Mittens - A Smash Autobiography
Preface - I’ve been reading a few autobiographies recently and just finished the book of actor/former pro wrestler Dave Batista. The way that he reflects on his life with brutal honesty has inspired me to write my own reflections on my near seven years in the competitive Smash community through a similarly honest lens. This isn’t a blow by blow recount of every tournament I went to. This is a deep dive into the thoughts, feelings and fears of everything that made up my run in Smash. This wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing historic resources of Ausmash.com.au.

Casual Smash - I'll make this part brief so we can get right to the good stuff. I was ten years old when Smash 64 came out. I was instantly in love with the idea of a number of my favourite gaming characters all crossing over and probably spent equal amounts of time reading through the instruction manual as I did actively playing it. Melee was an enormous progression from the base game and I remember buying the Strategy guide for it before I even owned a Gamecube. I’ve got wonderful memories of playing 99 stock free for all matches with my friends after school. Brawl holds a very special place in my heart. For the entire month of it’s release, every day someone was at my house or I was at someone else’s house playing it. I view that time as a very magical period of my life. I was all aboard the Smash 4 hype train and was faced with the biggest first world problem when I was at the Gold Coast hanging with friends when the 3DS demo dropped and I wasn’t able to play it just yet. While at a Streetpass event in the city they ran a small bracket for Smash on 3DS and despite being pretty awful at the game I got my first taste. Little did I know what I was about to step into.

Smash Bros For Wii U

My First Tournament - I always love to ask people how they got involved in the competitive scene and most responses are the same - “I just Googled Brisbane Smash Bros and it came up.” Back in early 2015 the QLD Smash scene didn’t have enough of an online presence to come up when searched so I had to do it the old fashioned way - I put up a post on Facebook asking if anyone knew of any local Smash Bros tournaments in the Brisbane area. My friend said that his housemate just attended a monthly event at UQ and shared the next month’s Facebook event with me. I was super nervous about it so I was messaging the TO Lachlan Firth with all sorts of mundane questions like “what is a double elimination bracket” and “are the players good?” I naively thought that I’d come third, maybe fourth depending on how tough the competition is. Props to Lachlan F for holding my anxious hand every step of the way. He cops a lot of shit but an area you can’t fault him on is making newcomers feel welcome. Despite being 25 years old at the time I was dealing with a lot of anxiety and self doubt in every facet of my life so I needed to invite a few friends to accompany my bitch ass to this event of scary gamers.

The feeling of walking into UQ Smash 5 for the first time was incredible. Dozens of TVs all running Smash Bros with 60+ people passionately playing the game I love. The room felt incredibly futuristic with projectors showing a mess of brackets and tables with multiple power points built into them, which I found extremely novel. My friends and I found a spare set up and nervously played some warm up games with each other. I was surprised to find that I was one of the only players using the 3DS as a controller and got a few innocent comments about it that didn’t help my already high levels of anxiety. I got absolutely rolled in the bracket and almost came dead last but coming out of the event I was on such a high. Just before leaving I had a player called Shitashi come over and hand me a business card with the details for Ausmash, then called QLDSmash, and said to check out the website for future events.

QLDSmash - At the time QLDSmash.com.au was a lot more modest compared to its current iteration, but that site played such a major part in making me stick around in the scene. It’s list of upcoming tournaments section was exactly what I was looking for and I immediately blocked out dates in my calendar so I could attend future events. At the time the shoutouts and forum sections were the lifeblood of the site with a number of players all making in-jokes and references that went completely over my head, but I hoped that one day I would be joining them. As programs such as Twitter and Discord gained popularity within the Smash community these areas of the site became less active, but due to its current level of discoverability it’s become the entry point for so many people getting into local Smash events. As a historical resource it’s incredible with hundreds of tournament results right down to the individual match game counts and characters used. It’s also housed a majority of my creative projects, which I’ll cover a little later. Shitashi should be proud of what he’s created.

Actually on Shitashi, he’s such a character. I’d always love how he’d shittalk during matches but then be such a friendly dude afterwards. It was such an unconventional style of breaking the ice. Within my first few events he was already inviting me to travel to a major with the other players. In both the creation of QLDSmash and the culture he created at events - he’s made the experience so much better for everyone.

UQ Smash - As the next UQ Smash approached, Lachlan F reached out to me saying that he hoped I enjoyed the last event and that I can come to the next one. I really appreciated that. Lachlan F was a tall lad with an enormous personality and could be quite intense. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about him for a while. He’d tell me things about other players that I didn’t need to know and he could feel quite catty at times. He’d break down the numbers for his events compared to events that other TOs would run and show them to me, telling me that his events are the best and saying disparaging things about the other TOs. At that point in my life I really didn’t like to rock the boat and just silently listened. But at the same time he was extremely inviting and always did his best to make you feel involved and part of the community. I think that the positives that he did for the scene are too overlooked.

My results for my first couple of competitive events were consistently bad but I was still having a great time. Although I was still a bag of anxiety and needed to have friends come to events with me, I began building relationships with some of the players. I met ClassicJono who I viewed as an early rival. Jono is probably best known for his monster pop offs which is something I loved because I really believe that emotion adds so much to Smash. I also met BlubbleMunching who was a young dude, maybe 16 years old at the time. I went over to his place to play Smash once which was probably pretty weird for his parents. Around this time Lachlan F started running sporadic UQ Casual Smash events which I really enjoyed going to. It attracted a lower level of player so I found it a great opportunity to get better at the game while also mucking around in other games like making hard Mario Maker courses for each other to complete. At one of these events I met this awkward Jewish dude called Ben Gold, who’s going to be a big recurring character.

Getting It Together - With a steady amount of practice between the Casual and monthly events I began to improve as a player. During UQ Smash 13 a number of players were away at an interstate major so the bracket was wide open. I had to leave in the afternoon for another event but I wanted to play as much as I could, while I could. Still using my crappy 3DS as a controller I won my first two Pro Bracket matches before needing to leave. The two players I beat ended up coming 3rd and 2nd that day which was an enormous boost for my confidence. I even went and bought a real controller. At UQ Smash 17, my one year anniversary, I made my first top 8. ClassicJono also made his first top 8 at this event which was a really cool experience to share. I was inconsistent but I could see improvement.

Fighting Jezmo was an eye opening experience. He just felt leagues above me and was literally telling me what I was doing wrong during the set which I found extremely helpful. His personality was almost jock-like which was a stark contrast to everyone else at these events which fall under your more typical gamer types. I once ran into him at an airport terminal while I was running to my gate with arms full of Hungry Jacks. That was a weird experience. Two of my closest Smash friends (both geographically and literally) in this early era were Umbrella and ATom. Umbrella was a big time Otaku that surprisingly lived a couple of streets away from me. This opened the door to many short notice Smash sessions together. ATom lived the next suburb over and was this tiny Vietnamese dude that was so quiet he was near invisible. I don’t think that I would have been friends with them in any other context since we’re such different people, but that’s the beauty of Smash.

ELO - Around this time ELO was introduced. ELO was a points system that would rise and fall based on wins and losses compared to the ELO of your opponent. While an interesting concept I feel like it may have done more harm than good. People would obsess over these pointless numbers and would be calculating their gains and losses mid tournament. The early days of this system was the wild west. I remember seeing unadvertised house parties appearing on QLDSmash and those results affecting ELO. For a while UQ was running events at the Red Room bar which was counted for ELO despite being in a noisy non-private venue. I quietly accrued a healthy ELO number due to my success at UQ Casual events but Shitashi rightfully put his foot down and removed a number of iffy events from ELO contention which made my numbers plummet. Easy come easy go. A few years down the track I began doing short write ups on the biggest ELO movements each week which was my first foray into doing creative work in Smash.

Sandbags Revenge - This was a short lived tournament series TO’d by the 16 or so year old player cAKE. Seeing someone so young TO an event gave me ideas that maybe I could run an event. I’m glad those ideas never progressed because I would be dog shit at it.

