Why The Foundry Isn’t Popping Anymore (from a Melee Perspective)

In case you haven’t been in several months, The Foundry is not awesome anymore.  It’s tragic.  I talked to some salient figures in the Melee community and they didn’t even know we still streamed it.  I was talking to CJ, the owner of Showdown eSports on Tuesday, and he asked me what was missing, and why things have gone downhill.  He pointed out that they are doing a lot more now to make Melee cool than it used to be, and yet, it doesn’t seem to be working.  I told him some things are better in written word than spoken, so here’s my reply.  Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane.

When The Foundry first opened, there was no real Melee tournament, no venue fee to get in, and no entry fee if we did have a little side tournament.  We brought our own setups, and maybe we had a little bracket, the winner of which got a beer.  In some sense, I think that was the pinnacle of the Foundry.  They’ve objectively made a ton of improvements since then, especially for the general public, but I am still nostalgic for those days in some regards.  It was just a smashfest in a bar.  It was casual, we got to play lots of Melee with homies, and there was nothing competitive about it.  Just good ol’ hanging out with your homies, having a great time like we would at anyone’s house, but with way more people, and IN A BAR!  That was a big deal at the time.  They also had a much better selection of beer back then, though I haven’t heard many people complain about this, except Boback, Toph, and me (seriously, their beers on tap suck now).

Then, we had a prosperous era, for about a year, when The Foundry was THE place to be.  Everyone always wanted to go, and everyone was sad when they couldn’t.  Even motherfuckin SILENTSPECTRE was there all the time.  In the history of NorCal Melee, that’s seriously fucking crazy.  I met LUNIN there years after anyone had seen him.  We had out of region guests making our stream incredibly popular because everyone wanted to be there.  This was before funday was a big thing, and bar tournaments in general hadn’t been a thing except Kings of Cali, so it was a big deal.  It was also the first time in years we could hear people just shooting the shit on the mic, not actually caring at all about the tournament.

Now, the turnouts are low, the viewership is also low, and it looks extremely doubtful that it’s going to improve in the foreseeable future.  I honestly think this trajectory should have been super obvious, so let me point to the factors that make it so.  I’ll go through these things in no particular order.

The cost at the door is now ten dollars, on top of five dollars to enter.  When the entry fee of five dollars was first introduced, NorCal Melee was super supportive, saying that we loved the place and we would be glad to help out by paying five dollars.  But now, fifteen dollars to enter a tournament, which many of the entrants don’t actually care that much about, is really steep for a smasher.  Smashers are poor.  Lots of smashers are very poor.  And even the smashers who are not poor tend to be very cheap.  No further analysis here, but believe me, those things are true.

Andrew TOing was awesome, and Spenser being the stream guy was also awesome.  Andrew is a funny guy who we all liked to see; he just felt like he belonged with the culture there and he ran it well.  Einstein has been a highlight of my Melee career.  I love that dog and I miss him.  This is one of my favorite Melee moments https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWKfrpWsBCM&t=5m50s.  The decline of The Foundry can also be tied to the lack of Spenser, and his increasing stress/misery when he was there.  Having tablets and triple commentary with the right people was awesome.  Occasional banter with Spenser was also awesome.  We’d talk about player cams or whatever stupid shit we wanted.  VODs were uploaded right away, so we could always watch the highlights immediately, and while that happens now, there were several months where VODs weren’t uploaded, and we lost some of the greatest moments that I’ve been around for in my Melee career.

On top of Andrew and Spenser on the Showdown staff, lots of people who made The Foundry what it was went AWOL.  First, Alan moved to Santa Barbara.  He was very popular on the mic, very popular in person, and would occasionally share free drinks with people.  Boback got really busy with Genesis and stopped going.  Brandon got a girlfriend, who is very cool, and sometimes they come together, but even then, they tend to play their matches and spend most of the time hanging out with each other.  Sheridan goes less as well.  Morgan was the bartender we loved the most, and who would get us the most drunk, and we miss her dearly.  Of anyone leaving, she probably had the biggest impact.  We had three generations of Foundry drunks–me and Boback, then Germ and Dajuan, then Charlon and Liz.  Dajuan lives in San Jose and is generally less inclined to go regardless of geography, and Charlon and Germ moved away.  I talked to Liz on Tuesday about how The Foundry doesn’t seem worth going to anymore because it’s not fun.  Who’s going to take over and be the fourth generation?

People who go in a different spirit from the people mentioned in the previous paragraph became more prevalent.  No disrespect intended to their Melee play or to their life priorities, but the culture has changed significantly.  When The Foundry was newer, there was more of a homie vibe, and Melee “tryhards” were not as common there.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m competitive, and I have only sandbagged about 5 times; regardless of how drunk I was, I always wanted to win.  But there were not that many people who took it very seriously, and only 1-2 people who did take it seriously who are actually not fun to play against.  No one cared when Ralph took it seriously because it’s fun to play him when you are hammered.  Azusa didn’t come often, and when he did, it was still usually pretty fun to have him there, because he would defend our region from OOR people, give drunk Dajuan or whoever good sets, and provide an amazing player cam to talk about.  The people who have been placing at the top of the Foundry for like 6 months now are sober people who are not fun to play against.  Please don’t think of this in terms of scrubbiness.  They are literally just not fun to play Melee against in an environment where you can’t warm up and you aren’t sober (and they don’t hang out with a lot of the people I mentioned earlier either).  I have been told they have also historically caused the streams to watch a lot of viewers when they play, so it seems they aren’t fun to watch either.  When S2J was in NorCal recently, he said how The Foundry sucked because of the reasons in this paragraph, and he asked us why we liked it… we basically said that we don’t anymore.

