How Competition changed Super Smash Bros.

Professional Super Smash Bros. Melee player Mang0 (black hair and beard) at a tournament. Labeled for reuse via under the Creative Commons License

Andrew Jones, Fall Editor

Gameplay of Smash Ultimate. Labeled for reuse via under the Creative Commons License

Competition has been in games since they were created. The first commercially successful video game, Pong, is a game where you bounce a ball with a long white bar against another player with the same objective. You score points when the other player misses, and the game essentially goes on forever, but it could be considered as the first official example of competition in video games.

The first official video game tournament was on October 19th, 1972, at Stanford University. It was on a game called Spacewar, which was a very simple shoot-em-up game, where you control a spaceship, shoot lasers at enemy ships, and avoid the lasers they fired at you. The prize for winning this tournament was a year-long subscription to Rolling Stone, and the tournament attracted over 10,000 entrants. 

The time of the first ever Super Smash Bros. tournament is relatively unknown, but the game was a major commercial success at the time of its release of January 21st, 1999. From this, we can assume the first competitive smash tournament was roughly sometime in between 1999 – 2000.

Smash is now on its sixth installment with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Being released on December 7th, 2018, the game still gets frequent updates and downloadable content patches. The game’s competitive longevity has already been seen from viewer retention, pulling in nearly 300,000 viewers at the game’s biggest event so far, Evolution 2019.

Even so, much smaller, local events are hosted weekly in practically every area of the United States. Players from completely different backgrounds, demographics, and ages, all meet up together to compete in the game they love. Our own school even hosted a Smash tournament, in March of last year.

The Fusion Weekly hosted by SquareOne smash tournament happens every Monday in Linden, New Jersey, so I decided it would be a good idea to stop by and take some time to interview some local, regional, and even worldwide talents.

The first person I interviewed was Juice, a competitive smash player from Pennsylvania. He’s 2nd on the Philadelphia Power Ranking, a list made to show the best players in the region. He got into competitive smash from playing with his cousins whose friends brought him into the competitive scene. BONK!, another competitor from PA, ranked #9 on the Power Ranking,  started competing from friends from the online first person shooter, Team Fortress 2. 

Out of all of the players I interviewed, half of them said they started playing Smash from playing against a family member. Venia, the #4 player in New York, started from his brother. “He told me, “Man, you’re not even that good. Why don’t you take that to a tournament if you think you’re so good.” And sure enough, that’s what I did, and I found a love for competing. Like some sibling rivalry stuff, you know?” he said.

Kopter, a competitor from the UK with 2,500 followers on Twitter, started competition with online friends. “When [Super Smash Bros for Wii U.] came out, I was playing other competitive games and there was a huge major in The Netherlands. All my friends who lived around the Netherlands were gonna meet up there for the first time, because we had only known each other online. So we meet up, offline, at this big Smash tournament, we all enter, we did terrible, but it was a good experience!” He advised people to compete in tournaments, saying “It’s a good thing to do, to challenge yourself.”

The community is another major force in the competitive scene. Kelvin, the owner and manager of SquareOne who also manages the tournament, says “I love the community, I love the things we do here, and I love the fam.” Rivers, the previous 18th best player worldwide, started from the original Smash game on the Nintendo 64. He started because of his love of the game, and “stayed in it mostly because of the community, ‘cause they’re great.” 

Smash Ultimate’s competitive scene is thriving, and with patch 7.0.0, adding a new downloadable character, stage, music, and character balances, it shows no sign of stopping.