I had a few memorable experiences at these events. I had one of my most anxious moments in Smash where I was on the train into the venue and I started having a panic attack. I was really close to just jumping off the train and heading home but I pushed through. During pools I scored my first win on a PR, somehow beating SeymourButts. I immediately looked around for recognition of my accomplishment and I had Lumi nodding his head in approval. With all of the gusto in the world I looked at him dead in the eye and said “why are you surprised? I’m a good player.” Humility quickly knocked on my door as I immediately lost to BlazikenGod and the infinitely annoying Villager. After I lost they began doing the Villager dance in real life right in front of me. I was so angry. I was so close to punching them in the face right there for the disrespect. I found myself the next day thinking about it a bunch and again getting extremely angry. I had to catch myself and say to myself “dude this is just a game, calm down.” At this event I also got another crack at Jezmo, but this time it was going to be on stream. I had never been on stream before and was quite nervous about what the people on the internet were going to say about me. Playing on stream is such an amazing experience and is still one of my favourite things to do in Smash. Having a group of people watching you and reacting in real time to each play that you make is an incredible rush. Even at that point in my life against Jezmo when I was extremely insecure and anxious, I fed off that energy and loved it. He rolled me of course.

Forums - As I previously mentioned, QLDSmash forums eventually began to give way to other platforms. I was slow to Twitter but I found myself in Discord and Messenger group chats with a number of other Smash players. Despite being a nervous boy I was still naturally very social so I thrived in these environments. I really began finding the “community” aspect of Smash through these platforms. There was one point where at a non-Smash event I had my car towed and it cost like $450 to get it back. I told the Smash guys in the group chat about it afterwards and immediately a few of them were offering to help pay for it. I declined the offer but still cried about how much it meant to me that these guys would stick their necks out for me. Even long after retirement I talk to people I met in the Smash scene through these platforms every day. But maybe not Twitter because that place is a cesspool.

UQ Final Destination - In mid 2016 UQ was running it’s first Smash major. I didn’t fully understand what that meant but I was extremely excited. Unfortunately due to Lachlan F’s poor reputation interstate only a single player flew in to the event. Despite this it still felt like a huge event due to it’s high number of entrants and being spread over two days. As a player I was quickly improving and I was excited to see how I would stack up on such a big stage.

UQFD were running large round robin pools on the first day for seeding purposes and I went an impressive 7-1. Within my pool I had the single interstate player Dean and shockingly beat him. Dean would go on to come 4th overall at this event which is wild. Also within my pool I had my first ever bracket match with Umbrella, on stream to boot, which I won. Umbrella was extremely unhappy with the loss and declined the post match handshake which got a lot of murmurs from the crowd. It was kind of awkward because I was driving him home afterwards. I kind of thrive on my opponent getting salty at me which probably isn’t a good quality to have as a human. I also got to face Zyphenor for the first time within the pools. We immediately hit it off with us chatting for ages after our set. He credits our set being the thing that made him pick up Greninja which is really cool for me since he’s a much better Greninja than I ever was.

Day 1 had finished and I was beaming. Day 2 was the proper bracket and one of my early opponents was meant to be the PR player Vasi but he got DQ’d because the TO couldn’t find him. Vasi was in the room next door. This helped my bracket run significantly and after a hilariously painful time out victory on McJobo I narrowly lost to SeymourButts for 9th place. The only thing that made me happier than placing so high at a major was watching my friend ATom place 5th.

I was really surprised to see so few people stick around for the Grand Finals. By the time Jaice and Jezmo finished their insane set there were maybe 10 non staff still watching. As we were all leaving Shitashi came over to my group and said thanks for sticking around to watch it to the end and then invited us to a new tournament series starting next week at a place called Beach Burrito.

Beach Burrito - This was one of my absolute favourite tournament series. Held at a mexican restaurant in the valley, the only entry fee was that we were to buy something from the store with the top 3 placings each week winning varying types of free food. It had all of the relaxed energy of the UQ Casual Events but with a much higher level of player. It felt like there was a huge divide between the top players and the rest of the scene. And I mean that in a social way, it felt like they were a clique and were completely unapproachable. Beach Burrito helped bring down some of those barriers and let me get to know some of these dudes. Playing against such a high level of player consistently really helped me to grow as both a competitor and connect more with the community. Despite so much going right with Smash I still had a lot of work to be done as a human being. I met Crimson Comet at one of these events and in our set I was just shittalking him constantly despite not knowing him at all. It came from a place of insecurity and I regret it a lot since he’s such a great dude. Writing this project prompted me to apologise to Julian with him saying that he doesn’t even remember it happening.

Sonder - Beach Burrito is also unfortunately where I met a player called Sonder. Sonder was somewhere between having a mental disability and being fried due to overuse of drugs. He was somewhat troubled yet quite innocent and harmless when he first joined the community. He would always hit me up for practice at tournaments and we’d actually have fairly fun games. It felt like there were a lot of wild stories surrounding him like supposedly getting hit in the head with a crowbar at South Bank or him holding up the bracket at a UQ Smash because he removed the Smash disc and started playing Mario Kart by himself. His behaviour became more and more erratic as the months went on but I gave him a lot more time of day than most people. He began running his own events and would fictionalise that they’re sponsored by different companies because he wanted to appear more legitimate. One time he claimed that the Salvation Army was sponsoring one of his events and for whatever reason that was what my trigger was and I hated him after that. We once had a set at UQ Smash and he held up all of pools because he refused to play on any monitor apart from the one he brought. He beat me and I refused to shake his hand afterwards, telling him that I don’t respect him. He tried to make a big deal about it but he quickly found that very few others respected him. He and Lachlan F clashed an enormous amount which escalated to the point where he was banned from UQ events. He and Crabs were mortal enemies with one memorable exchange being when they had a yelling match across the room with Crabs finishing off by saying “Nobody likes you why don’t you just fuck off you dickhead!” By the end no one wanted him there but no one apart from Lachlan F would ban him. At one event he was filming his sets on his laptop so he can watch the VODs back. That’s totally fine but he wouldn’t actually inform his opponents or ask for permission. He and I had to play so I asked if he was going to film us. He said “definitely not bro” and said he had his laptop there so he could listen to music. Umbrella later told me that he lied to me and that he saw that he was filming the entire time. I made an official complaint to the TO of the event and he copped a ban and never came back. I’m pretty sure he still thinks Crabs is the one that made the complaint. I hope Sonder finds the help that he needs, but he sure wasn’t finding it in the Smash community.

Controversy - I was still so scared of rocking the boat and would constantly say things to please other people. I was repeatedly asked if I wanted to be part of a PR Panel but the thought of people hating my opinions made me feel sick. Even the idea of becoming PR felt like an enormous amount of pressure. There was one time that AT/AzureWolf and I had a big conflict. At UQFD I had an extra monitor and told him that I’d combine it with his console so he could get the set up discount. At some point Lachlan F said he wasn’t going to do that and he would combine the monitor with Dooty’s console and give him the discount instead. I tried to explain to Lachlan that I promised it to AT but it was ineffective because, you guessed it, I was an anxious boy. AT was pissed about it and despite telling him what happened he was giving me the cold shoulder. A few months later in a small Discord which he forgot I was a part of, he absolutely buried me saying that I screwed him out of an amount of money that I still can’t figure out how he landed on that exact number. Umbrella, bless his heart, defended me by saying that it sounds out of character for me and that it may have been a misunderstanding. I anxiously apologised in the Discord and AT ignored it completely. I felt like a puddle of shit. AT would constantly buddy up to people in person but bury them in that Discord. It took a while to come out, but public opinion turned on AT big time when they realised how two faced he was.

Another controversy that occurred was in relation to an event I attended. There was a tournament series called Stacked where each month a top level interstate player would get flown in. These events would attract a generally higher level of player and I’d often get destroyed at them because I wasn’t very good yet. For some reason UQ was running a Melee only tournament directly opposing a Stacked event, so Lachlan F pitched to Ben Gold the idea of running a really casual Smash 4 bracket at the UQ event alongside it since Ben was showing an interest in TOing. It had two eight person pools or something wacky. The next day a number of senior Smash players blasted Ben and everyone that attended his event saying that it was completely disrespectful to run any form of event to counter another one, especially one where there’s interstate talent coming in. At the time I naively felt justified since it was just meant to be a laid back thing but if it happened in 2021 I’d be the one blasting the Ben event. Although knowing Ben Gold he’d probably do it again, 2021 be damned.

Brodie/Chazwazza - Around this time I was playing Smash with my friend Brodie and he was showing a lot of interest in trying out the competitive level. We did some workshops together where I would try to teach him some often overlooked aspects of the game and I found those sessions surprisingly helpful for me. I had never tried to break down and explain certain aspects of the game and in a roundabout way I was learning through teaching. Brodie would attend events for over a year under the tag Chazwazza and I always really enjoyed having him around. He’s since become one of my closest friends and I wonder if we would have gotten as close as we currently are if it wasn’t for that time with Smash.

