Social Dynamics for Smashers

It’s surreal to me that I feel compelled to write this article, but after talking to a lot of my close friends, I really think this can help a lot of people in our community.  If you watched the documentary and you came out with the impression that HBox is a victimized homie and Mango is a douche, read this article.  If you thought that story involving a noob, me, and W33dl0rd made me come off as a douche, read this article.  If you think I have Asperger’s, go fuck yourself; you almost certainly should read this article but I won’t expect you to do what’s best for yourself.  I’m going to tell some lengthy anecdotes here before getting to any sweeping claims or advice.  Anyone who knows me in real life knows I spend a shitton of time contextualizing stories, to the extent that it takes away from the visceral impact, but I will continue to do it anyway because I care about the value of context.

In the responses to a previous article, I got some flak for a story regarding an awkward noob.  This doesn’t surprise me because I don’t hold the social awareness of an average Internet random in high regard.  Being an awkward teenager isn’t something you need be ashamed of.  The vast majority of adults in the world were once like you, and this is even more true in nerdy communities like our own.  Let’s collectively try to shed our egos when reading this article.  Given the fact that you are reading an article entitled “Social Dynamics for Smashers,” I think you should be able to take a real honest look at yourself.  There was once a Reddit thread entitled “Why the hate for documentary kids?”  After some years, I realized that the reason for any lingering hate (the reasons were very different initially) is that there’s an age gap.  I replied that it’s because documentary kids are actually kids, and teenagers aren’t generally cool.  I understood my answer could trigger resentment.  Despite this, nothing could prepare me for this reply and the ensuing conversation I had with this Redditor.  His reply was, word for word, letter for letter, I shit you not, “Lmao im in hs and play spprts get ass and socialize i play netplay and go to tourneys in my freetime why r u calling me “Lame” and uncool”

To most of us, that reply speaks for itself.  I don’t need to explain to any of my friends why I’m compelled to facepalm when reading that.  They will all collectively laugh in disbelief at that reply.  I am not sure if I can actually explain how perfectly that embodies my mental image of random strangers on the Internet.  I can think of several reasons why that reply is absolutely ridiculous, but even to a wordsmith like me, there is a legitimately ineffable quality to that post.  I will remember to try to talk like that next time I’m trolling on PC gaming.  Anyway, the only reason for that aside is to provide context so people really understand why I’m writing this article and the mental level I believe much of our community is on.  If you don’t cringe when reading that post, you really should think deeply about this article.

Now, let’s talk about something that we can learn from.  That W33dl0rd+noob story I mentioned, which apparently made me come off as a douche.  If you think I’m a douche, that’s totally understandable—I can be abrasive and pompous.  But there is nothing about this story that puts me in the wrong.  I am going to go into extreme detail here to drive my point home.  From the top, it goes like this:

I was at a tournament on a 4 man rotation.  I would have liked to play teams, but NorCal’s hot up and comer Spark really wanted to play me.  Given that I won 100% of the games on the rotation, I was ok with playing singles, as my main objection with rotations is not getting to play as much as I would like.  On this setup, in addition to me and Spark, was W33dl0rd and a random Asian kid who played Fox and Doc.  We played for about an hour, and even though I won every game, Spark and W33dl0rd still seemed to be having quite a good time.  Spark, W33dl0rd, and I have an interesting social dynamic.  W33dl0rd is my in game apprentice, real life buddy, and a big troll.  I am also a troll but to a lesser extent, and usually more meta in my trolls.  Spark is an adorable 19 year old, whose positive attitude makes him a great competitor to be around.  Even though I find my in game interactions with Spark to be very boring, his good attitude towards the game means I still have fun playing him.  Better players will always admire the fire of up and comers.  In most other communities full of tryhards, it is not common to have better players eager to help their competition hone their skills, but because we have an amazing community, veterans are consistently apt to teach up and comers.  Spark consistently wrecks the worse tryhards who want to be on the comeup, usually by huge margins.  This leads to more than half the people in the venue being salty about how badly Spark shits on them, and they say ridiculous bullshit about his play.  I empathize with anyone in the community whose skills get played down.  Thus, W33dl0rd and I always troll Spark and invariably refer to him as Spork.  Most sentences start with “Reaction tech chase master Spork…” and then follow with some retarded statement like “is so much worse than __insert scrub here__ at neutral game but only wins because he plays so lame.”  Sitting on a setup with these two guys is just a great time all around.  Compounding our joy was the fact that w33dl0rd and I recently discovered the pleasure of Gould dashing, which is when you miss your dashdance and do a slow turn around.  Gould dashes worked about 18/20 times in this session with Spork, so every time I wanted to make him look stupid in game, I would Gould dash him and then w33dl0rd and I would make fun of him.  Again, this kid has a great attitude, so he never takes it badly.  We are all having a great time.  Now back to the point, if you forgot, there’s a 4th player on the TV.  This kid takes 0 stocks in an hour.  Literally not a single stock.  He also says 0 words in an hour.  0 words.  About seven games in, he fsmashes me off as Doc with me at around 80%.  He taunts and then drops the ledgeguard.  I 4 stock him.  Of course, I think to myself, “fucking idiot.”

