Amid a sea of top player dropouts and breakout performances from MDVA players, it was Polish, the former hometown star, who came on top at Maryland’s Smash Con: Fall Fest. It was his biggest tournament victory of the year, coming with wins over Juicebox, Skerzo, and TheSWOOPER.
As for Juicebox, his second place performance followed up his already impressive run to 17th place at Riptide. At Fall Fest, he double eliminated NoFluxes – prominent Ganondorf player and the self-proclaimed “villain of Chicagoland Melee,” who had a third-place run of his own – as well as beat Khryke, a Maryland (and Pittsburgh) Marth player who snagged wins over Logan and Skerzo.
In other news over the weekend, Frenzy and Professor Pro had another battle for top dog of the United Kingdom at MYTH. This time, Frenzy finished as the victor. The event, per Liquipedia, gave Frenzy the slight lead in their head-to-head (7-6). If it holds for the next two months, it will be the first time that Professor Pro has ever finished a year with a losing record against a fellow U.K. player.
Weekend Twitter Drama
Over the weekend, the Crimson Blur did what he did best: stoke controversy. Upon the news of Smash community figures commentating an official Nintendo Smash Open, he tweeted the following:
Hope the Nintendo money was worth it
— The Crimson Blur (@OXY_Crimson) October 16, 2021
As a bystander, I found the entire conversation fascinating. While the tweet itself was popular among prominent community figures like HugS, it also received a fair bit of criticism. This was due to its implicit personal moralism and sanctimonious tone, as well as Blur’s callous follow-up, where he compared the act of working with Nintendo to being a scab.
— The Crimson Blur (@OXY_Crimson) October 16, 2021
For this column, I will ultimately be doing the unthinkable: defending Blur (sort of). But before doing that, I will first address where his responses fall short in a couple critical ways. Then, I’ll explore the underlying sentiment behind what I think he’s trying to express and do my best to share why it still resonates with many Melee players, including myself.
Sidenote: You’ll have to forgive me for dedicating yet another column to a tweet. It’s been a slow news week, but it’s also an interesting topic – just bear with me.
Was Blur Being Unfair?
When I first got more involved in Melee content creation, Blur was one of my most vocal supporters. He’d happily platform old Smash History articles on his weekly show with tafokints, and back when I was fairly insecure about my future in the scene, I appreciated it. At Genesis 7, I gave him a free copy of my book in gratitude for being, more or less, incredibly supportive of what I do for the scene, as well favorable toward Melee Stats (despite a bad tweet here and there).
Long story short: I have a pretty good professional relationship with Blur, so it’s only fair that I be honest about what I first thought when I saw his comments: “Wow; that’s really funny, but also rich coming from the Twitch employee who tried to kill SoCal Project M.”
To be clear, any contradiction between Blur’s previous actions and his words doesn’t, by itself, make them illegitimate. Nor does it fully contextualize the massive corporate pressure from Nintendo, which was placed on Twitch representatives from the Smash scene. Nonetheless, when you fire public shots of interpersonal moral outrage, you’re going to have a few blasted back at you, especially if enough people perceive you as a hypocrite.
There's a lot of people railing against Nintendo now who gleefully threw PM into the dirt five years ago, and it's so hard not to be jaded about the entire thing
— Wisely (@atWisely) October 17, 2021
Looking at the discussion again, what truly brought this whole discussion into mind-melting territory was the direct comparison of these commentators to strike-breaking workers. That was in bad taste. The Smash community is a loose assortment of friend groups who share a hobby. A unionized workplace is a legally recognized entity that exists to mobilize and represent workers under an employer. Most smashers who do anything more than just play the game are volunteers, freelancers, or underpaid hobbyists. Toph implicitly put it in far more thoughtful terms, than I will: they don’t owe anyone else shit.
…or do they?
A Brief Detour Pt. 1: The Ambi Theory of Left Ayn Rand
Working on Smash content with two of your best friends is incredibly satisfying, but want to know what comes close? Complaining about the community with them. One running gag that me, Wheat, and Ambisinister have during our vent sessions is the Ambi Theory of Left Ayn Rand. Does it sound insane? Of course it does. Can I tie in this ridiculous concept with the original topic of this column? Let’s find out.