Sunshine Coast - After playing near exclusively at UQ and casual events I decided that if I wanted to become a more complete player that I should travel to other events. One of these events I traveled to was a Level Up Lounge tournament in Nambour at the Sunny Coast. I heard that a few others were going to it and were going to stay at Glyph’s house after so kind of on impulse I did the near two hour drive and just crossed my fingers that Glyph would let me stay over as well. Despite the mindset of improvement and the long trip, when I arrived I decided it was going to be a “fun” tournament for me and I would play a different character each game. I went 2-2 but had such a great time in the process. Thankfully Glyph said I could join the others and stay at his place and we all had an awesome weekend together. When I think of Smash being a fun dynamic experience, I think about this weekend. Shockingly this is the only Sunshine Coast event I ever attended.

The Sunny Coast scene was small but had some people that I really enjoyed. Eiite was this super competitive Falcon player that always wanted to do stage banning on friendlies. His partner Eclipse was the polar opposite. She was really quiet but really sweet once you got to know her. Both were a little older than I am so it was nice having some others at events close to my age. They both didn’t make the jump to Smash Ultimate and that really bums me out. There was also the player Yoyo with his long surfer hair and fully tattooed arm who always looked like the coolest dude in the room. He did competitive cheerleading and always has the best vibes. And there was David FREAKING Strong known best as DFS. David had huge Shitashi energy in the way he’d trash talk like crazy and consistently had me laughing in our matches. After sticking it out for years he’s finally cracked PR which is super cool to see.

Gold Coast - Going in the other direction, I began attending the Gold Coast series Smash By The Beach. I’d often drive a group of people to these events which gave them a really fun road trip feel. We'd play the Smash soundtrack in the car like massive losers, I loved it. I don’t know why but I had incredible luck at these events posting some really good results in both Singles and Doubles brackets. There was one event where I beat PR players Vasi and McJobo back to back which was huge for me at the time. I remember overhearing people talking about those wins and it made me feel like I was reaching another level where I could keep up with PR.

McJobo was the TO of those events and is maybe one of the more controversial characters in QLD Smash. He’s very passionate about the Gold Coast scene, quite a good player and isn’t afraid to share his opinions, which is a cocktail to put some people offside. Most of the animosity regarding him happened when he wasn’t playing the game any more and wanted to still be involved, particularly with the Gold Coast scene, and a number of people felt like he should step aside if he’s not going to physically be at events. I feel like McJobo was often misunderstood and I admire the passion he had for the scene. Unfortunately he’s become quite burnt by the community and honestly I can’t blame him for feeling that way. A quick story on McJobo - We were once at a party with a very left leaning crowd. McJobo was absolutely drunk as a skunk, like literally couldn’t get off the floor drunk, and without context yells out “WELL I IDENTIFY AS A CUCUMBER.” He got so many death stares it was the funniest shit. I bet he doesn’t even remember it.

Vye was a younger player from the Gold Coast who I always enjoyed due to his quirky sense of humour. There was one time where late one night he was messaging me saying he needed someone to talk to about some real life stuff he was going through. I’m really glad I could be there for him at that time and it made me realise how important it is for me as one of the older players, to be a good role model. It’s been awesome to see him grow into who he is now, especially since he’s retained that sense of humour. One other dude at the Gold Coast was a player using the tag Crabs. I love Crabs and he’s definitely one of my favourite players I met through the scene. He’s always been there for me, especially during some real hard times that I'll get into soon, which I appreciate so much. He’s been out of Smash for ages now but we still talk every couple of months. You’ll never find me saying a bad word about that man.

House Parties - On top of being a top tier human, Crabs also threw some of the best house parties out of everyone. Even if McJobo occasionally thought he was a cucumber at them. I always loved the house parties or grind sessions that would pop up with Smash players. A lot of them would be really small affairs where we’d have a couple of people pop in for games but some would become full blown productions with a stream and everything like the Pythvitationals that would occur years later. It was always really nice to see the Smash guys in a different context where we’d be playing party games, drinking games or no games at all. Shoutout to BattleDolphin’s 18th where he downed a full Bundy can in one go. I don’t think I’m man enough for that.

Jaice - It was at one of these Crabs parties that Jaice and I started to become friends. Jaice was always one of the best players in QLD and once Jezmo stopped playing, he absolutely dominated the state. He was similar to McJobo in the way that he was an amazing player and wasn’t afraid to filter his opinions which had a significant amount of people disliking him. When we played in bracket for the first time he told me that he was looking forward to facing me because he had heard a lot of good things. It meant a lot to me at the time to be recognised by one of the very best. Jaice was at essentially every event so I’d consistently see him and get to know him more and more over time. Jaice was always really pleasant to me and would always ask how my wife and kids were going. I’d hear so many stories that “Jaice is this or that,” but for the most part I'd never see it and I almost wonder if people would view him kinder if he wasn’t a top player.

Jaice had a lot of conflicts with both ClassicJono and Ben Gold and with him knowing that I’m friends with both guys I think made him a bit uncomfortable. But I think he understood that I wasn’t interested in getting involved in other people’s dramas and it was refreshing for him to not have someone taking sides around something he was involved with. We got quite close and would chat about games and real life stuff almost every day. He had me over his house multiple times and I quite enjoyed his family and how they’d feed the local birds. His sister also kind of looked a bit like my wife which was hormonally confusing.

Over time Jaice became more vulnerable with me over how the Smash community was wearing him down. There was one time that Jaice and I were watching a crew battle between some of the top players in Aus and he was saying bad things about almost each player and getting emotional about it. I felt really bad for him, the dude was so burnt out. Like don’t get me wrong there were things that he had said and done to others that he probably wishes he had handled differently, but either way the dude was wounded. Soon after Smash Ultimate came out he started to attend less and less. Understandably we began to drift apart. He’s been completely out of the community for a few years now and I’ve hit him up twice to see if he’s wanted to do some creative projects with me which he politely declined. I hope that he’s been able to heal from the bad times in Smash and I honestly wish the best for him. For all of the talk of Jaice is this and Jaice is that, to me - Jaice was always an excellent friend.

GUF FNS - How am I at over five thousand words and only now getting to FNS? Friday Night Smash is the longest running weekly that QLD has had and has gone through a few different iterations. The era that I most closely associate with FNS is when it was held at the GUF internet cafe in the Valley just above the police station. We were right in the heart of the valley so we’d occasionally have really weird characters pop in to see what we were doing. Leaving would also be really wild as well. Imagine a bunch of teens and early 20s walking through Brunswick St at 11pm carrying TVs. Driving home felt like I was avoiding zombies. The venue also allowed the consumption of alcohol that made for some absolutely hilarious nights where a bunch of players would get sloshed and carry on behind the stream set up. I was surprised to find that many states don’t take their weekly events seriously because in QLD, despite the playful mood, everyone played each week like it was a major event. It’s been cool seeing what FNS has developed into in 2021. Blurry, Jett and everyone else has done a great job.

GUF FNS always attracted a different crowd to the other events. Big Trouble was the main TO of these events and always impressively walked the line between being hilarious and professional. I still use the term “spicy” for everything thanks to him. His partner at the time Bebe was always such a great person to talk to and always brought great vibes to the room. She’s found a lot of success with streaming Age of Empires and has even had Microsoft film some stuff with her which is kind of insane to me. Iroh aka Emyks aka Acid Harry was also TOing for a bit. Harry is a great dude to chat with and super genuine. One of my favourite stories about him is that he once got DQ’d at a QUT event because he took too much acid and was busy tripping in the Botanic Gardens. Kneesus was a top level player who found the perfect balance between fun hype gameplay and still getting huge results. He struck that balance in a way that I hoped I would achieve one day. He also had a photo album on Facebook where he screenshotted himself giving each character in the game the Falcon Knee. He also updated it for the DLC characters the absolute mad lad. I also met Gus and Curtain at these events. Both dudes were young but extremely talented from the start, both achieving very high PR placements in their primes. I really enjoyed them and many of the other FNS guys since they were just a bunch of cool dudes and not at all like the typically nerdy players that made up the majority of the scene at the time. Even at this point I often felt a little out of place in Smash due to my different interests and being married to a real life not-anime girl. This feeling wouldn’t be going away any time soon.