Think about this kid from my point of view.  He’s sitting on a TV for an hour with three people being very social, obviously having a good time, not taking themselves too seriously, just shooting the shit.  He couldn’t make one joke, tell us his name, ask for tips in game, or do any interacting whatsoever?  The only way I could justify this is if he’s a prideful super tryhard, trying to study and think about the game, who doesn’t want to ask for help.  That would be respectable.  Everyone loves seeing motivated kids who show that they care about getting better.  But then he taunts and squanders his only chance to take a single stock.  Retrospectively, I wonder why the fuck he even sat on a setup with us.  He wasn’t getting shit out of it.  He had a super easy opportunity to make friends.  He could have solicited advice about how to improve his game.  Instead, he was awkward and got 4 stocked playing less than 15% of the time (games against Spark can be pretty long).  Why the fuck did this kid waste our time?  Why did he waste his time?  There is no fucking way I am going to ever invite him to a smashfest at my place.  This was a prime chance to actually get in with people who could help you get better at the game, and he squandered it completely.  You can take away from this that I am judgmental, but you cannot reasonably infer that I am a douchebag for not wanting to invite an awkward random noob who can’t take a stock to my house, as it should be obvious as fuck that people aren’t entitled to getting invited to a homie smashfest to train with good players.

Let’s now talk about how documentary kids reacted by concluding Mango is a douche and HBox is a victim.  I showed the documentary to two ex-girlfriends, neither of which knew anything about Melee or our scene, and they both expressed how badly HBox rubbed them the wrong way.  I was sure not to say anything about my personal opinions on the people in the documentary because I wanted to let them draw their own conclusions.  Then, at Big House 6, I met a sweet girl named Kayla.  She had a quote that resonated with me.  It went, “I can’t see how anyone can watch Hungrybox play, listen to him talk, and like him.”  Now personally, the way he plays does not irk me at all.  I think his Puff has actually produced some of the most hype sets in the last few years.  Armada’s YLink vs Hbox produced the worst Melee of all time, but times have changed, and HBox is rarely the player causing the game to be lame.  In spite of that, I agree wholeheartedly with Kayla’s words.  How can people watch the documentary, hear HBox talk, and arrive at the conclusion that he’s victimized?  The reason is simple.  Poor social awareness.

