Ultimate Insight 5 : McJobo
1) You've taken a significant step back in competitive Smash. What prompted this decision and was it difficult to withdraw from a scene that you invested into for the past 4 years?

> This could be a long one! A lot of factors made me decide to step back from competing as a player and from organising tournaments, but there’s a couple that stand out: the way the series has been balanced, the way the community rewards/punishes your choice of character, and the drama within the QLD/Australian scene.

Those first two points sort of go hand in hand, so I’ll address them together. I originally stopped playing Smash 4 at the beginning of 2018 and hadn’t really been able to bring myself to compete seriously since mid-2017. This was partly because I knew the game wasn’t receiving any new balance patches, but also because of the way our tournament system and the game itself rewards choosing an easy top tier character over a more challenging mid or low tier. I’ll toot my own horn a little bit here and say that back in school I was a pretty accomplished chess player, and I loved playing chess. However, my issue with that game is that it is “solved” to some degree - there is a point where you need to study and remember thousands of games and positions to be able to keep up competitively. Once I got to that level of play it felt to me that it was less a test of skill and intuition and more a test of memory, and I felt that that took away from my enjoyment of the game. For me, the mystery wasn’t there anymore if everyone is forced to learn and remember so many positions and strategies as opposed to relying on their natural ability as well as general practice.

This similarly applies to Smash as a series in a competitive setting. Every game has a top tier of characters, and generally they’re relatively simple to play with amazing tools and few drawbacks. On top of that they usually beat most/all of the characters below them in terms of tier. There isn’t really a downside to choosing these types of characters, nor is there a handicap for low and mid tier players. It’s difficult to enjoy a game competitively where your natural ability and practice can be all for naught because you enjoy playing a low or mid tier only for Joe Blow to come to his fourth or fifth tournament and beat you with Cloud/Bayonetta/Lucina/Snake etc. There are countless sets where I’ve lost when I felt like I shouldn’t have simply because my opponent picked a top tier, but at the end of the day they simply took advantage of the way competitive Smash works. I don’t really know if there’s any way of solving this problem other than the words a lot of you have probably been thinking while reading this: “You can pick a top tier as well”, but doing that would be a hollow victory for me personally and completely unenjoyable - I want to pick characters because I enjoy them, not because they’re a guaranteed win. When I came back for Ultimate, I quickly saw that the balance patches being released weren’t going to address glaring problems with certain characters or mechanics (looking at you Snake and directional airdodges/spotdodges), so I lost interest in the game pretty quickly once more.

In regards to drama, I could probably go on for hours regarding that point but suffice to say that when I joined the scene back in 2015 one of my main philosophies was to avoid getting involved in the scene’s drama at all costs. Turns out that doing that is equivalent to walking on eggshells, and saying the wrong thing in causal conversation or being friends with the wrong people will eventually put you on one side of the fence or the other. Being a prominent figure in the scene didn’t help with this either, but in hindsight I probably shouldn’t have been so naive as to thinking I could avoid it forever. Towards the end of my tenure I was pretty fed up with all of the petty things coming from all sides of the Queensland scene and it was genuinely aggravating and frustrating to deal with, and I didn’t really get enjoyment out of being involved as a player or as a TO.

To quickly answer your last part, absolutely it was hard to walk away. I’ve been playing Smash since it first came out in Australia (2000 I think?) and getting into things competitively seemed like a fun thing to do. Couple that with all of the friends I’ve made through it and being able to build up a tournament series and see it succeed has been a fantastic part of the journey. However, I do wish I could erase my competitive knowledge of the game so I could go back to enjoying it casually with friends.



2) The Gold Coast scene has gone on to thrive with Checkpoint hosting both a weekly and monthly, events out of Good Games and the AEL league running on the southern end of the region. What do you think has prompted this explosion in popularity for the region and how big do you think it could get?

> The fact that we had a scene established down here in time for the new game coming out definitely helped. When I started Smash by the Beach back in mid-2016 and for the duration of Smash 4’s lifetime I think we had maybe 8 regular Gold Coast players. The rest of our local tournament attendance had to be made up by Brisbane and even Sunshine Coast players. I think if we’d started the tournaments around the time Smash 4 launched we would’ve had a much bigger player base to work with, but whether or not it would’ve persisted is doubtful. The fact that our original venue (Good Games Southport) eventually started double and triple booking us with TCG events made everything a squeeze and eventually I just stopped bothering organising things through them, leaving us without a venue.