PVP Saturdays and Jubilee Thursdays - The excellent Beach Burrito events came to an end when there was a change of management at the store. But come early 2017 a new series of events run by an outside group called PVP Gaming began running events at a number of different pubs in the Valley. It was really novel to have someone from outside the community run events and they were super open to feedback from us. The events also wouldn’t just be Smash 4, they would often have a bunch of other brackets such as Tekken running alongside which made for some cool crossover between the communities. This multi game idea was better fleshed out a few years later at the Ranbats. The events were great fun and I’d find myself driving into the Valley every week for them. With the addition of these events alongside the weeklies and monthlies that were all running - QLD Smash was incredibly healthy. I had my best run in Smash 4 at one of these events, getting 5 PR/former PR wins in one night. I still get all misty eyed remembering the old days when I was good at the game. PVP Gaming would find these events so successful that they eventually opened up their own venue in the Gold Coast called Checkpoint eSports which housed a number of Smash events until it was an unfortunate victim of COVID.

Crews - Around this time a number of crews began forming. I’m an advocate for crews since I just see so many positives in the way that it builds community. I was initially in the Rektors crew run by Jumpo because, get this, I opened his message asking if I wanted to join before I opened up a message from Ben Gold asking if I wanted to join his new crew. Jumpo was an incredible player and honestly one of the most underrated in QLD history. Dude just understood the game on such a deep level and had the bonus of being the absolute nicest dude. He’s been out of Smash for a while but makes genuinely great music with his band Blame it on Leo. I had the opportunity to visit him during a trip to Toowoomba which further cemented my positive opinion of him.

The crew that Ben Gold was forming was called the Squirtle Squad. After a short spell with Rektors I joined my $$ buddies. It was a group of upcoming players like Ben Gold and SadHour that wanted to all train together and improve as a faction. Yes it’s weird to think in the modern lense but there was a point where Ben and SadHour were upcoming players. One of the other goals of the group was to make QLD Smash more inclusive and to get rid of the social divide between the top players and the rest, which was a mission I really got behind. Ben did amazing work building bridges with the other states after QLD had been isolated for so long and led the charge for QLD players of all skill levels to travel across the country more. Due to being a husband and father I was quite limited with my ability to travel so I made it my task to be really inviting to new attendees and build the culture from the next generation of players.

The crew would eventually balloon into outrageous numbers with the addition of interstate players, but the core group were some of my best friends in Smash. There were the previously mentioned Crabs, Gus and Curtain amongst some other names. SadHour and I never got like super close, but I really love his taste in games, movies and music. The dude became an absolute top level player but I feel like he can push himself even further. Get A Taste. BattleDolphin was another player who’s made a big progression from then to now. We spent quite a lot of time around each other at tournaments and even did quite a few house visits. One memory is having a small group of us playing at his house and I hit the grog so hard and fast that I don’t even remember being driven home. He’s grown from an awkward teen into a highly respected member of the Smash community who’s done an enormous amount of work between running majors, resurrecting the QLD40 ranking system and seeding every tournament you can name. I’m really proud of the man he’s become. Palace aka Grumbley was another one of the early guys I connected with and always loved his positive vibes at events. For whatever reason we really clicked in Doubles and had some wild runs unseating double PR teams. The whole crew was just such a great group of people and it was such a healthy dynamic having all of us cheering on each other at events. It really felt like we were all improving and making the smash community a better place. Last crew member I want to specifically mention is G. G quickly became one of the most beloved players at events through his super likeable personality and optimism. One day G told the crew that he had found a new venue that was interested in hosting Smash events.

Mountain Smash - We were so excited as a crew to be running an event. G was the main TO but we all felt like we were doing this as a team and all wanted to pitch in and help however we could. We quickly found out that this TOing shit is hard and Mountain Smash was downscaled into a smaller fortnightly weekday event. The turn outs were fairly humble but this gave G the opportunity to run things like crew battle brackets or making the entire night a round robin event. I wish more people gave these events a chance because they were fantastic fun once they found their identity. One event was a round robin best of 5 event so I played a different character each game, totally 25 characters in a single tournament. Just great fun. I also got to meet Nicc at one of these events. Nicc is such a good dude with just enough sass to keep you on your toes. I remember the first time he beat me in bracket he popped off and immediately apologised for popping off. He’s become such a skilled player that if I beat him these days I'd be the one popping off.

Interstaters - Due to never traveling out of state my interactions with interstaters were always limited to whenever they were visiting us. Extra is one of the best players Australia has ever had and the first time we fought I got destroyed like I’ve never been destroyed before. A few years later we had a rematch and it was much closer which was a huge confidence boost for me. I once had a match against Quen and he was super rude to me. Before our set I was trying to ask how his trip had been and he was giving me the mega cold shoulder. After the tournament he came up to me super friendly saying thanks for the games. I have no freaking idea ay. JuiceGoose is a player from South Africa that’s been travelling through Aus for ages now and is legit the coolest dude. I’d hang out with him outside of events if he was around, no doubt. Glace was a player I actually learnt a lot from due to watching his VODs since I had no idea how to play Bowser in Ultimate. He was once visiting QLD and we had a set against each other on a night when I was playing King K Rool for some reason. I used every bit of cheese in the packet to win the set and he put out a salty tweet about it, saying “he doesn’t even play that character” which I thrived on. Again, this is maybe not a positive quality for me to have as a human. I’ve interacted with a bunch of top top level players through hosting at majors and SebPro101 has always been extremely nice to me. He always comes over to say hi whenever we’re at events together. He’s so friendly that I sometimes wonder if he’s mixing me up with someone else?

Coping with Smash - Between the crews, getting good results and the deluge of events, things were going fantastic in the world of Smash for me. But in my personal life, things were absolutely falling apart. As I’ve mentioned many times I had already been dealing with anxiety and issues with self confidence, but in 2017 my marriage was on it’s last legs. My wife had been working full time at an extremely difficult job and that coupled with the fairly recent birth of our second child had tensions at an all time high for both of us. We were communicating less, getting jealous about unnecessary things and responding unwisely to that jealousy. There was one time I was on the phone to Jaice talking to him about some dumb shit that Sonder did and my wife flipped out thinking I was lying to her about who I was talking to. I was getting real close to another girl who wanted to see what this Smash stuff us all about so she came to a Jubilee event and people were awkwardly asking if she was my wife. We were getting counselling but it reached the point that if we didn’t already have kids that we would have gotten a divorce. I felt trapped in a marriage I couldn’t get out of and faced the only time I’ve ever felt suicidal. Shit was rough.

I was able to confide about some of my issues with Crabs and Jaice and I’m infinitely thankful for them lending me a shoulder to cry on. Smash was such a great escape from the dumpster fire that was my real life. To cap off the year I had my wife’s brother commit suicide. What makes this especially heart breaking is that my wife and I were the last people he was with before it happened. I think I’ve cried more for him than I have for anyone else. A few days after the loss I tried my first “return to normal life again” moment by going over Zyphenor’s house and playing Smash. It felt so good to have something else to feel apart from loss, even if just for a few hours. After I left I messaged him telling him about my brother in law’s death, saying thank you for giving me an escape.

Ironically this loss was what gave us a wake up call about what’s truly important in life and it led to my wife quitting her job and us repairing our marriage. Things are amazing between us now and we both feel very passionately about helping others in difficult relationships/marriages since we both came so close to losing ours. While 2017 was incredibly difficult, I grew so much out of it.

Zyphenor - I have nothing but positive things to say about Jordan. After hitting it off at UQFD we quickly became friends. We both taught each other cool Greninja shit and both grew as players, celebrating each other's successes. We'd always ride together and despite knowing he didn't have much money at the time he once gave me a $50 dollar note just to say thanks for always helping him get to events. In the first event back after fellow Smash player Matt The Painter shockingly died in a car accident, Zyphenor was dedicating his bracket run to him. There was a point during the night where Zyphenor was just so overcome with emotion that he literally ran out of the venue. This just shows the enormous heart he has for people. Thank you for everything Jordan.

