On Smash Brothers, the most passionate of love stories.
For those of you who don’t know me, a brief bio:
I’m pushing 30, and in the past year, I’ve moved a few hours away from my home town, gotten married, and about a week ago, my wife and I had our first child. I guess the reason that stuff is relevant, is because I’m essentially saying that I’m an ‘adult’. That being said… I have a passion for a video game. A real, in-depth passion. A type of passion that gives me the chills as I write this sentence. On the surface, that’s pretty strange, and I absolutely understand that it seems that way, so let me delve further.
I grew up playing video games very casually. My neighbors had a Super Nintendo, and we had an NES and eventually got a Sega Genesis. So games have always been present. But to be a 30-year-old man with a family, it’s different to have a passion over something as trivial as a fighting game featuring Nintendo characters. I realize it, too, it’s definitely strange…but I hope this will explain it to you guys, and hopefully some family members who assuredly are waiting for me to ‘grow up’… whatever the hell that entails.
Growing up, I struggled pretty badly with anxiety. Panic attacks, fainting at school…and without much merit. I had a great childhood, no trauma or anything scarring- just a nervous/anxious/uncomfortable person. The only thing that keeps me from thinking myself into a crippling panic attack is keeping my mind busy. When I’d get really ‘in my head,’ you’d notice me go on ridiculous reading fits. Multiple books at a time, reading throughout the night. It took me out of my head and into the author’s. Pretty standard stuff, nothing new, all a very common attributes of anxiety.
But everything changed when I started playing Super Smash Brothers Melee back in about 2002, around the time when it came out. My brother in law took me to Game Zone, a local game store that’s still there to this day and bought me a GameCube. I got Melee a few months later and played it casually for years, and that was the extent of it until a few years ago when the newest one came out for the Nintendo Wii U.
Trying not to bore you all to death, the game is basically a chess match. If I do X, he’ll do Y, then I can do Z. Its an insanely complex game once broken down. To the point where I have almost 400 hours into one character and I’m still pretty bad at the game. I’ve done pretty well at some local tournaments, but I’m by no means a prodigy or future professional player (they exist, top level smash players make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through sponsors, streaming on the internet and tournament winnings.)
But to me, it’s a release. It takes me out of my head and gives me something to strive for and to think on. Smash is philosophy, reason, logic, art and theory all tied together with a crisp bow of reaction time and conscious effort. I know that sounds extreme and immature and overstated, but to me it’s not. The game doesn’t rely on memorized combos like Street Fighter or Tekken or Mortal Kombat does, Smash is a freestyle rap battle. Make things up on the fly, be optimal, read your opponent, force them into doing something you want them to. Skill can only take you so far, and then it becomes a mind game.
It’s absolute fluidity from my fingertips. It’s bliss.
I’ve played some of the best players in Arizona and I’ve at least kept the games respectable, and that’s an accomplishment that I am so proud of. When I’m not playing the game, I’m thinking about it. Improvements, style, punishing. Watching tutorials on YouTube or international tournaments that feature top players from 6 continents.
During all of this…it’s all time that I’m not thinking about other things.
I’m not depressed, nervous or lying in bed thinking about things that will result in bloodshot eyes the next morning.
I know this all reads as cliche or silly, but it’s also very true.
Smash is embedded into my psyche.
It’s the desperate inhale after holding my breath, and the euphoric high afterwards. It’s confidence and security.
I guess the last thing I’d like to say is to refrain from judgement. We all have things that get us through. For my father, it’s fishing, for my mother, its going to garage sales, and for me, it happens to be a fighting game with Nintendo characters.
Respect whatever that thing may be to someone else, and be happy for them that they’ve found it, because not everyone does.