By Jamie “JAMJAR” Jacobs
Anyone who has ever attempted to break into the Super Smash Bros. tournament scene has experienced the journey I am on right now. I have just finished my second Smash 64 tournament. This experience has lit a fire in my stomach which is urging me to compete more and to get better. My day is marked by periods of thinking about nothing but my matches. When I get home from work, I intend to do homework or read a book or play piano. In the end, I cannot help but to gravitate towards Smash. I wonder to myself, “Has everyone else gone through this same thing? How similar are these experiences to the beginnings of our greatest players?” This search for answers may be better explained by looking back at how my own obsession began.
In the summer of 2014 my company was rapidly expanding. We were moving out of our prior shared location to a warehouse all our own. However, this new location was pretty far from the homes of all four of the employees, so we decided to rent a house together. One of my coworkers was my brother. This is important because for years he had been bragging about his skill in Smash 64. In a drunken moment, we had agreed that we would someday play a set for 30 dollars. When we moved into the new house, I knew that I must purchase Smash 64 and play this set. The price was oddly high, but I had a feeling we would get a lot of entertainment out of it so I made the purchase.
The first thing we did when we got the cartridge was play our money match. I won easily, claiming my first victory in competition. Over the course of a year, thousands of intense matches were played in that house. My brother and I developed a vicious rivalry. I was very confident in my skills and declared I could beat him in a ditto with his main. Prior to this declaration I was solely a Samus main, so you can imagine how annoyed he would get at this comment. If I won I would take his color: the coveted blue Kirby. I won this set easily and despite his best efforts, my brother could never take his color back. We played thousands of Kirby dittos in this time, leading me to leave behind my prior main and pick up Kirby seriously.
As my three roommates and I played and improved we began to discover the early tech skills. We learned to z-cancel consistently and tech out of tumbles. We developed some of the most basic combos for characters such as Kirby’s down-air into up-tilts or Luigi’s up-air into up-B. This was such an exciting time for us as our skills were rapidly increasing. However, the good times eventually came to an end. Our business hit a rough spot and we ended up moving back to our old location. My brother had fallen in love with Colorado, and so my best playing partner left me for that marijuana-filled state. Not only that, because the business moved again, the rest of the house decided we should move away. I ended up back at my parents’ house with no consistent playing partner.
However, this would not be the demise of my Smash 64 career. Prior to this move, I had been doing some research to find a local scene. I made a call out to Reddit and Cobr responded. He told me of a small tournament merely twenty minutes from my house called A Video Game Con. After deciding I would be attending, I began practicing online to gain match-up knowledge and grinding in training mode to increase my tech skill. At this tournament I met my first professional smasher in person. Cobr played friendlies with me for two hours, giving me many tips for how to improve. In tournament I ended up placing fourth and had a great time. I played with many other smashers, including a few that were right around my skill level.
After AVGC I had trouble finding time to attend more tournaments. I was working full-time and going back to college. This in no way stymied my desire to improve though, as I made it a point to play 64 online a few hours a week. When Shears’ post that Shots Fired 2 had expanded to include Smash 64 came across my feed on Reddit, I knew I needed to attend. In the weeks prior to this tournament I practiced harder than ever before. I attempted to get an hour of online play in every day. More importantly, I made it a point to practice my tech skill and combos in training mode. As my dedication improved, so did my play. I could finally semi-consistently pivot up-tilt on command and had learned how to combo harder out of Kirby’s up-tilt.
Shots Fired 2 arrived and was truly an incredible experience. I played with some of the most skilled people in North America, even managing to defeat some of their secondary characters in friendlies. In pools I got obliterated by Stranded and Shears but managed to not get five stocked. My other sets were much more competitive, including a particularly intense set against XOR which was streamed. In the end I went 1-4 in pools but was very happy with how I had performed. Despite having a worse showing than at AVGC, I felt I had played much better.
Looking back at my journey to this moment, where I am on the cusp of being fully engrossed in the Smash 64 scene, I cannot help but think this journey has been experienced by everyone before me. From the first feelings of the joy of competition with a rival to the exhilarating experience of discovering the first tech. From grinding hundreds of hours when the obsession first takes hold to feeling the rush of tournament pressure for the first time. All these moments have culminated in this moment in a Smasher’s life: the point where he or she must decide if they will give it their all or stay on the fringes of the scene. As all of the great players of this scene decided before me, I am intent on going all in. Smash 64 has not seen the last of me.