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How my obsession with containment for Super Smash Bros led me to a vital revelation | Games

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Thirty is definitely not the best age to start an esports career. In this world, I am old, with back pain and reflexes about as sharp as a wooden spoon. But nonetheless, earlier this year I found myself standing in a dimly lit bar in east London, huddled among the city’s biggest players of Super Smash Bros., Nintendo’s beloved fighting game. As the throng of contestants reminisced about previous tournaments and shared high-level skills, I apprehensively looked at my name on the tournament leaderboard, hoping no one would find out that I only started playing Smash there. ‘last year.

At the risk of sounding like the narrator of a ’90s teen movie, let’s step back. My Smash obsession started during the happy lockdown era. As Covid-19 exploded in devastating and invisible ways, the humble Bow apartment I shared slowly transformed from a fun party space into a cramped, claustrophobic prison. We’ve done our best to keep things light with bike rides, wrongly sized portions of weed brownies, and increasingly ridiculous theme parties – but Super Smash Bros Ultimate was what it really was. . got me through the mind-numbing ordeal of 2020.

As one of the few games that my longtime friend and roommate Akbar played, this wacky looking fighter became our multiplayer hangout, our big night out. On leave, stressed and with little means to channel my growing frustration, being humbled by Akbar’s roster of cartoon characters was a welcome escape for me and our other roommate, Andrew – much to the dismay of our non-gamer friends. .

Get Away … Fans are playing Super Smash Bros on Nintendo Switch at E3 2018 in Los Angeles. Photograph: Frederic J Brown / AFP / Getty Images

Because Akbar had been playing since the series’ genesis on N64, and I struggled to grasp even the basics of the game, these showdowns in the living room weren’t a fair fight at first. But in 10 grueling months, we’ve collectively dedicated 600 hours to the Brawler. I found myself reading the Smash patch notes, watching videos from pro gamers, and practicing on my own. When the lockdown was lifted, I moved into my own apartment – but my hunger for Smash was far from over. So I signed us all up for this tournament – a move my third brother from Smash Ed called “getting dragged into Tom’s public humiliation fetish.”

One of three regular London Smash tournaments, East London Smash (ELS) had the smallest slice (20 competitors) and the smallest prize pool (£ 40). The disarmingly kind event organizer, known only as Aggressive Duck, informed us that they are hosting potential ranked players who are recognized as the best in the UK and Europe. So no pressure.

At the tournament, pints in hand, we went through the list of competitors. Faced with such formidable fighters as Crispy, DAT: RePtile and GimpBizkit, it was clear that we had our work cut out for us. To make matters worse, as my motley ensemble played friendly matches to warm up, we ran into someone who had been in four UK based tournaments last week. Some of our opponents had traveled to Cyprus and Italy.

Of my four Smash Lockdown teams, one chickened out. But Akbar Jabar and Ed, competing under the professional pseudonym “bumbumbum”, both stayed with me. Friendlies were on the sidelines, and it was time to get down to business. Inexplicably seeded in the second round, I found myself playing the Cypriot champion, a friendly guy with a disarming form like The Legend of Zelda’s Link. Despite shrinking his pointy-haired avatar until the last life of the first turn, his relentless barrage of projectiles and clever off-stage acting proved too important for my rudimentary playstyle. Instantly picking up my movement and attack patterns, over the next two games he started to completely wipe the floor with me.

The author, bravely losing to Super Smash Bros
The author, bravely losing to Super Smash Bros. Photography: Tom Regan

Fortunately, my lack of pro techniques ultimately turned out to be an asset. Facing a tournament regular who fought like the dreaded Diddy Kong, my erratic moves and random aggression proved to be baffling for him. To my surprise, after an incredibly intense 10 minute showdown, I managed to lure my opponent into a trap, knocking them off the stage to win. My smash team was overjoyed. The next two games were close, but my monkey-loving enemy finally reigned supreme. Yet for me it was irrelevant. Against all odds, I had done the impossible and won a tournament match.

My friends also played admirably. While group favorite Akbar has been repeatedly looked down upon by a Wii Fit Trainer player named Joe, our young hopeful Ed has always managed to survive, until the very last life; he lost every game, but only by a hair. But whatever our less than heroic performances, we all came out of the euphoria. We had held up! After weeks of training with my favorite fighter, Kazuya, I felt like all those hours I had put into this weird little game had been worth something. My obsession with confinement had led me to a rewarding evening.

The London Smash players are a passionate and friendly community, a collection of people from different backgrounds united by a common love for a niche video game. Thanks to a refreshing lack of elitism, machismo, or control, it all looked surprisingly healthy for a competitive environment. As someone who has never had the ability, training, or fitness to play a real sport, it scratched an itch that I didn’t know I had. Thank you for putting up with us at your event, Aggressive Duck. You can bet I’ll be back – win or (inevitably) lose.



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