Following up his surprising move to Oregon, Plup won Sunday’s Smash World Tour NA West Finals, also qualifying for the SWT Grand Finals. The other seven players to make it were SFAT, Captain Faceroll, Fiction, S2J, KoDoRiN, Kalamazhu, and Medz.
Earlier on the same day, Leffen won the SWT Europe Finals without dropping a set and also qualifying for the international grand finals. Fellow smashers who made the cut were Trif, Pipsqueak, Professor Pro, Frenzy, Ice, Nicki, and Jah Ridin’.
In other news over the weekend, Wally – a power ranked New Jersey Peach and a player whom I’ve long gassed up within this column – successfully conquered the Northeast heavy field at Saturday’s Mass Madness. Meanwhile, and over in the Midwest, Harry Pogger came out on top of Drephen at the Grail.
Melee Stats released a new film too. Let’s talk about it.
The Game Nintendo Wishes It Never Made – A Behind The Scenes Look
When I first heard that The Big House Online was getting shut down, I wasn’t the only one who felt like the world was crashing. Two of my best friends in Smash, Wheat and Ambisinister, were similarly devastated. We felt a multitude of emotions: helplessness at watching our community potentially have its greatest contribution taken away during a pandemic; sadness at watching one of the biggest supermajors reduced to nothing; and unfiltered rage.
God, there was so much rage. In that Thanksgiving week, all three of us yelled, vented, and swore at each other in Discord calls. It seemed unfair that everything the Smash community had worked so hard for over the prior year was suddenly, arbitrarily deemed worthless. But what especially stood out as infuriating was that it felt recurrent; that it would keep happening; that Nintendo’s mere existence would always get in our way. There was nothing we could do outside of performative posturing to stop it.
We knew we had to do something. We just didn’t know how we were going to do it.
Part 1: The Edwin Cut
I asked the team to let me write the first draft of a video about Nintendo’s history with the Smash scene. I didn’t have a clear head for the project, but what I had was a lot of passion. First, I researched the intricacies of Nintendo’s relationship with the community. I built a timeline for notable events in which Smash ran into problems with the mega-billion dollar company.
Then, I noted other instances of Nintendo’s adversarial relationship with creative communities. To top it off, I rewatched Jon Bois’ and Felix Biederman’s documentary, “Fighting in the Age of Loneliness” for inspiration. I had a three-part thesis for this project.
- Nintendo hates Smash because it’s a large company that owns intellectual property, which then allows them to stifle innovation and creativity from dedicated fans.
- Nintendo brings out the worst elements of its fans and our scene.
- Nintendo is not the only company that would do this, and you should never ever forget it because capitalism (or, if you don’t like loaded terms like that, creative and economic monopolies) sucks the life out of everything.
Upon reading it, both Wheat and Ambi told me, “we can’t run this.” It wasn’t that the script was poorly written. if anything, that was part of the problem. This draft was not something that would give anyone hope, the one thing the Smash scene needed more than anything.
At first, I dismissed their criticisms. I didn’t care about hope. I wanted every person in the Smash scene to fully realize the implications of Nintendo’s negative relationship with the community; to understand just how much bitterness I felt toward the company and even our own helplessness. But Ambi asked me a simple question: was this video going to make people want to play our game and join our community? It stopped me in m thought about it before noticing that I had a chapter titled, “Intellectual Property and the Real.”
The truth became clear. It was a good start, but the Edwin Cut needed to go.
Part 2: The Critical Two Weeks
In what can only be described as having immense fortitude, Ambi sat down with my script by himself, reading it in full detail. I say this because I imagine that going over some of what I had written would have brought him panic attacks because it was so negative. A few days later, he came back to me and Wheat with another script, made with the goal of de-clawing the original. It was also written with a different perspective: to gradually strip away Nintendo’s plausible deniability in their actions toward our scene. As Ambi would put it, we needed to deradicalize Nintendrones.
I have spent way too much of my free time today going through wannabe Nintendo influencer and Nintendo fanboy responses to #FreeMelee and #SaveSmash. My god, this shit doesn't get me mad – it just actually depresses me at this point
— Edwin (@edwin_budding) November 24, 2020
Wheat wanted to make sure that when the video came out, the script would be perfect. For about two weeks, he’d voice call me every other day, leaving comments over the most minor phrasings, and reviewing them with me. The two of us worked together on editing the draft, repositioning different sentences, and finding the best angles to tell each particular segment of the story. Both of us wanted this video to be something that would stand the test of time; a product that anyone loosely within the gaming sphere could watch at any time and take something away from.