I know the documentary made Mango look bad.  And yet, both girls I dated didn’t have any resentment for Mango, and both strongly disliked HBox.  I have learned in my adult life that women tend to have way better social awareness than men (myself included), and that adults tend to be much better than teens or kids in this regard.  I first realized this by watching the movie “The Talented Mr. Ripley” with various populations.  Do the same and you’ll see how consistently some demographics pick up on nuances than others.  When an awkward teenager sees Mango and HBox in the documentary, they empathize more with HBox than with Mango.  The first reason is because HBox makes himself sound victimized, and most teenagers feel like they are victimized as well.  The second reason is that they are unable to recognize obvious posturing.  HBox talks one way because he wants to come off a certain way, and he is very deliberate with how he acts.  Being genuine, which Mango obviously is, is not something that teenagers recognize or value as much as adults.  The third reason is a little harder to articulate, but it has to do with recognizing what kind of person Mango is.  Teenagers who are likely to see the documentary are unlikely to be in a circle of “the cool kids.”  Now, I don’t think “the cool kids” are actually any cooler than other teenagers—they tend to be assholes with more confidence—but this is the kind of circle that a Mango type person probably exists in as a teenager.  If anything, Mango’s character is more likely to trigger them because they see him as some douche that they go to high school with, who is not part of their friend circle.  Believe me, I know what it’s like to think that all those other people at your high school are douchebags.  But the point is, Mango is actually quite the likable people person, and teenagers don’t pick up on the value of his character.  Seeing a drunk guy making a fool of himself in public is something that a teenager might look down on whereas a college kid is more likely to think “that’s funny, he’s probably fun to hang out with.”  In short, teenagers are likely to perceive Mango the way you’d perceive a douchey Guy Pearce character, which is just wrong.

Now, hopefully the disparity in how I described these things versus how you thought about some of these things has started to illustrate a difference in how people perceive situations.  So if you got this far, let’s get to the point of all this shit:

Embrace Melee as a social experience.  Getting better at the game almost always involves making new friends and bonding with the ones you already have.  If you think that you can become the best by yourself, you are wrong.  Even Mew2king made friends along the way.  Making more friends opens more possibilities for carpools, getting invited to smashfests, etc.  The Internet is not a nice place; people are assholes here.  People at Melee events tend to be very nice and helpful, especially in older and more established scenes.

Make conscious efforts to expand your social circles.  Playing a diversity of playstyles is extremely important to growth.  Top players can seem like they have a clique, but that’s really the wrong way to look at things.  They have a lot of common ground and years of history.  If you hang out with someone a few times a month for several years, you become inclined to chat with them and will likely become good friends.  They aren’t hanging out with each other because they are top players, they are doing it because they are friends with years of history.  If you have a tiny amount of confidence, you can usually become their friends too.

Build rapport with people by bonding over common feelings, preferably not negative ones.  Whining to build rapport is some of the most common and obnoxious shit that people who haven’t finished school love to do.  We all had shitty teachers with stupid homework, so that made a lot more sense as a way of bonding before we graduated.  Go on a date and whine about your boss and see how far that gets you.  Realistically, liking to smoke, drink, play doubles, play Around the World or Cactuar Stamina Pancake, are all things that can immediately be a point of bonding.  Just be fucking normal and show you are a human being* and you can be friends with top players instead of fans.  I’ve seen people hyperventilating over seeing Mango.  Do you think he’s actually going to want to hang out with that person after the tournament?

*As an aside, “be a normal fucking person” goes double for interacting with our fellow Smash Sisters or even girls outside our scene.  The fact that so many dudes are creepy and socially unaware is a primary reason that necessitates the existence of Smash Sisters as an organized thing.  Despite the fact that I have a bad reputation for making some allegedly sexist remarks, I tend to get along very well with girls I’ve interacted with in the community because I treat them like actual people.  I had one girl thank me for commentating on her play and not how she looks, because apparently I was the only commentator who does that.  Just think about how pathetic that is.

Don’t try to build rapport by bullshitting.  You aren’t giving a presentation to a class on some random topic.  I don’t want to hear about how 20GX is lame and S2J is sick.  I don’t want to hear any platitudes or memes used as a device to try to bond.  Trying to use commonly acceptable shit that’s frequently uttered as a means to bonding is obvious and obnoxious.  If you are trying to come off as an up and comer with a good competitive spirit, I don’t want to be able to tell that you are trying to do this.  If you are new, you might really want to feel like part of the community, but I really don’t need your validation, so please cut this shit out.  It isn’t remotely difficult to come up with something genuine to say like “sick combo” or “I like your Falcon.”  It’s honestly preferable to be an awkward fanboy than to make someone sit through these painful interactions.