Compare that to Ultimate where we had an established scene on the GC, a brand new venue that was designed for playing video games, and a renewed interest in Smash as a whole. It was a solid platform to work off, although the main factor for success is definitely how successful the Switch has been, especially compared to the Wii U. I’m very happy to see that the local scene I started now has enough regular players for a self-sustaining weekly AND monthly, and Vye has been doing a great job of running things since I handed it all over to him in June.

I’m not really sure how big this could get. I think there’s still a pretty huge untapped group of players in the northern NSW area and if we can somehow find a way to get more of those guys travelling up to the Coast and us travelling down there then that would be our next move in terms of growing the player base. I do think that having three different tournament series that aren’t really collaborating with each other that much (hello AEL) doesn’t help much to strengthen the community, so hopefully we can get some sort of unity or organisation going to make things more streamlined down here.



3) What do you think sets the Gold Coast players apart from other regions?

> There’s definitely a different dynamic compared to Brisbane, although that obviously has something to do with the relative size of each scene. I think the most notable thing to me is the age demographic. Back when I was first starting out, a pretty significant chunk of the Queensland scene was made up of university students who had loads of free time to play the game. Comparatively that demographic doesn’t really exist on the Gold Coast now - it’s either high school age players or adults who have full time work, with not a huge amount of uni students in between (not that that’s necessarily a good or a bad thing). I’m not sure if that observation is just me getting older or if it’s actually the case, so please write me a detailed letter correcting me if I’m wrong.

Best bit by far though is that there’s next to no drama within the community, which gets an enormous seal of approval from me. Mostly everyone gets along and we’ve always been welcoming to Brisbane and interstate players alike, so I’m glad that we’ve been able to foster such a great little community.



4) If you fully retired from competitive Smash today, what do you think your legacy would be?

> I think it’s safe to say at this point that I am fully “retired” from serious competitive play, in the same way that Shawn Michaels is retired from wrestling - it’ll take some serious Saudi Arabian money to get me back into things. Work and other hobbies have meant I don’t have time to play Smash (or video games generally). I haven’t been to a Brisbane tournament since FNS200 and probably don’t plan to go to one and compete until FNS300 (if that). It’s been a fairly similar story for my attendance at Gold Coast things, although I plan on going to TNF every now and then in the new year just to hang out with everyone. I achieved all of my goals regarding competitive play and TOing a while back, so I’m happy to close the book at this point.

I just hope my legacy is that of the world’s greatest commentator and serial whinger (with those two often going hand-in-hand), but most of all knowing that I kicked it all off for a Gold Coast Smash scene to thrive. The scene down here has had its highs and its lows, but ultimately we’ve stuck through it and we’ve got a great little community that’s still developing, and I have full faith that Vye can make great strides in the coming years working towards improving the scene even further.



5) Who is a player in Ultimate that you see a lot of potential in? What about them has caught your eye?

> I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t particularly pay attention to the Brisbane scene anymore so my knowledge is probably outdated, but I’ll do my best. Verse is definitely a name that springs to mind - had a really enjoyable close set against his Pokémon Trainer back at FNS200, and I hear he plays Banjo now so that’s bonus points.

There’s plenty of picks for the Gold Coast: Dags, Serein, Kurt, Wildermold, Mint2, and Aurion are all capable of making a big breakout if they can just beat some of their bad habits and/or mindsets, and I’ve been keen to see a few of them take off for a while now. Also Kaboose has cut his hair and that’s basically like weighted clothing so I assume he’s number 1 in Australia now.

I’ll also quickly apologise to the Currumbin lads - I have absolutely no gauge for how well you play but hopefully I’ll see some of you at TNF next week!

===

Typically I paraphrase something that the interviewee would like to promote but I think in this case I can't do any better than the raw thoughts from McJobo himself -

"I couldn’t decide on what to put here initially, but I remembered it’s December and thus have an important message to convey - please boycott the new Star Wars film. Disney shouldn’t be rewarded for announcing a set of films and then not planning it out. The new sequel films have ended up ruining the whole original story for naught, and judging by the leaks the new one is going to be just as atrocious as the first two."

by Mittens 12/15/2019 00:00:00

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