Commentary sucks now.  You may have noticed that when I said a lot of core attendees stopped going that these people tended to be popular commentators.  We had regulars on the mic who contributed their flavor.  Alan+Brandon is probably the most salient duo.  There was also me+Boback, Sheridan+whoever (often me, Zac, or Dajuan, and often in triple commentary), and later Me+W33dl0rd.  With Alan, Brandon, Boback, and me (forced in my case) gone from the mic, it was a lot harder to get cool people on the couch, not because the four of us are uniquely cool, but because other cool people liked to commentate with us.  SFAT and Dajuan explicitly told me that they only really liked commentating with me or Alan, so we don’t see them on the mic as often.  As a side note, I actually really regret leaving one of the best conversations of my life unfinished because Zac really wanted me to get on the mic with him, and since he wasn’t totally sober, I felt I had to oblige.  I suspect PewPewU would also like commentating with the aforementioned people over others.  And then of course, because it was more popping back in the day, we had other cool people there more often like JB, Phil, Darrell, Sage, Bertbusdriver, Peter Dill, etc.  Sheridan, JB, and Phil are pretty much the only other people I can think of that have that “I want to commentate with him!” vibe, but they aren’t the most frequent attendees.  Drunk Dajuan was fucking hilarious and I miss that shit on the mic.  After everyone I mentioned stopped getting on the mic, there was a time where W33dl0rd was the last person to be holding it down in the spirit that the rest of us had inaugurated.  That was sad at the time, and now even he’s gone.  Andrew wasn’t bad either.

The landscape of commentary changed when DC was hired as a dedicated commentator.  That guy seemed cool enough and was decently social and articulate.  But he was not one of us, and he was not really in the spirit of what made Foundry commentary great.  He doesn’t drink, which isn’t an issue in itself.  Brandon and Alan were usually sober; Sheridan always is.  But it helps illustrate my point.  The guy was trying to be professional on an intrinsically unprofessional platform.  He gave me shit on my birthday for heckling people on the stream when I was piss drunk.  The people playing even said that they didn’t care and they thought it was entertaining.  Then he still told me to STFU.  What the fuck?  Why?  This is a bar and a Melee tournament.  I’m allowed to do that at a local or any tournament where there’s not booze, much less one in a bar.  Has the guy even been to a Melee tournament?  He was also very unwilling to forfeit his spot on commentary when other people wanted to get on.  Now, we similarly have a bunch of eSports people on commentary who aren’t “one of us,” and they don’t even know shit about Melee.  I used to listen to The Foundry VODs at work on Wednesday, and it would make me way less productive because I would constantly have to put my head down on my desk so coworkers wouldn’t see me laughing hella hard.  Now, if I watch the VODs, I watch them muted.  And go figure, I watched ten seconds of a match unmuted because I did a combo on Tuesday, and they managed to say something incorrect about what I did in my combo.  That would be forgivable, if it weren’t for the fact that when The Foundry was cool, we didn’t even used to talk about the match, so they are even failing at their attempted real commentary.

Exacerbating the commentary issues is that it’s now upstairs, completely isolated from the rest of the bar.  Everyone I’ve mentioned positively so far is the kind of person who would stroll by the mic, see a homie on it or be bored and see it unoccupied and sit down.  The Foundry is a social experience.  You casually stroll up and shoot the shit with a homie.  Who the fuck wants to go upstairs and be isolated from everyone else?  Not to mention that you aren’t near a bar.  I read that they wanted to create commentary blocks where they scheduled people to be on.  That has to be one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard.  It’s totally counter to the impromptu nature of The Foundry.  People are standing around hanging out with homies, drinking booze, and you expect them to know ahead of time when they will feel like walking upstairs and isolating themselves?  I agree that it looks really cool on the stream to see the commentators upstairs.  But it’s seriously one of the worst ideas I’ve ever seen as far as making a stream cool, because no one cool is going to want to be up there.

Plup was there on Tuesday, and I think it’s almost certain that, if commentary were in a better state at The Foundry, we would have seen him on the mic, which would improve viewership, make more people want to come, etc.  As is, when guests are there, they aren’t even inclined to get on the mic and spew shit, like they did when Armada and Leffen were there.  I even heard that Foundry 100 was actually not that cool, even though there were a ton of people there.  I’m sure that the week after Genesis, and hopefully the week before as well, are going to be fucking awesome.  But I really doubt we are going to have many more moments like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8orJkb0LtaE Until then, I’ll cherish my more recent highlights, https://clips.twitch.tv/showdownsmash/EnthusiasticEmuBCouch and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOlIioW9bnE which I don’t see getting replicated any time soon.

P.S. sorry for the obvious “stroking myself” in this post.  I actually don’t like coming off this full of myself, but The Foundry was a really awesome place that a lot of us loved, and I think there were several of us who contributed to making it was it was.  As the title of my blog goes, no equivocation allowed.

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