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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Those Brothers through Smash: Saving Apex 2015!

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - The community (and sponsors) saved the day.

We know that Apex 2015, (originally) from Friday January 30 to Sunday February 1, was signed up to be the biggest Super Smash Bros. series tournament ever, with well over 1,000 (to 2,000) unique entrants between the games. With Nintendo's sponsorship and even Splatoon making an appearance, what could go wrong? Having so much fun with Splatoon you miss your Smash Bros. match?

Well, the hotel that Apex 2015 took place at, the Clarion Hotel Empire Meadowlands Hotel, was shut down for fire code violations and crumbling infrastructure. For more information, check out this screenshot of reviews (and Clarion literally ASKED for these reviews) that Apex participants left for the hotel. You can look at more reviews at your own leisure:

Clarion Hotel Empire Meadowlands Hotel Apex 2015 venue convention reviews fire code violations
Not gonna lie, I laughed with some of these.
So if the venue they planned a three-day event at basically collapses (and they don't refund you), what happens to the event? Lesser communities might have just said, "Well, these are extreme circumstances! Let's cancel it and spend the weekend in the New Jersey snow!" (Actually, Splatoon stayed at the Clarion the whole weekend for some reason, so maybe they'd all play Splatoon and have a blast.) 

No, they moved the venue several miles away with new hotel rooms and changed the three-day event to a two-day event, as the Apex organisers worked tirelessly on Friday to move the many set-ups (provided by Nintendo (Wii Us, games, controllers, adapters — there would not have been enough equipment without Nintendo) and Gaming Generations (much of their equipment shipped by Nintendo)) to the Garden State Convention Center (which has much better reviews). The tournament went on as scheduled, although it wasn't really only two days since the Super Smash Bros. Melee end of the bracket went on past midnight and into Monday. That's three.

You can tell from those nested parenthesis that I really want to talk more about Nintendo's role in this. The Super Smash Bros. community did their thing (and there were other important sponsors, like Twitch TV that arranged the Garden State Convention Center with shuttles too) and the tournaments happened. ZeRo (known within KoopaTV at "scarf-boy", mentioned before as the time-staller who won the E3 2014 Invitational) won the Super Smash Bros. For Wii U 1v1 tournament with Diddy Kong, and PPMD (who won the fan-favourite tournament at the E3 2014 Invitational) won the Super Smash Bros. Melee 1v1 tournament.

ZeRo is the Smash For Wii U Champion! Apex 2015
We can only hope people are inspired to play Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze after Diddy's performances. No down-throw to up-air there, just saying.

Something bad happened with ZeRo's win, however. Sleep-deprived Super Smash Bros. Melee fans chanted for that game's finals top 8 bracket to start around the time that screenshot above was taken, instead of respecting the players and Smash 4. Basically, Melee players went into mob mentality and treated Smash 4 as an unworthy time-wasting side show that drove Apex 2015 very late into the night. And assuming Nintendo was still watching the tournament (they'd have an easier time staying awake over on the west coast, at least), that certainly would not leave a good impression.

Back to what Nintendo did. They partnered up with Screw Attack and hosted a Newcomers Stream meant for relative newbies to competitive Super Smash Bros., centered on Super Smash Bros. 4. (I told you guys not to get your expectations up, you weirdos who thought it'd be Mewtwo DLC news!) It only got like 1,000 viewers at a time max from when I was there (compared to tens of thousands or over 100,000 at VG Boot Camp at the peak of Melee) but it showcased JC Rodrigo of Nintendo Treehouse with select-and-willing players willing to show off some aspects of Smash 4 (that can be transferred to the previous titles) like Directional Influence and throwing people, along with how to get into the competitive scene (they made sure to plug Smashboards a lot). JC assured folks at home that Nintendo would not try to "take over" the competitive scene, but they just want to support it and get more people into it. After all, it's the competitive players who will stick around to the end!

That's the message for you non-interested people. Passionate people keep games alive! You don't need to do community-building behind your game if you're going to just release a new sequel every year, because there's nothing specific to that game you need to build up. You can build behind a franchise, but when you and I think of yearly releases (Call of Duty, Pokémon, Assassin's Creed, Madden NFL), some of these are just taken for granted that they'll sell.

Clarion Hotel Empire Meadowlands Hotel Apex 2015 venue convention reviews fire code violations
More reviews, because it's "so bad it's funny". KoopaTV is here to entertain!

Not so with Super Smash Bros., which is one per generation. And since each game has played out very differently than the next, people have created individual communities around each game. Leaders like progducto (who has blocked KoopaTV on Twitter, but we'll get into that at a later date) in the Super Smash Bros. community are trying to create unity ("One Unit") between the Super Smash Bros. games and are shaming the anti-community behaviour of some in the community. Others believe that since the games are so DIFFERENT, you can't force people to appreciate, respect, or like the unique intricacies between the games.

Specifically, Super Smash Bros. Melee spectators value the soap opera-like rivalries between the top players for that game, and don't see the value of watching Super Smash Bros. For Wii U. Those rivalries have taken many years to develop, while Smash 4 has been out for a couple of months. ...So, I mean, you shouldn't complain there aren't compelling narratives this early. Especially if you're going to diss anyone who tries to competitively play Smash 4. KoopaTV's normal readers should be able to figure out how this could turn into a cycle quickly. "Boo people who do well in the game, shame the game for not having people play it."

Apex 2015's management also had problems, as you might expect given the cataclysm. But they did the best they could! So, props to them. I enjoyed it and that weekend was totally devoured by Super Smash Bros. action. Better than whatever happened in the Super Bowl, anyway.
Clarion Hotel Empire Meadowlands Hotel Apex 2015 venue convention reviews fire code violations manager response
The unsatisfactory comfort, limited cleanliness, and inadequate customer service were actually the highest-rated things.

Before I finish this article, I have one more thing to note: Although JC said Nintendo wouldn't take over the scene, thanks to Nintendo's sponsorship, the "Project M" mod got eliminated from Apex 2015 entirely. On the Newcomers Stream, one of the commentators was labeled as a "Project M Caster" but that got changed to "Professional Caster" some minutes into it when they noticed the problem. A lot of Smashers are angry about this, but I'm totally fine with it. In fact, I encourage it. Acting like a modification of an official game is itself an official game just because you don't like the original official game is stupid, but a lot of Super Smash Bros. fans do it. And they want it on the same pedestal as any other Super Smash Bros. game because they have a favourable opinion of it. When I tell people about the games in the Punch-Out!! series, I include Trayvon Tyson's Punch-Out!! just to advertise it. These people are legitimately serious about it.

But hey, with the way society is going giving "rights" to minority and special interest groups, it may be a matter of time before Nintendo sacrifices their original artistic intent and includes Project M! After all, they already had to deal with a massively-coordinated attack on artistic intent a year ago and apologised for their original pro-creator stance... But KoopaTV opposed that attack, and we'll stand by Nintendo's removal of "Project M" here, too!

Ludwig didn't know he would be interested in keeping up with competitive Super Smash Bros. years ago, but after he watched "The Smash Brothers" documentary, which you can watch here, he decided to give it a try and has liked it! You can challenge him in Super Smash Bros. For Wii U by sending him a non-blank friend request at NNID PrinceOfKoopas!

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