If you know me as an acquaintance or someone you occasionally talk to, you know that I have a random obsession with early and mid ’00s pop culture. But if you really know who I am, you know that there’s more to me than just being a nostalgic nerd. As seemingly embarrassing as it sounds, there’s a certain Nintendo game from 2001 that’s played an incredible role in my life for the last few years: “Super Smash Bros. Melee.”
I could talk forever about the intricate mechanics (whether or not they’re intentional is another debate) that make “Melee” such a brilliant game. Long story short, though: it’s perfect for casuals to pick up and play with their friends, but maintains an extremely high skill curve to create an incredibly demanding, yet rewarding experience for competitive players.
Don’t believe me about the execution barrier? Watch any professional “Melee” Fox player. Whether it’s dash dancing, short hopping, L-canceling or numerous other techniques that warrant lengthy explanations, there is an immense execution barrier to play the game at a high level. For example, two years ago, Reddit poster Pavoneo calculated the amount of actions per minute (APM) that professional player “Hax$” had: in one game, he had just over 290 APM.
That’s not to say the game is flawless. In addition to the high technical skill required to even begin playing as a competitive player (which might deter newer players more used to games like “Super Smash Bros. Brawl”), the ledge mechanics of “Melee” are inconsistent and sometimes even favor players who are playing defensive and “campy” to kill opponents off stage at early percents, rather than interacting with them on stage. Moreover, techniques like “wobbling” – an easy-to-execute Ice Climbers infinite grab – can be frustrating for newer players to deal with. This isn’t even going into depth about how unbalanced the cast might seem, as only half the characters in the game are really worth playing at a high level.
Yet as silly as it is, the best part of playing “Melee” is how expressive it is. I could write a whole essay on why and how you can express yourself through your play, but you might not understand it. The game allows itself for unbelieve deliberation in how you choose to play – and at the top levels, you need a mix of heavy technical skill, ability to adapt, extreme mental fortitude and the ability to read your opponent’s intent in order to succeed. Intimidating? Maybe, but it’s also something you should try to experience yourself.
Acting like this is just a game would be a lie. In addition to being a student and Daily Campus writer for the last two and a half years, I’ve also become involved in Connecticut’s and UConn’s competitive “Melee” scene, playing the game semi-professionally with other collegiate players and organizing local tournaments for UConn’s “Melee” club.
To Jason Zhang, even though it felt like you were more serious about making sarcastic jokes and rehashing memes than actually improving, you were one of the first people I ever played “Melee” with competitively in college. Thanks for being one of my best friends and dedicating yourself to hours each month towards our club and streaming our material. I really appreciate what you’ve done for our club.
To George Burch, you’re an absolute “homie,” even if sometimes you are more serious about getting drunk on Thursday nights than you are about getting better at “Melee.” You’re the man for hosting late-night impromptu get-togethers, when you, me and several of our friends would play from midnight to past 6:00 a.m. on weekdays when we had class. Shoutout to Kevin Lei, Peter Jutras, Jimmy Huynh, Scott Norton, Eben Prostak, Mac Ira, Seth March.
To Keith Robichaud, thank you so much for being president of the UConn “Melee” club and always pushing me to improve as a player and person. Even though you were one of two people in the group I almost never outplaced (Matt Martinelli being the other one), you were always a great competitor to play against, amazing teammate for UConn’s intercollegiate crew and helped me through some difficult emotional times where I wanted to quit. You are both a “Melee” fiend and amazing guy.
To everyone else in the “Melee” club I didn’t mention and hopefully will be seeing soon: I will miss all of you so much. Over the last two years or so, we’ve become like a big family. We didn’t always get along very well, since our competitive drive would spill from the game to squabbling over occasionally petty differences. However, I think by the end of the year, we all understood that we shared this rabid, but beautiful love for the game.
This column is dedicated to all of you (my readers included) for inspiring me not to just chase my dreams in my hobbies, but to apply myself towards anything I do for the rest of my life. Thank you.