The Undying Fire: Maturation as a Competitor

Doc kids are growing up. The wide world of competitive Melee has lost some of the luster. I remember the early days of my journey in 2015. After years of forgetting Melee, never hearing about the heights it went, I played the game with some college buddies. The game was completely different from what I remembered. Somebody pointed me towards the documentary. I spent days taking in old tournaments and basic Melee history. I was captivated. I had to have a part of this world. I wanted to be in the magical realm of respected top players. I researched local tournaments, and went to every single one that my wallet would allow.

To me, that was the Summer of '69 I never had in high school. It was a dream the whole way through. I traveled throughout New York, and made a handful of friends throughout the state. I still talk to a few of them, even after moving across the plains to Utah. 2015 was a year of sparkly imaginations and a fire that burned day and night. I would fall asleep to VoDs, and wake up wanting to play more Smash.

I don’t know when the feeling changed. The dream-like state that enraptured who I was, is gone. The idea that I can climb to the top through fiery dedication has been dampened by reality. I feel as if I’ve come down off of a high I wasn’t even aware of. It’s odd to compare the emotions that I feel now to the ones that plagued me even last summer. It feels like such a switch in expectation that I feel as if I ought to worry about giving up.

But it’s weird. The fire is still there. Melee is still one of my biggest passions, and I haven’t lost the want, the need, to push myself as high as I can go. When I look over my budget, and see that I can make a tournament, even one, I get excited. Even getting beat down time and time again by the same people won’t kill that feeling. It’s entrenched in me. The fire can’t seem to go out. I want to fight, and I want to be better.

I was scared that the fire would die someday. It’s happened far too often in my life. I find something that seems unique and I want to try it. I push and push, and then reality sinks in. The fire usually dies with it. Programming, theatre, novel writing. All of them had a honeymoon period that was put out when I realized that the dream-like feeling was gone. Melee is one of the few things in my life that it hasn’t happened to. It’s one of the few aspects of my life that has lived on, even when the reality of the mountain has set in. The work doesn’t seem like some huge barrier. It’s just part of a bigger picture that I’m still getting a grasp on.

I’ve seen what happens when the fire goes out. People I used to play with have stopped playing. They watch major tournaments, and feel the energy that Melee bleeds. But they just can’t feel that desire to pick up a controller and push themselves. In an odd way, I can relate. I love to look over code, and read up on news in the world of AI development. I just can’t feel right putting together my own programs anymore.

But Melee can’t die in me. While some just can’t see themselves picking up a controller again, I can’t see myself without one. Melee has become more than a hobby. It’s a part of me now, and a huge driving force of who I am and what I do. I know I’m not the only one. I’ve seen people like me. Players who have been tempered by reality, and have lost the glamour that came with starting out. Yet, they will play, and fight, and grow. It’s a big shift in this generation. The doc kids finally getting over the sparkles, and pushing forward. We’re growing up, and learning just how much of ourselves truly being good takes. For some, it’s sudden. For others, like myself, it’s that slow shift into understanding.

Honestly, I’m feeling okay with the change. I’ve put more actual work into understanding the game, and finding the parts I’ve missed in my haste. I’ve grown more appreciative of top players, given just how hard it’s been to get where I am even now. Having a bit of scope has also allowed me to try my hand at writing again. Apparently, people like the words I put on paper. I’ll never understand why. I just like to puke words, and Melee has given me more of an outlet than anything else.

Whatever the outcome, I’m glad that I found Melee. There’s a lot less fuzziness in my life as a result. I may not be shaking in excitement anymore, but I like where I am, and where I’m heading.