UQ Final Destination 2 - Bringing it back to mid 2017, off the heels of a couple of really strong events I was an Honourable Mention on that season’s PR. This was a huge accomplishment for me and it made me feel even more motivated. Despite my prior reservations of actually becoming a PR due to the pressure it would put on me I was feeling confident that I was at that level now. At UQFD1 I came 9th and I was determined to break the top 8 at UQFD2. There was a much larger interstate presence compared to last year which created a fun dynamic where every QLDer would have the whole room cheering them on. BattleDolphin vs Dean was a highlight of this element, with the room going insane for a fellow $$ member’s huge win. There were even people cheering for Jaice which was almost uncanny by this point. Despite having my entire top 8 entrance planned out I was eliminated at 17th by some up and coming kid called Shadrew. Initially I was really disappointed by this but I still enjoyed cheering on other members of the Squirtle Squad who got 4th, 5th and 5th. Looking back I think that the biggest story out of this event for me is that my wife surprised me with a visit and brought our two boys along. It’s the one and only time she’s ever attended an event. She has a really strong dislike of Smash. Her issue is less with the game itself but how a tournament can wipe out an entire day for me. I think the fact that I’m so passionate about it actually hurts my case because I can become quite annoying when I get passionate and fixate on something. I wish she understood the benefits of the scene a little better as it pains me to have such a big disconnect between something that I love with Smash and the thing that's most important to me with my family.

The 411 - After UQFD2 I had a trip to Japan and afterwards spent some time away from tournaments to work on my currently still a dumpster fire private life. During this time the Squirtle Squad splintered off with a number of players such as Ben Gold, SadHour, Gus and Curtain leaving the crew to start a new crew with a number of high level players including ClassicJono, Crimson amongst others. The crew was called The 411 and was absolutely stacked, launching with a slick combo video that got everyone talking. I was initially really disappointed that so many people left Squirtle Squad since I felt like at our core we were such a tight unit that was building so much momentum. I was also really disappointed that I wasn’t included in this crew but considering the animosity between Jaice and both Jono and Ben Gold, I wasn’t surprised. And that animosity was very high at this point with events like Jaice refusing to shake Jono’s hand after a streamed set fuelling the fire. I felt a bit like a child in a divorce as I was still really close with Jaice but the 411 had a few of some of my favourite people in Smash.

Winding Down - After such a hot period for QLD Smash, the back end of 2017 felt like the game started winding down. After a couple of months away from tournaments I came back with the mindset of trying to get a win on every major player including the PR. I would study each player individually and watch their VODs looking for patterns until I got the chance to face them. This was a bit of a revelation to me since it taught me about the world of practicing the game without actually playing it. I actually did really well with my goal and got at least one set win on every major player that was still active except the impenetrable Jaice. I at least got a game off him.

Having a break from the game saw the landscape change a bit as well. Ben Gold had become a top level player and was actively beating Jaice. Shadrew had developed into a PR level player with Zyphenor and Nicc not far off. The 411 were an absolute monster crew and would frequently fill the top 8 with their members. It was fun seeing things shift. It was like all of these little stories were occurring but you’d only see them if you were paying attention. I tried to incorporate this story telling into my commentary which was something I was trying to develop. It was also great seeing some new players join the scene despite the game getting older. I remember rolling Joz and Ari at one of their first events but both were so eager to learn and improve that I’m not surprised in the slightest that they’ve found such great success. Come 2018 my interest in the game was slowly dwindling due to a number of the more casual tournament series’ ending but I still remained very involved with the community on Discord and Messenger. At the end of Smash 4 there was an All Time QLD40 released that ranked the players based on the entire run of the game. I was honoured to be listed at number 34. Right beside my original rival ClassicJono at 33.

A New Smash Bros - In March 2018 it was announced that a new Smash Bros game was coming to the Nintendo Switch. This lit a fire under the community with a number of players coming back for at least a short while. With little but a CGI trailer shown the speculation was running rampant. Will it still be a 2D fighter? Will they shrink down the bloated roster? What if it was a 3v3 tag team format like Marvel vs Capcom? I was close with the last one at least. There was also a lot of speculation about what the community would look like with a predicted large influx of new players due to the Switch's popularity. There was a lot of talk within the rankings about who would fall and who would rise with many citing that I would do well due to my reliance on fundamentals over execution.

You know those Twitch streamers that lose their shit over Smash reveals? That’s me. Except I’m not streaming and the only audience are my cats. I’ve been playing videogames since I was 5 and genuinely get so hype for E3, Nintendo Directs and Smash reveals. I would lose my mind at these events and immediately jump online and start talking about what just happened with friends and strangers alike. Sometimes the journey is every bit as rewarding as actually playing the finished product. Smash has some of the best reveals in all of gaming and I don’t think I’m alone in that opinion.


Smash Bros Ultimate

Launch - Smash Bros Ultimate released in December 2018 for me. But for a few others in the scene it was released in mid November. A copy of the game had been leaked online and there was a divide within the community based on ethics. A number of people, particularly The 411, couldn’t wait that extra two weeks and had downloaded the leaked copy and were playing regularly. I was in the camp that you should honour an artists’ intention and should wait until the intended release. Yet at the same time I was consuming everyone’s impressions of the game like I was a Pacman gobbling dots, so I was far from a saint. Beyond any ethical debates, having access to a new game a fortnight in advance gives you an enormous leg up within the competitive scene so The 411 were primed to completely run QLD.

On launch day I had Zyphenor and a few other casual friends over to play at my house. My family and I had bought the house less than a month prior so this was one of the very early events that we hosted there. While gaming we had The Game Awards playing in the background and had a “wait, Joker is gonna be in Smash?” moment together as a group.

There was a launch day event at UQ which attracted a big crowd full of both new and old faces. We ran a bracket where I was eliminated by a Ness while playing as K Rool. Afterwards the player turns to me and says “yeah that’s a bad match up.” You bastard, the game only came out today for me! The event was highlighted by a UQ vs QUT crew battle with the whole room being super engaged. If this was the foundation, Smash Ultimate was in for a very healthy run in QLD.

New Blood - As predicted there was a big influx of new players coming in with a majority of them being on the younger side. At the age of 29 by this point it wasn’t helping the feeling that I’m hanging out with a bunch of children in my spare time. Despite their ages a majority of the new players were actually excellent dudes. Bust A Move was a crew formed by a number of new players and it very much felt like a next generation Squirtle Squad. To highlight some of the players - Loki was a quiet yet super handsome dude that I got the pleasure to do content creation with. Swate was one of the most lovely guys I’ve met. I was once watching some Yeetsmash or whatever Ben Gold compilation on YouTube and as par for the course he was hitting some sick combo on me in it. And then in the comments I find Swate talking about how nice of a guy this Mittens is despite me just being on the receiving end of a combo. Someone saying something positive in the YouTube comments section is unheard of! Ben V was a little closer to my age and was a genuinely great guy. We once went on a pub date and at my last event we both had big breakfasts together. I regret not spending more time with him. I was somewhat unsure of Python at the start as he was quite strong with how he presented his opinions online. The real life Python is far less confrontational and we actually had a tonne of interests in common. He had a good couple of house parties including the previously mentioned Pythvitational and was definitely the type of player that tried to make the community experience better for everyone. Moving off the BaM crew, TD is someone who I immediately hit it off with due to his interest in social work. I ended up getting him a job with my org although we almost never actually get to see each other at work. And lastly Milis is one of the funniest bastards you’ll meet. He once said to me “Sorry my jokes haven’t been very good lately, I’ve changed my medication,” which in itself is hilarious to me. By Ultimate’s launch it felt like the culture within the scene had improved quite a bit compared to where it was a few short years ago. It was less toxic, more inclusive and more inviting to all skill levels. I’m glad that we could give the new players a better community and I’m sure they’re going to give the next generation something even better.

Lost in Ultimate - I did not like Smash Bros Ultimate when it was released. I didn’t like the baked in input delay, how every move was so safe, how grabs were so nerfed and I couldn’t find any characters that I clicked with. I think that this was magnified with playing a lot of online early on, incorrectly expecting it to be at least as solid as Smash 4’s online. What a fool I was. I had also recently started a new full time job in Disability Work with really dynamic hours which meant I could rarely make events. Hell even if I was making events I was usually exhausted, which was an issue for pretty much all of my time in Ultimate. I was making maybe one tournament every month with many new players always asking “is Mittens new?” which infuriated me. It felt like I was slipping out of touch with the community and with Jaice attending less and less and finding myself crew-less I was really struggling to find my place.

Content Creator - I was thinking of ways that I could still be involved in Smash and continue to build up the community despite not physically being there. Then it hit me - content creation. I had very lightly dabbled in it during Smash 4, doing ELO write ups and once putting out a ranking system, but I was always so anxious that someone would criticise it. After surviving the near collapse of my marriage in 2017 and being forced into some wild scenarios with my new job I had grown much thicker skin and my mental health was really turning the corner. I was ready to start doing what I always wanted to do without my self doubt getting in the way.