I wish I could say that this process was equally led by the two of us. That wouldn’t be telling the truth. For every time I’d catch him improperly using a dangling modifier, he’d roast me twice as hard for unironically saying the word “assholes” in a sentence. When I look back at these two weeks, it blows my mind how lost we would have been without Wheat’s input. Without his ability to counter-balance my raw emotion in the editing process, the video dies.
Eventually, we had a complete draft of the script, but something felt missing. Additionally, a lot had changed since we started working on the video. Ludwig had announced his charity event in the face of Nintendo pressure. As content creators, we had also been involved ourselves in the community-wide effort, the Five Days of Melee. The scene pushed back, in its own way, against its corporate overlord, and it was too late to work any further on what we had.
WE HAVE RAISED $42,000 FOR THE UPCOMING LACS 3: CHARITY EDITION
AND IF NINTENDO CD'S ME WE'LL ANNOUNCE ONE FOR THE NEXT MONTH
AND THE MONTH AFTER THAT
AND THE MONTH AFTER THAT
UNTIL I DRAW MY LAST FUCKING BREATH#SAVESMASH
— ludwig (@LudwigAhgren) November 24, 2020
At the same time, we knew that our efforts were worth something in the future. One day, we would look back on what we had written and repurpose it for something else…or we’d just wait until some dumb shit happens with Nintendo.
Part 3: Some Dumb Shit Happens with Nintendo
Eight months later, Riptide announces that it’s cutting its Project M event. Ambi messages the two of us, saying he was going to work on a new intro, new conclusion, update our Project M chapter with the latest news accordingly, and make a few minor fixes here and there on the script. A week later, after I interviewed Sabre, a prominent leader within the Project M community, Ambi, Wheat, and I finally reached the ultimate draft of the script. I had even directed most of the soundtrack direction for the video, with Ambi letting me know what worked and what didn’t.
The next question was about the people who would narrate it. Ambi and I initially headed into the project thinking that all three of us would voice over the video. When the three of us finally met in Boston for something unrelated, Wheat dropped a bombshell: we should pick only one. Selfishly, I wanted my voice in the video as a marker of ownership; a means to show the world that I was indeed involved within this project more than just having my name featured in it and having the Edwin Cut remain an in-joke with our patrons.
But I thought about it more and Wheat was right. Having multiple narrators – for no discernible purpose – added nothing to the video. Moreover, because Ambi had written such a personal intro, one that I initially pushed back against, but gave up on doing upon not being able to think of something else, it seemed only right that Ambi would take on the most terrifying responsibility: not just acting as our producer and our voice, but the community’s voice.
People seem to be concerned that the new Melee Stats video is going to make Nintendo magically hate us even more than they already do, so just in case that happens I want to apologize in advance
— Eryk (@Ambisinister_) October 19, 2021
“Grateful” doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about the massive effort that Ambi put into this project. He spent multiple nights – all while balancing a day job and his personal obligations – working on Google Earth in Linux, coming up with the visual direction for this project by himself and piloting it to the very end.
It was the first thing he had fully produced for us and released since Savestate vs. Armada in late 2020. upon watching the first complete draft, I was left in tears. It was the greatest thing our team had ever made and it wasn’t even complete. A month later, after reviewing it with other Melee Stats members and incorporating their feedback, we had a Patron draft. Today, the final film is out, and I couldn’t be more proud.
For those of you surprised that the video was not as incendiary as its trailer, I understand. The final product was a composed and focused vignette of different stories entailing the Smash scene’s antagonistic relationship with Nintendo – not a brutal hit piece. Ultimately, all three of us just thought it would be a better direction.
I also want to note that we deliberately kept out details about Smash leadership’s professional struggles with Nintendo. We wanted to tell a very specific story about how, in spite of every barrier we faced, a community of passionate individuals aimed their efforts in this one direction. Talking about failed circuits, missed opportunities, etc. wouldn’t have necessarily undermined that point, but it would have necessitated a slight change in the perspective of the video. We felt the remaining message, and its resonance with someone who wasn’t in our scene, was best left undiluted.
At the end of the day, Melee is not a profession for most people. But to my friends, myself, and many others, it’s a small corner of the world that we made for ourselves, fully knowing that nothing is really “owned.” This community is an opportunity for every one of its members to recognize their own greatness; to take part of our wonderful grassroots tradition; to bring the best out of each other; to find freedom in doing what we love most with the people we never knew we could cherish for a lifetime.