Be who you are and own it.  We all have shortcomings.  Don’t be emo if you’re awkward and lack confidence.  We are all on journeys of self improvement.  Life is way too short to pretend to be someone that you aren’t.  Being true to yourself leads to some of the deepest satisfaction in life.  If you still have doubts about whether you can do this, just remember that Mango and Scar are pretty much the most popular people in our community, and they are very unapologetic about being themselves.  And if that’s not enough motivation, remember that people can sniff out phoniness and no one likes a phony.  But don’t let that restrict your growth as a person—you really can be whoever you want, not just act that way.

Keep context in mind when you interact with people.  The way someone reacts to you is going to depend on where and when you talk to them just as much as it is on what you say.  Don’t be surprised if a top player tells you “Fuck off” if you approach them at a bad time—it’s your fault for having bad social awareness.  When a top player is at a tournament before it starts, this is a great time to ask them some questions or play some friendlies.  Show them that you are a homie, show your positive attitude, ask to smoke them out, etc.  When they are salty after a loss, don’t ask for their autograph.  When they are stoned on a setup with the other best player there, don’t call next.  When they get eliminated from the tournament, see if they want to go take swigs from your flask.  Feel free to heckle your friends or a top player, but don’t heckle some noob at his first tournament.  Top players are expected to be able to deal with shit, but you really shouldn’t ruin a noob’s tournament experience.  You’re just a shit person if you do that.

Don’t be afraid to call people out for bullshit.  If someone spouts off bullshit, they deserve to be called out.  If they can’t take the heat, they shouldn’t have opened their mouth.  You don’t need people in your life who spew nonsense and are too sensitive to deal with criticism.  “Bullshit” is a broad notion.  Trying to claim a setup for a BO5 1 dollar MM constitutes bullshit in my book.  In my book, denying two people a MM to play friendlies without extenuating circumstances is also bullshit.

I hope this can help some of you become more full people.  An article like this would have helped me immensely when I was 15.  With my personality, which obviously invites people to shit on me, imagine how long ago I would have had a heart attack if I still cared about randoms in Twitch chat calling me a greasy virgin with Asperger’s.  To those of you who are old enough to have already found yourselves, I hope I’ve at least helped you cope with the amount of hate you’re likely to get if you’re ever prominent in any community (seriously, don’t have anything invested in the opinions of random idiots on the Internet).  Being more secure and confident will be more beneficial to your life than a college degree.  Quoting TMNT OOTS, “True acceptance only comes from within.”

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6 thoughts on “Social Dynamics for Smashers”

    1. It’s not my responsibility. Why would I care if he participated? I was having a great time already. I make a point out of trying to bring people out of their shells at parties, but this was a Melee tournament.

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    1. Goddamn right I was. I get heckled every time I’m on stream. He had headphones right there and could have worn them if I was bothering him. That guy deserves it. He subjected us to that fucking barrell roll onto the stage and then he made us sit there for 2 minutes while he faked like he was gonna pick Ness, Ganon, or ICs. You reap what you sow, and that guy deserves way more shit than he gets. He’s even done grimy shit to me in a tournament match, which is something I can only say about 2-3 people. The fact that your post suggests that you found my heckling objectionable makes me think you probably empathized with HBox when watching the documentary.

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  1. Interesting stuff, I love talking about the social dynamics of smash tournaments. I hope that young kids can take some wisdom from this, all the advice is sound and was nice to see thoughts I’ve had in words.

    That being said, I think there is a balance between confidence in yourself and sensitivity to others. It is easy to get in a mindset where you do whatever you want, and no one can stand in your way, and also the opposite, where you are too sensitive to people’s feelings and don’t accomplish anything. Finding this balance is crucial, I’m still working on it. For example, you were under no obligation to say anything to that kid on the setup. Maybe he was annoying when he taunted, but think of the responsibility you could take on as a more prevalent member of the community by talking to him and making his day. After all, young teenagers can be dumb and awkward. Just a thought.

    Thanks for writing this, I don’t usually comment on articles!

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    1. Thanks for the well thought out reply! Had I not been having a good time with my friends, I’m sure I would have made more of an effort to reach out to the kid. I don’t think we were being cliquey or standoffish though. If status quo is a great time for me, I’m obviously less inclined to change the dynamic than if I’m not having a good time. Thanks for the feedback–most comments are just flaming or ignorant shit.

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