In the Ambi Theory of Left Ayn Rand, what drives an individual isn’t profit for themself, but a primary obligation to executing on an idea that they know will provide value to other people. You might think that’s just being a leftist, but what differentiates it is the fact that it’s not done out of some belief in everyone’s greatness. Furthermore, it’s from an understanding that a large portion of who benefits from this work are people who aren’t producing anything. Even worse, they may take it for granted, non-stop complain, and act like spoiled children. Putting it in ironic Randian terms, they are “takers” whose payment towards “makers” is laughably disproportionate.
When you get wobbled so hard that you embrace Ayn Rand's objectivism
— Eryk (@Ambisinister_) January 17, 2016
Now, I don’t quite agree with the way Ambi – a fellow progressive and most certainly not a libertarian – positions the theory (more on this later). To be honest, his juxtaposition of two different beliefs is more funny to think about than take as the truth. I suspect his sense of humor, as well as his penchant for hyperbolic and self-aggrandizing bits, played a role in my dear friend developing this crackpot theory.
However, it does hint at a true emotion that contributors to the scene occasionally feel. This brings us back to the original topic of discussion.
What Do Commentators (Or Contributors) Owe The Scene?
Commentary, just like article writing, podcast creation, documentary production, tournament organizing, and behind-the-scenes administrative work, is something that a few people do for free or relative pennies. When you’ve been doing this for a while, it’s understandable to develop resentment toward your audience. It’s even more tempting to grow an inflated ego and aggressively seek out the few people who hate on your work.
I say that not just based on my personal experiences, but also conversations with my friends, fellow content creators, and tournament organizers. Whether we’re willing to admit it or not, all of us operate with balancing this internal conflict between doing something for the good of the community and managing the gradual bitterness we feel about its diminishing returns.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Edwin, didn’t you just say you were going to defend Blur? Why did you start this column undercutting yourself?” Firstly, Monday Morning Marth is basically my stream of consciousness each week, so don’t expect it to be too organized. But more importantly, it’s worth interrogating the limits of your own perspective in the best faith possible. This way, I can be honest and still conclude that while Blur was being unreasonable in how he couched it, his underlying point had some real basis to it.
Where is Blur Right?
You don’t have to be a scene insider to know that Nintendo’s had a long history of screwing us over. Going over each instance – over the last decade by itself – is a topic worthy of a documentary. For now, I want to bring up a hypothetical for Melee players who saw Blur’s tweet, saw it as insensitive, a bit unprofessional, and maybe even indefensible.
Imagine that you’re enjoying Smash Con: Fall Fest from last weekend. Top 10 players who initially registered still dropped out of the event, but because you like Melee so much and have seen the return of notable events, you’ve tuned in. It’s no Big House (which was cease-and-desisted by Nintendo in the previous year), but it’s a blast watching MD/VA defend its home region; there’s even a bit of charm spending your Sunday afternoon watching NoFluxes back air above the right platform five times in a row vs. Khryke. Eventually, you log onto social media during an intermission.
It’s here where you discover something truly stupefying. Not only is there an official Nintendo Smash Open invitational, but it features HomeMadeWaffles on commentary. When he’s called out on it by Juggleguy, HomeMadeWaffles responds incredulously and talks about how Nintendo gave him everything he loved and how it’s only in the Smash scene that he would get unfairly criticized for it. Even worse, Phil and Webs write to Juggleguy, telling him that the Nintendo bag was absolutely worth it and that the community was filled with uniquely ungrateful people (a real thing tweeted, sadly, in reality by one of the involved commentators).
The idea of this happening is so unthinkable and, frankly, devastating. I don’t think I’m the only person who would feel this way. Sure, none of these people would be scabs, for the reasons I mentioned above, and you can’t blame people for wanting to get properly compensated for doing what they live. But wouldn’t it feel like a betrayal? Is there any any validity in this feeling?