One of my first projects was doing write ups for each player that made the first Ultimate QLD40. I really put a lot of effort into it and was stoked to realise that I could do a lot of writing during the copious amounts of downtime that I have at work. Overall I probably did about 85% of all of my creative projects on the clock at work, just in case you were wondering where your tax money goes to. I was able to put out a few different articles like a hype piece of Arcadian, a 2000 word interview/article on improvement and a fun one talking about Ring Fit Trainer’s moveset potential. I’ll talk about Ultimate Insight in-depth a little later on.

Often QLD40 projects involved a number of different people between the rankers, the artists etc so I turned one of these group chats into the official QLD Creative Chat. Over time we added a few others that were either doing content creation or were interested in it in the future. It became such a positive space where we all collaborated and encouraged one another. We’d constantly bounce ideas off each other which led to the QLD40 Livestream Reveal. I love podcasts and always wanted to do an event like this but I felt like the scope was far too big. With the Creative Chat there to really encourage me to give it a shot we all worked together to create the project that I am most proud of. We broke Tournameta’s non-tournament stream record with upwards of 120 concurrent viewers and got a tonne of positive feedback. I was elated and immediately started planning the next one until some pandemic nonsense happened. Post Covid on my last active season I was hoping to do another Livestream Reveal but QLD Creative decided to go in a different direction and do a full Among Us themed animation which unfortunately had to be scaled right down. It would have been great to do one last QLD40 Livestream but I respect other artist’s visions, even if they don’t become fully realised, and am thankful that I got to work with such an awesome group and celebrate our victories with them. In many ways it felt like our own crew and gave me that sense of “place” that I was missing.

I had so many crazy ideas that were just a little too ambitious for the time like a Smash Summit type of weekend or a round robin discussion panel with multiple cameras and live cuts. I even started planning participants and conversation topics and everything. In 2021 I’ve continued to do content creation outside of Smash and plan on bringing some of these big ideas to life in another world. I sometimes wonder if my legacy in Smash will be content creation. Not bad for someone who used to be terrified about what others would say. Anyways back to early Ultimate.

VODs - Despite not being at events very often I would constantly be watching streams and VODs. If you were unlucky enough for me to be at work during a FNS stream you’d find me absolutely flooding the chat with shitposts. Sorry about that. Some of my favourite VOD/stream memories include - watching FNS during my wife’s second labour. Labour takes a long ass time alright? Another was watching Extra defeat FOW while I’m drunk as a skunk on a boat in Townsville. I barely knew where I was so I’m not sure how I was aware enough to click on the stream at the right time. One of my favourites was the time I was at work with a client while he was visiting his parents. I had to excuse myself to the toilet where I was secretly watching Ben Gold win BAM. You know the question “where were you when a K Rool won a major?” My answer was - hunched on a phone screen while on the shitter at work. Isn’t technology amazing?

Ben Gold - I first met Ben Gold at a UQ Casual and for the first few months that was the only place I’d see him due to some Jewish thing preventing him from entering proper tournaments for a while. Ben isn’t necessarily super Jewish but it’s a fun attribute to emphasis. I’d be remiss to not at least reference the legend of Ben Gold shitting his pants at his first tournament. I’ve got wonderful memories of Iroh following Ben and constantly spraying deodorant on his ass saying "I will defeat this evil." Early on Ben and I were at a pretty similar skill level and we really wanted to improve together. We’d trade victories on each other back and forward for months but most importantly we were having these matches deeper and deeper into the bracket. Despite the decent age gap I found it extremely easy to have conversations with Ben and after a few bad experiences with top players we’d both agree that the culture of QLD Smash needed to change. We’d both be intentionally inviting to new players and trying to get them involved in all aspects of the community. Ben had great ambitions and wanted to end the narrative of QLD being an island state and to start us travelling for majors again. He worked his butt off and there were upwards of 35 players travelling interstate by the end which is a definite improvement from the previous numbers of zero. Ben even began to create a bridge between the Smash 4 and Melee community which felt prior like a lost cause. I think that the behind the scenes aspects of Ben’s work isn’t recognised nearly enough. Sure he didn’t always get it right and definitely stepped on a few people’s toes but if you want to make big moves you’re not going to nail it 100% of the time.

Ben was consumed with the community and put his heart into it in a way that I wish I could have. He’d steadily improve and become an absolute force in QLD. For so long here it was the race for second place but all of a sudden Ben had a legitimate claim to be the best in the state. This momentum carried all the way into Smash Ultimate where against all odds he won the super major BAM 2019 without dropping a set as the low tier ass King K Rool. I’ll fight you if you think anyone was more proud of him within that moment than I was.

Despite his new found success, including international attention, Ben was still so grounded. He didn’t try to sell out and just wanted to keep investing into Australian Smash. He played a big part in encouraging me to pursue content creation and I’d find myself constantly telling him my ideas before anyone else - including this project that you’re reading right now.

He’s pretty much retired now but I don't think he's accepted that yet. Even if he and I didn’t share some of the hyper emotional moments like I’ve mentioned with some of the other players, Ben Gold is the most important character in my Smash journey. He’s my best friend that I’ve met through this community and I am deeply thankful for everything that he’s done for me and the scene as a whole. He’s changed the game for the better.

Sunny Side Up - In August 2019 QLD was running it’s first major for Smash Ultimate. I had been to a mere nine Ultimate events and despite a smattering of good wins I was still not cemented in the slightest. Between still trying to adapt to the new game, making so few events and usually being exhausted at those events due to work - my early run in Ultimate was rough and I was falling way behind where I could be. I feel like I was seeded to my potential and not seeded to my reality and I ended up going a pitiful 1-2 in the main bracket. Despite this, the event was really special. By comparison UQFD 1 and 2 were mere appetisers to SSU which lured some of the biggest names in all of Aus to us. The vibe of the venue was incredible and the energy in the room whenever a QLD player was on stream was electric. Expecting my competitive run to go poorly I put my hand up for everything I could, captaining a pool, getting to do a bit of commentary and getting to host the entire top 8. I had seen a WA major have a host for a top 8 and thought that it added a lot to the experience. I had done similar roles at local wrestling shows previously so I made my pitch to the SSU team and I’m glad that they said yes. I remember getting dressed for the role and having all of my notes ready to go but there being a long delay due to a streaming issue of some sort. This was a great check in for me as if this period of limbo happened even two years prior I would have been an anxious mess but by 2019 I was doing much much better. The hosting might be my highlight of the entire event and I was determined to make my next shot at it even better.

Framing this entire weekend was the fact that I was housing a number of players from Cairns as well as a French backpacker called Neath. English wasn’t Neath’s first language which made some communications clunky but I really enjoyed hearing about Neath’s experiences in Australia through his unique perspective. I think that the time with Neath was quite impactful for me and I now find myself always asking foreigners about their home countries and their impressions of Aus. I even got to give him his first taste of Vegemite with him looking at me baffled asking if my kids actually eat this stuff. The Cairns guys were an interesting mob. Toketchan was super chill but the other guys were teens/early adults and it was apparent that they hadn’t had much life experience yet. I’m pretty certain that if it wasn’t for me prompting them that they would have never had a shower or breakfast at any point on that weekend. On the Friday night some of them were still in ammy’s bracket which held us up at the venue for ages and then at the end of SSU on Sunday night they were too tired for the afterparty, which is the opposite of what you want. I think that my SSU experience would have been a lot better if it was just Neath and Toketchan, but on the Monday I got to take the group to Mt Coot-tha, South Bank and Brisbane City which seemed really impactful for the young guys so maybe it’s not all about me. The thought of starting a new work week cycle on the Tuesday was terrifying. I was exhausted going into the weekend, exhausted coming out of the weekend and I didn’t think that I could even keep up the pace of attending once a month. I really legitimately thought I was going to quit Smash.

Ultimate Insight - In 2019 professional wrestler Jon Moxley was a main event level wrestler in WWE. He was a multiple time world champion but even through the lense of a viewer you could tell that he was unhappy in his role. In a shocking development he let his contract expire choosing not to renew with the company offering him literally millions of dollars. He walked. He became a free agent and immediately popped up in every other major wrestling company. Some of the interviews that he was a part of were legendary with him being such a transparent and free spirited individual. However some of the interviews I listened to of his were awful with many of the questioners giving him the most limp and uninspired conversation topics possible. These made me mad and I would constantly theorise what questions I would ask Jon Moxley if I was in the position to do so. That’s when it hit me - my previous years of my anxiety causing me to ask mountains of questions so I had unrealistic levels of certainty had forged me into a natural interviewer.

