks (a single “stock” being a life in the game, should you be playing survival and not for score). I’ve played a lot of Smash myself, but only recently this year was I turned onto the competitive scene. My eyes have been opened. For years I’ve been a Casual Scrublord, not privy to the true depth every single game in the series offers.
I guess I should take you to where it all began for me: All That and a Bag of Chips, a small local business in Denver, or more specifically Aurora. All That’s business model is simple: pay a five dollar cover charge, get a brown paper bag full of snacks, one (1) bag of chips, find a seat amongst the bevy of CRTs and LCDs, and pick up a controller and play until the place closes if you so desire. After work one day I just so happened to enter on the day of their weekly Smash tournament, which is lovingly referred to as “Wavedash Wednesday.” More on what a Wavedash is later.
I knew I wanted in as soon as I saw it. Men of all caliber and backgrounds huddled around old glowing tube televisions, shouting derision and merriment at every K.O. And to my surprise, one of my co-workers was in the mix. Unbeknownst to me at the time, he was a nationally ranked Smash player. And with that, I had my in. Over the next few weeks he showed me the ropes, giving me sessions in his proverbial “dojo.” We mostly played the iteration of Smash known as Project M, a community mod designed to bring Brawl closer to Melee, the competitive community’s preferred game. I began learning the hidden secrets of Smash, typically referred to as Advanced Techniques, or “Tech” for short (not to be confused with a tech, or “breakfall” quick rise after damage). Most of these techniques are unique to Melee and Project M.
The most widely known by casual players is of course, the Wavedash. This was the first move I learned, as a sort of primer to how the animations in game can be manipulated to achieve results totally unintended by the developers. I learned that the air dodge has a sort directional input which can change your momentum midair to a small degree, giving you the ability to avoid projectiles or dangerous hits, at the cost of some recovery time later. I also learned that momentum in air can actually carry into the ground, and that different characters even have differing levels of friction when on the ground. What this means is that a carefully chained short hop (a 5 some frame tap of the jump button) followed by an airdodge directed into the ground can actually cause you to float across the ground like a wizard.
And that was it. After mastering that move, I was hooked. The list of things you can do in this fashion to exploit the game’s animations and physics are lengthy, and I took it all in. I’ve since placed in the top 8 of a few local tournaments, something I didn’t think possible a year ago. Smash is one of the easiest games to learn, but experience lends an incredible amount of credence to one’s game. The community is extremely welcoming too, as long as you’re always striving to improve yourself and those around you.
That is, until you have entered a Lion’s Den. And no, I’m not talking about our local chain of naughty adult stores. A Lion’s Den is a sacred place, something I was only invited to after showing serious potential in Smash. A Lion’s Den is only a Lion’s Den, of course, if there are at least two very serious looking black men in wifebeaters. On top of that, the room must be crowded to the point where walking through becomes a serious challenge. There must be no air conditioning, and a room temperature of at least 88 degrees. There must be at least four Smash setups, but ideally enough for everyone to be playing a game at once. Once you enter, you may not leave until daybreak the following morning.
That was a bit of a tangent, but I feel it is the best example of what the Smash culture can be like, and in some strange way I was honored to be invited to this gathering of professional players. Everyone in the room was someone who was in some way making money playing video games. The community has even developed it’s own colorful language of insults and in-jokes based purely on Nintendo characters (a Fox and Falco match being a Pilot vs. Co-Pilot fight for galactic glory, for instance). It is all highly unusual, and an absolute blast.
So I recommend you join us this Monday at Nerd Night so we can all play some Smash Bros. together, and learn what it’s really about: A coming together of all people. Racial tension, economic status, physical disabilities, all of that goes away when you play Smash. When the game starts, it’s only about one thing: Who is the real killer?
My name is Dan, and I’ve been playing Smash competitively since May 2014. Many others have been playing far longer! If you’re interested, check out http://www.twitch.tv/
Get in on the fun!