"USA! USA! USA!" I chant. My words echo across the thousand-plus people in the Mississauga, Ontario convention centre. They join in themselves.
"USA! USA! USA!"
The words shake the building. For a few seconds, it feels like the entire venue is chanting "USA! USA! USA!". Michigan's top player, James "Duck" Ma, has Sweden's William "Leffen" Hjelte down to his last life of the tournament, but in Leffen's mind, his tournament is already over. When you take a break from attending national tournaments for half a year, no practice at home can keep your resolve shielded against the reverberating sound of your opponent's home country. Leffen takes his last chance at a comeback and runs off the stage, ending the set with a 3-1 victory for Duck. He stands up and walks away. The disputed best Super Smash Bros. Melee player attempts to regain composure after a disappointing 7th-place finish.
Enter the fanatical world of competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee, or "Melee" for short. A place where thousands of strangers pack up their old, tiny CRTs and carpool, sometimes for hours and across borders, to play a 15-year-old, family- friendly, party game made by Nintendo.
Despite how it was advertised in 2001, the game has an incredibly high skill ceiling. High-level Melee requires many actions being performed within a few 60ths of a second, often in split-second decisions in reaction to your opponent's moves. While challenging, mastering this difficulty yields impressive results. Melee offers extremely fluid movement and near-total control of your character. Passions run high not only among the players but the fans as well. Personalities can be observed on play-styles alone, creating an extension of the player themselves and an amazing spectator experience.
I have been involved in this scene for over three years now. I have practised singular actions for hours, even days, to assign their execution to muscle memory. I have bled, traveled, sustained injuries, laughed, cried, and made life-long connections thanks to this game. For my first time, this Thanksgiving weekend I will be crossing the border to play in "The Big House 6," the fourth biggest Melee tournament of all time and the sixth entry in a highly prestigious series. By no means do I expect to stand victorious, but I do expect to use this experience to stand victorious in the future.
Nick Gibbins is a writer, competitive gamer, and resident big mouth. He tends to prefer acting on impulse and writing the aftermath over observing how things play out on their own. Currently in his second year in Algonquin College’s Professional Writing program, Nick plans to mesh all of his hobbies together to pay the bills.