The Tournameta podcast was going strong, and was something that I yearned to be a part of due to being such a podcast fiend, but I felt like it filled one particular role and that I could fill something completely different. My idea was a long form written response format with questions completely unique to each interviewee. I wanted questions that would get very individualised responses and guide them into telling their story. I was adamant about keeping it to five questions as it meant each had to be extremely meaningful. I wanted to keep it quite positive with the last question always being outward facing, something that the audience could get inspired by or at the least get a conversation going. I wrote up a project proposal and sent it to Jett and Cap trying to explain how I’ve got this idea and if they feel like it’s different enough to what they’re doing. Their words were a little different, but the response amounted to “we don’t give a shit. You do you, king.”

I didn’t just want the same old voices again and intentionally tried to avoid anyone that had already been highlighted on the podcast. I put an enormous amount of thought into who I wanted to have on and the order I wanted it to be released. When Loki’s article randomly did great numbers I knew I made the right choice by highlighting some of the newer players. Having Ben Gold on was really cool because he was currenting in America for Kongo Saga and due to it being a written format I was able to get his replies and put it live immediately. Outside of it scratching that creative project itch it was personally really fulfilling to have these sorts of “conversations.” Choosing who to have on for the second season was really difficult since my shortlist was like 30 people. I ended up highlighting some of the more overlooked people like Xondrell, Blurry and Vye since I felt like they all had really unique stories to tell. In a stroke of insanity/genius I came up with the idea of having two wildcard entries in NSW’s Ryan and Ben Gold’s Dad to keep things unpredictable. On the theme of unpredictability - the most viewed article was Junglio’s. Who would have guessed that?

I had lots of ideas for a third season of it. Due to building a bit of a following through the series I wanted to start interviewing some of the top players/TOs of other states and to let it organically grow into something big. But at the same time there were a tonne of QLD guys that I wanted to keep highlighting like Gus, Python, Julian and Zenzilla off the top of my head. I actually got close to doing a third season post retirement but never pulled the trigger. Ironically Ultimate Insight’s success led to me being on the Tournameta Podcast which was a huge honour for me. I really wish we could have recorded it in person but by this point Cap was living in Sydney so we had to do it over Discord. I really don’t enjoy voice calls as I can’t feel the energy of the person properly so I imagine I would have sounded a bit off, but people have said that they enjoyed it which is nice to hear. I’m never going to listen back to it because I had the bright idea of drinking a 6 pack during it and was drunkenly telling stories of threesome invites by the end. After the recording I remember being too drunk to walk up the stairs so I was just chatting with other Smash players which led to the birth of the Grillers, Fishers and Smashers community. Shoutout to my boys.

All in all I was extremely happy with how Ultimate Insight turned out. I felt like it achieved its purpose and made the Smash Community Experience ™ a more fulfilling one for players of all levels. I feel like if I stuck it out it could have grown into something quite large but I’m thankful for the skill development it gave me.

Arcadian - For the remainder of 2019 my attendance remained quite spotty but my workload began to stabilise a bit with my results in turn becoming a bit more consistent. I would typically do well against the mid level but wouldn’t be able to make much of a dent in the PR. Well the good news for me was that QLD were going to run an Arcadian in early 2020 which would eliminate the PR out of the equation. I remember I was literally in line outside of the Tokyo Dome about to watch NJPW Wrestle Kingdom when the latest PR dropped. It removed pretty much all of my biggest threats and all of a sudden I felt like I had a wide open run. Arcadian was my opportunity to break my Ultimate slump and cement myself as a top level player. The hype around it was huge with people betting real money on who would make the top 8. I think I saw my name twice between thirty predictions. At some point in the hype cycle my mindset completely changed from something hyper competitive to just wanting to be involved in such an exciting event. I’m glad this happened as it ended up being my favourite event ever.

There was an absolute swarm of people in the venue. Over 150 entrants showed up including a number of interstaters. There was so much nervous energy in the room it completely washed away any fatigue I had from work. Ben Gold and I absolutely dominated doubles and won the bracket without dropping a set. Ben is the player that I know better than anyone else so our synergy was on point. I really loved sharing this moment with a great friend. My singles run was decent, dropping out at 9th after losing to Ryan and Fly. I was really lost in the match ups and honestly wasn’t too disappointed at all. I can’t imagine the top 8 without Fly or Ryan in it.

The Top 8 was magical. The entire room was there for every match and every moment and it felt so special. If you go back and watch the footage you’ll see me on my feet constantly just swept up in the hype. What really cemented Arcadian as an all time great is what happened after the Grand Finals. When handshakes and congratulations were given someone called out “Amateurs Grand Finals is just about to start!” and a group of nearly 40 people huddled around a single monitor at the opposite end of the venue and were as into that set as the Top 8 that preceded it. The people just wanted more Smash.

I find it difficult to explain what kept me coming back to Smash events. I can point to more tangible aspects like the people or the competitive aspect but the reality is the energy. That type of energy is so special.

Metashift - The QLD community was on such a high from the Arcadian with many already buzzing about the next one. This was the window where we ran the QLD40 Reveal Livestream which was a resounding success. I was stoked to have enough attendance to reach rank 19 for the season and I knew this was just the beginning. A mere month after Arcadian and it was time for the next QLD major - Metashift.

This was a whole new type of major with Jett being the captain of the ship. It promised a high production and it absolutely delivered. The lighting, stream stage, just everything felt major league. The positive word of mouth from SSU brought in another strong turn out from interstaters which again leant an amazing energy to the event with the crowd cheering on their QLD statesmen. My singles run was so-so but I got to have a really fun run in the 3v3 crew battles with my team of Negima and Shadrew. We came third overall but my personal highlight was having our trio defeat a trio of Jezmo and two other players from his era. After many years ago seeing the top players together as a crew and making in-jokes between themselves and hoping that one day I’d be like that, I had reached that level and didn’t realise until that moment. This was the closest to a passing of the torch experience I ever got.

Just like at SSU I got to fill a number of roles at the event. I did a couple of blocks of comms and I felt like my commentary was quite a good level by this point and that I held up my end of the bargain for a major. I also got to do top 8 hosting again and I felt like I was across the board better in the role than last time. Having a couple of QLD players in the top 8 and getting the crowd riled up certainly made it easier. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a Smash crowd louder than when Shadrew got that zero to death on Ghost. Feet. Also I’ve got to give a shoutout to the entrances for the top 8s. As a wrestling fan I love the campiness of it all and I absolutely lost my shit at DD’s perfect recreation of the Pipe Bomb promo. QLD Smash was in an extremely hot period and it felt really good to be part of it again. After essentially being benched for the first year of Ultimate I felt like I had found my place and was genuinely excited to invest into it again. Between hosting the livestream event and Metashift, I’ve got to credit Jett for bringing back that spark for me.

Jett - I love Jett. He’s genuinely one of the MVPs of Australian Smash with the enormous amount of contributions he’s done and I’m so happy that he gets recognised for it. He’s always been really encouraging of my creative projects and I really appreciate him wanting me to be involved with some of his. On a personal level we really get along even though he brings out my chaotic side to dangerous levels. Some of my favourite commentary memories were doing it alongside him and trying my hardest to make him laugh. I’m always excited to see what outside the box ideas he’s working on and I really believe the best is yet to come for him in both Smash and what he’s going to achieve outside of Smash. Thank you for everything Jett.

COVID - With my spark renewed and QLD Smash feeling like it had a tonne of momentum, it was just appropriate for it to all came crashing down when COVID hit Australia. All tournaments were immediately shut down with no proper events running for ten long months. Online tournaments were never going to be a substitute for what I look for in Smash and with nothing going on to even create content for, I was quickly losing interest in all of it. Without Smash there to connect us I had to face the fact that I really don't have much in common with a lot of the community. I yet again thought I was done with Smash and once restrictions were going to ease I was looking at getting into something new. This was the lowest I ever felt about Smash. Also if you’re sick of hearing about me wanting to quit just imagine how my wife felt. Iso Combat was quite clever but my mindset just wasn’t there and I feel like I brought a lot of negativity to the events I went to. One of the few bright spots was a Smash session that Jix was holding at his house.

