Over the last week, the international COVID-19 pandemic has drastically disrupted the Melee community. Because of the public health crisis, Full Bloom 6 and Pound 2020 have been cancelled, and HFLAN has been rescheduled for a later date.
Majors are not the only events that are suspended. An unnamed New York City regional that Hax was planning for late April has also been stopped, as was CT GamerCon in Connecticut. In Champaign, Illinois, House of Pain 23 has been put on hold.
For this edition of Monday Morning Marth, I talked to a variety of TOs about how their respective regions are dealing with the pandemic.
COVID-19’s Impact on Melee
On Wednesday, Hax posted an update about his local in New York City, stating that its events would be put on hold for the indefinite future. Though he didn’t mention COVID-19 specifically, the implications of his announcement carried the obvious subtext that it was due to concerns about the virus and the danger it posed for attendees.
i've decided to shut down Hax's Nightclub for the time being so that my friends can prioritize their health
i'm crying for the first time in years. paradise came and went pic.twitter.com/moxOLucmAT
— EMG | Hax$ (@ssbmhax) March 10, 2020
Not soon after, more local scenes responded. Following the latest edition of the SG Melee local, Gtown_Tom, a leading tournament organizer in New England Melee – specifically New Hampshire and Massachusetts – announced that he would be indefinitely suspending all his events. His statement, posted on New England Melee, is partially below:
Hello friends. On behalf of Balance Patch, Game Underground, and everyone else behind NGPR and SG, New Game Plus Revolution at Balance Patch and Smashing Grounds at Game Underground have been indefinitely suspended due to the Coronavirus outbreak. We value the safety of our attendees, and don’t feel it is wise or safe to continue hosting at this time. When it comes to a possible return date, I will make no commitments regarding this, as we have no idea how long this is gonna take to blow over. It could be awhile.
I reached out to GTown afterward and he affirmed to me how disappointing the news was in particular for CT GamerCon, which expected to draw out 8 Top 100 players as well as a variety of Northeast talent, yet was also cancelled. To add to the news, on Sunday, Connecticut TO Arty wrote on the Connecticut Melee Facebook group that “all events at Hall of Gaming will be postponed until further notice.” Former CT TO Stoc is planning on running some Netplay tourneys in response to the lack of active local events within New England.
From New York’s scene, fellow member of Hax’s Night Club DarkGenex confirmed to me that in addition to the local being indefinitely cancelled, any regional in the region would most likely be done for with regards to the next six weeks. Similarly, New Jersey’s Vestboy_Myst told me that his events would similarly be put on hold.
As far as the Atlantic South is concerned, I talked to Wills – a Georgia TO for the NCK Monthly series – and Chi, who manages North Carolina’s most dense subregion, Raleigh Durgam. Wills’ event is put on indefinite hold due to its status as a university sanctioned event. Chi told me all his events were on hold, though he had optimism for a Netplay local to bring the scene together during the local hiatus.
In the Midwest, my contact was Champaign’s Killablue. Similar to how the NCK Monthly was limited by university decisions, the Champaign scene has basically become entirely inactive. “As of March 12th, both our Ultimate and Melee weeklies have been cancelled until further notice,” Killablue said, mentioning his hope that events can continue as normal after April 8. Similarly, Wisconsin events have all ended in the short-term – with Netplay brackets as current alternatives.
When I reached out to KoDoRiN, the UCI TO, about the state of his weeklies, his response was “you can probably guess the answer.” In addition to letting me know that the weeklies were now over, KoDoRiN mentioned that the latest edition of Zotcade – which was expected to have a $100 pot bonus – had to be cancelled as well.
American TOs weren’t the only people I talked to. Stockholm’s Red told me was willing to wait “countless” months before a tournament in his region could happen again. Though he’s preparing Netplay events in the meantime, Red mentioned that for Sweden, the country had lost an upcoming event that was supposed to be its biggest Melee event in eight months.
Call to Action for TOs
The outbreak will have consequences for how we operate within our scene. I’ve seen a lot of discussion brought about how the Smash World Tour will function in the near-future with such a heavy blow to entrants at events, but for most people, this isn’t going to directly affect them. Most of the TOs I spoke to about the SWT predicted that it would have no choice other than to cancel events over the next month at the very least, but ultimately the fate of a world circuit is entirely speculation.
What’s more concerning is that public gatherings of any kind are going to see a drop off or entirely stop. It’s especially scary because in-person public gatherings are the heart of Melee. Without them, the scene has basically Netplay as the last alternative.
Frankly, we don’t have another choice. I don’t blame Jebailey for continuing to run CEO Dreamland given how sudden the news revelation was, but to see so many people attend the event was still worrying. These are people who are now likely in direct danger, potential carriers, or both. Therefore, my immediate call to action for TOs is simple: stop any event planning for the next three months. There is too much at risk.
Call to Action for Smashers
I was a child during 9/11 – and I can tell you that this current public health crisis is the most insane cultural event of my adult lifetime. Never in my life did I ever think that my day-to-day would be impacted by an event like this, let alone a hobby that I share with most of my close friends, but here I am, and you’re here too.
I’ll keep this short: if you play Melee and are active in your local scene, regardless of showing symptoms or not, stop attending them. If you are showing symptoms of being sick with COVID-19, self-quarantine, call your medical provider and get testing as soon as possible. And for the sake of the Melee scene, please speak out about your experiences; you have no idea how valuable your stories could be for anyone listening to them. We are all in this together.
When I asked local TOs what else they wanted to tell me other than what they already said, two responses stood out: Chi’s and DarkGenex’s. I’ve put them below.
“Melee, like many other hobbies, is a venture best enjoyed when your life is in relative order. If needed, use this time to sort things out and move towards health and happiness so that when the pandemic clears, you’re in the best position you can be to dedicate whatever you can to the game.” – Chi
To follow updates on the Coronavirus updates from across the globe, check here.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I will be periodically updating this piece with more updates from other Melee regional TOs.