I’m going to do my best to explain my thought process behind these questions. Even if you don’t personally agree with my conclusion, I want you to take what I’m saying in the best possible interpretation so that you fully understand it.
A Brief Detour Pt. 2: The Edwin Theory of Smash Vanguardism
While I empathize with the feelings brought up in The Ambi Theory of Left Ayn Rand, given the factors I introduced above, I would like to reframe that in more cooperative terms: The Edwin Theory of Smash Vanguardism. I truly view being involved in Smash as akin to working in an informal “party,” one in which it’s understood by fellow members that we see greatness in “enough” of each other to contribute cool things together for a game we unabashedly cherish.
It’s not perfect, but compared to other hobbyist – and honestly even professional – circles I’ve been in, Smash has introduced me to an unusual amount of high-achieving people who trust each other to make “enough” community-wide decisions. This is the only group I’m in which which contains one of the most successful streamers in the world, the top “Hitman” speed runner, a former NASA rocket scientist; the list goes on. From the very start, we’ve had to build everything ourselves, and I’d bet that as a result, the people who’ve stuck around are uniquely dedicated to everything they put their heart toward.
The 5 days of Melee have begun!
Com and support melee and Direct Relief! https://t.co/x3Xy5N1QjH
— TSM FTX Leffen (@TSM_Leffen) December 14, 2020
Previously I said, “The Smash community is a loose assortment of friend groups who share a hobby.” That’s something I would argue in the context of not going too far with “scab” comparisons and fully contextualizing the impact of player bans. But I have to acknowledge that it doesn’t entirely describe how we operate. For better or worse, the power of social credit and influence goes a really long way. No matter how you look at it, Smash has sustained everything its worked for because most of us have so deeply bought into the social infrastructure around our hobby, whether we like to admit it or not.
If you squint hard enough, you can recognize it as symbolic and immaterial, but it has real factors. In order for any of this to exist, we had to be willing to put aside enough of our differences to work together in opposition to a developer that’s consistently done worse than negligence; a developer that does what little it can to undermine us at every opportunity.
The idea of working with that same developer, even as a career opportunity, stands as such a stark contrast to fellow contributors in the scene who are trying to keep it alive. On principle, it undermines any semblance of independence for a community that is fighting for its survival; the very work most of us put into not just fulfilling something for ourselves, but lifting the spirits of others and encouraging them to contribute as part of this great tradition and ‘party-esque’ structure we have.
You don’t have to call someone a scab to think that working with Nintendo – as a Smash community representative – is worthy of communal discomfort.
It’s worth noting that the Melee community has a distinctly more antagonistic and established relationship with Nintendo than the Ultimate scene. If you’re an Ultimate fan, player, or commentator reading this, maybe you see your scene as truly independent of Melee and the other scenes which are defined by opposition to Nintendo. Maybe somewhere in your heart, you truly wish for Nintendo to not only be involved with the Ultimate scene. You might even be happy for people who’ve worked hard in that community to gain opportunities with Nintendo and you think those complaining about it are ungrateful brats.
But whether you like it or not, our two scenes are going to be linked together until the inevitable heat death of the universe. Melee and Ultimate are always going to share venues, resources, and even cross-community players because that’s how we’ve been doing it for a decade and across multiple sequels. We’ve done it with an understanding that both of our best interests are tied together. Working with Nintendo undercuts that very relationship we’ve had, with its ups and downs, forever.
If you’re a commentator looking out for your career and you’re sick and tired of being seen as “representing Smash,” that’s absolutely your right. It doesn’t make you a traitor to do what’s best for your career. But the same way that nobody is entitled to control your decisions, no figure of influence is entitled to have the community’s uncritical support. It’s also the right of other contributors in the scene – especially those who help lay the groundwork for other contributors – to interrogate it. It shouldn’t be done to posture individual moral superiority, but as a healthy form of questioning how fellow influencers represent the scene’s interests; about if it’s appropriate for the people we admire (and maybe want to work with) to associate with the company we fear the most.
When positioned this way, I think you’ll discover that the answer is obvious to most people with an active involvement and investment in the scene’s future.