The Gold Coast 2: A New Wave - The Gold Coast scene in Ultimate was almost entirely different compared to the region’s scene in Smash 4. Despite the average age there being so low I found myself connecting with quite a few of them. For ages I thought Jix was like 25 because I thought he had an air of maturity around him but the reality was that he was just quiet and is probably more immature now than he’s ever been and I love him for that. Jix will talk shit but he’s a really sweet kid that’s worked extremely hard to get to where he is today and deserves all of the success he’s gotten. Gabby is legit such a sweet heart. One time I visited his island in Animal Crossing to buy something off him and I was just in awe of the creativity he showed with his island design. What was meant to be a short exchange turned into a 30 minute tour of his island where I just kept asking him to tell me more stories. He’s shared with me quite a bit about what led him to want to do teaching and told me about one teacher in particular that changed his life. He’s said that I remind him of that teacher and the magnitude of that isn’t lost on me. Phil brings the chaotic energy that I love and I think that Smash is better off with him in it. Dags is someone that I have a lot of respect for because he’s young but he values developing himself as a human being. It doesn’t matter where you are, what matters is the direction you’re going in. You’re doing a great job kid. Rounding off tthe GC, Boingboing is just a genuine dude with great vibes and has been really encouraging of my creativity. Even if he did throw out my HSP once.

Since I don’t know when these guys will come up here’s a couple more. Kaboose is absolutely hilarious and if you don’t like him you’re a dumb shit. Ham is the perfect example of age being just a number with him showing way more maturity than most 5 years his senior. In a sea of Smash players with fursonas or anime girls as their profile pictures it’s been so refreshing to find someone that I can relate to. And lastly Onigiri is someone that I found myself really enjoying at the tail end of Smash and it’s been great to watch him grow. Despite the anime girls.

One More Year - In December 2020 Toowoomba was running the first proper offline tournament since COVID titled Smashmas. A number of Brisbane players including myself all decided to go to it and the feeling of walking into a big open room with rows of TVs felt like I was home again. After all of the negativity towards Smash I had felt in the flux of COVID, this felt like I was back in the saddle again. My job roster had continued to improve and I could all of a sudden make an event of some sort every week.

In January 2021 I decided this is it. I made a promise to Ben Gold that this was going to be my last year in Smash with my goals being to create more content, continue to shape the community culture for the better and to finally do a good competitive run in Ultimate. I was going to stop being a little wishy washy bitch and commit to a strong finish. I didn’t want to get burnt out and bitter like so many other players and I wanted to end it right.

Making an event every week wasn’t always easy with some of them occurring after an 8 hour work day and an hour of traffic, but I sure gave it a shot. My consistent opportunities to play the game at a competitive setting got me sharp and I was playing at level which I always knew I had the potential to play at. I was getting multiple 3-0 wins on PR and this led to getting ranked tenth on the first quarter’s QLD40. While this wasn’t technically a PR due to season timing and you could debate that PRs aren’t always strictly ten, this ticked off a huge goal of mine. Years ago I was so afraid to be a PR player due to insecurities that I had and now in 2021 I was confident in who I was and far more complete as a person. The greatest achievement here wasn’t beating people in a children’s video game. It was being able to see how much I had grown.

X-Men and The 411 - Amongst this hot run I had Xondrell hit me up and ask if I wanted to join his new crew the X-Men. Xondrell and I weren’t yet super close but he was someone that I always enjoyed chatting to at tournaments and always loved to hear him talk about metal just because he was so passionate about it. Xondrell didn't get great results but I really respected how he didn’t get discouraged and stuck with the game. A PR level player being in the same crew as an 0-2’r would have been unheard of in Smash 4 but the culture had shifted so much, for the better, and I was totally down for it. The crew was small with Iroh who I had a lot of good history with, Exist who I knew but wasn’t super close with and M4tch and Conductus who I legit didn’t know at all. M4tch and I have since become decent mates and he now works in the same industry as me with Support Work which is cool. It was fun having a little crew again despite not knowing half of them. I enjoyed texting the group chat celebrating whenever a crew member would do well at an event. Within mere weeks of being asked by Xondrell about The X-Men Ben Gold sent the message that I always wanted - “Hey dude do you want to join The 411?”

By 2021 The 411 weren’t quite the dominating force that they once were due to most of them being side-lined due to real life obligations. Some were straight out of Smash entirely but there were still a couple of top level players like SadHour and Ben Gold still repping the brand every other week. These guys were still some of my best mates in Smash, friends that I had done life with for years, so it felt like such a no brainer to say yes. My mind went back to mid 2017 when the Squirtle Squad was split and I was left on the sidelines but this time I had no Jaice connection to create any friction. The 411 take their crew seriously with cool merch and everything and request that if you’re part of their crew that you’re with them singularly. You’re still very much encouraged to mingle with everyone else but if you’re going to be doing a crew battle they want to be the single crew that you rep. Some might disagree but I feel like this is fair. But this put me in a tough position.

I had to break it to Xondrell that I would be “leaving X-Men” but would still be doing everything I was already doing with them with the group chat and cheering the guys on. He was understandably annoyed about the situation. I told him that I’m really sorry and that it’s nothing malicious but even today I feel bad about it all. It wasn’t a great position for anyone to be in.

But I had done it. I was officially part of The 411 and got a hype video and merch and the whole shebang. I got to rep them in a crew battle against Bust a Move in a real generational war and loved it all. Something that sums up the heart of The 411 was the pre crew battle speech that Julian gave. He told us “no matter win or lose, we must give them respect.” I wish that the circumstances were a little bit cleaner but I really appreciate a collective of people that I really enjoy and admire reaching out to me and telling me that I’m one of them.

Knowing it was over - I had made the top ten competitively, finally joined my boys in The 411 and just put out some more creative projects. I was having the time of my life with Smash and felt like I had achieved so much in the first few months of this final year. I was planning on taking my competitive to the next level by adding Pikachu as a secondary so I'd stop losing to bloody Palutena and Lucina. I got super into learning the character and sunk a lot of hours into him over a couple of days and was really happy with how he was coming along.

But then it happened. It’s hard to define but I just felt like it was done. There were a lot of shifts happening in my personal life, positive ones, with the biggest being my wife potentially returning to work. But all of a sudden I knew that it was time.

I know that it sounds sappy but the idea of properly finishing with Smash and walking away after 6 and a half years was actually kind of scary. I had worked so hard and put in so much into the people, culture and community to make it better. It’s hard to walk away from something that you’ve invested so much of your identity into.

I made my last event the 2021 June Flip the ‘Swich which was a series run by Ham who was a TO I really believe in. For each game I got my opponent to roll a D10 and I would play one of ten characters based on the number. It was an idea I saw another player in NSW do and something I always wanted to try. I had a fantastic time being at the mercy of the roll. I had only told a few people that it was gonna be my last one but word spread pretty quick with a few players asking me “are you really quitting? Is this really your last one?” which always put a lump in my throat. On the way out Julian, one of the natural leaders of The 411 and the man I immaturely disrespected all those years ago at Beach Burrito, told me that it was great to see me there today and that it’s always great when I’m around which was very bittersweet.

Life after Smash - I got straight into joking about how flimsy Smash retirements are and still kept in contact with everyone. I was still attending house parties and casual events and was probably still seeing everyone each week for ages. It was an easy transition out because I still really cared for a lot of these dudes and didn’t want to just drop them from my life. I really got the itch at one point after randomly getting into Little Mac and considered returning as a one off but in the end knew it wasn’t what I wanted. I found myself connecting a lot with the Grillers, Fishers and Smashers fellas because we’d just talk about bloke stuff. It took almost 7 years but I finally found some Smashers I have a lot in common with. But sorry lads my forever crew is The 411. I attended the year ending event Pissmas as a spectator which was awesome fun. It was a small taste of that unique energy that Smash brings and it was cool to be part of it again, even as an onlooker.

My wife ended up returning to work and my work life balance is the best that it’s been in years. Our marriage is amazing and I’m constantly thankful for my amazing family. Maybe one of my boys will get into competitive, who knows? Post-Smash I tried to find things that would fill some of the gaps which took some experimenting. For the community aspect I’m involved in church more than I have been in years. For creative I’m doing projects wherever inspiration takes me (like here right now!). And for competitive I got into weights and am now the strongest I’ve ever been. Watching those numbers go up like ELO baby.

At the start of 2015 I entered Smash as an extremely anxious boy that was scared to say the wrong thing and was drowning in self doubt. In 2021 I left it as a man who was confident in who he is and is determined to make the world a better place by the time I’ve left it. I’ve met some amazing people who will be friends for life and filled my life with moments that I’ll remember forever. I don’t know what my legacy in Smash will be, but my time with Smash will forever be an important chapter in making me who I am today.

by Mittens 12/21/2021 00:00:00

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