A Former Competitive Super Smash Bros. Player's Tips for Shaping Your Gaming Community
One Canadian gamer, Pidgezero_one, has dedicated a big chunk of her life to Smash, playing competitively for a while as the Pokémon Jigglypuff as well as doing everything she could to bolster the community. Today she focuses mainly on speedrunning and app development, but Super Smash Bros. still holds a very important place in her heart.
We got the chance to speak with Pidge about each of these elements of her love for gaming, from why she mained Jigglypuff to what Smash means to her and what's got her hooked on speedrunning.
(Photo credit: Jason Mani)
Sweety High: Have you always been a gamer? Which games influenced you most?
Pidgezero_one: I've been into gaming my entire life. Video games and computers were part of my life since I was a toddler. I got a Super Nintendo in kindergarten, and that's still my console of choice today. Playing games I grew up with is like coming home, and there's endless replay value in speedrunning and competitive Smash. The games I'd say influenced me the most would be Super Mario RPG, Dr. Mario, Super Smash Bros., and Mario Paint. Each one had a subtle influence on what I've chosen to do with my life and the kind of person I've tried to be.
SH: When you were first playing games, did you ever seen that industry as a place that might have career opportunities for you?
PZO: I suppose the first time I really considered it was when I was in middle school. Back then I wanted to be a designer for Nintendo Power, which sadly wouldn't have worked out in the end. I thought about getting into game development, but back in the mid 2000s, the working hours expected of most game developers was a turn off.
I did eventually end up working in the gaming field on contract as a researcher for the TV show Gaming Show [In My Parents' Garage], and that was pretty awesome. Sometimes I think about expanding into development in the gaming world with companies like Twitch or smash.gg, but most companies I'd want to work for are in the U.S., and I really don't want to leave Canada! Plus I really like the job I have right now.
SH: What's your history with Super Smash Bros.?
PZO: I got into the community with [Super Smash Bros.] Brawl in early 2011 by attending tournaments in person. It wasn't until later that I got involved with online operations as well. For a while I was just attending because the other attendees were really fun to hang out with and I'd always enjoyed the Smash games, and that led to me traveling to everything I could afford to attend from 2012 onwards to make connections and new friendships around Canada and the USA. Back then, I'd leave class on Friday, hop on a Greyhound and wake up the next morning somewhere in the USA on whatever cheap bus I could afford.
It wasn't until around 2013 when I started taking on responsibilities beyond competing. I pretty much kept my eyes open for anything I thought the community could benefit from but didn't have yet, and seized every opportunity I could find. This eventually led to things like helping make netplay [playing with other players via the internet] and third-party wifi more accessible to the Brawl community after Nintendo shut its servers down, co-founding one of the corners of the early Smash 64 console community at the start of its golden age and helping with online tournaments and layout design in the /r/smashbros subreddit. Any random thing I noticed that I thought I could do, I offered to help, and Smashers are usually willing to accept that and put you to work if you haven't already put yourself to work.
I was one of a handful of Canadians to receive early copies of Smash for Wii U and 3DS as a gift from Nintendo of Canada as recognition for our efforts, which was probably the coolest thing that happened to me as a Smasher. It was because of helping out the "niche" games of Brawl and 64 that I've been able to work with some of the biggest majors in the U.S. and Canada running those smaller games, and their players appreciate having dedicated organizers that love the game as much as they do. I don't do as much in the Smash community nowadays as I used to, but I still travel around when I can to help out at large tournaments featuring Brawl and 64. In two weeks I'll be at CEO: Dreamland doing just that!
SH: How did you decide to main Jigglypuff in Super Smash Bros.?
PZO: I started playing Jigglypuff in Brawl because she's just hilarious as a concept, and being able to win with a low tier [character with less potential to win] was interesting. This carried over to the other Smash games because very little about her playstyle changes from game to game, which I think is more true of her than any other character in the series. I think I got used to her because of her good aerial mobility, but that isn't true of all the characters I play in the Smash series.
The biggest takeaway I got out of maining Jigglypuff in Brawl was that she relies almost entirely on good spacing, having almost no other real tools to work with, and that ended up being my strongest skill as a player in the rest of the series. In Smash 64, I often struggle to get the first hit in the neutral, but once you've got that hit, you can get really creative with what combos into rest (sometimes totally unnecessarily), and depending on how you play the character that can be pretty hype.
I learned a lot about playing her from watching [fellow Jigglypuff player] YBOMBB and seeing him pull off combos I never would have thought of. It taught me a lot about her hitbox properties, which I wish I had gotten more used to before retiring. I had a huge crush on him right from the get-go watching him play my favorite character so well.
I wouldn't call myself really good, but I reached my goal of being ranked top 10 in the Toronto area before hanging up the controller. That was enough for me.
SH: When did you retire from playing, and what's your role in the Smash community now?
PZO: I retired near the start of 2016, not for any real reason beyond having been doing it for too long and wanting to focus my time and energy on other endeavors. I still wish the best for the Smash community and contribute what I can where possible.
I also retired from TOing [tournament organizing] in my local community, but made sure that others were ready to take my place before doing so. In my experience, TOing at nationals for 64 and Brawl can be exhausting but still very enjoyable. The 64 brackets I run are usually pretty small compared to Shears, who handles the supermajors, so I can't speak for 64 tournaments with 100 or more entrants.
I find that 64 and Brawl players are generally much more appreciative of those who take on responsibility in the community—and by that I don't mean to say that players of the other games aren't, but that 64 players remember very recently when there was almost nobody supporting their game. Brawl players are experiencing that right now, so many of the players are cooperative and friendly and generally easy to manage. Most of them come from a time when Smash was still grassroots and their attitudes and approaches at large events still very much reflect that.
It's important to me that those games continue to be included because what stuck with me about the Smash community back in 2011 was that it was inclusive. When I first got into the game, it didn't matter who you were, what your background and life circumstances were, or even what character you mained—you were welcome to come and play with the rest of the Smash family.
There are people who just don't click with the more mainstream eSports titles of Melee and Smash for Wii U, whether it be because they don't like the game mechanics, they prefer a version of a character from another game, they don't like the big size of the community or whatever else. They're still Smashers and they should have a spot at the table with everyone else, even if their favorite title is more niche. Each Smash game has something awesome to offer, and our communities grew up together and should stay together as long as they can. I think every Smash fan should be included without being told which installments of the game they can and can't play, so I take it upon myself to make sure those games have someone looking over them who is enthusiastic and invested in them.
SH: How did you get into speedrunning and what do you love most about it?
PZO: I've been doing speedruns for a little less than a year. I was interested much earlier, but was so wrapped up with Smash that I took forever to sit down and try it. Eventually I made friends with some speedrunners like ElminsterRTA and Millnium who encouraged me to finally get into it.
There's a lot I love about it so far. It gives so much more replay value to games I already loved. The techniques I have to do are really satisfying to pull off, and there are a lot of wonderful people in the community. But the best part was discovering that there's an entire community of people who love Super Mario RPG as much as I do, including people like Dorkmaster Flek who live in my city and have become my closest friends.
Recently I got a top 10 time in Super Mario RPG, which is a pretty competitive game right now. I'm proud of that—but not so proud of my execution in the run, which was awful at the end! I've also been accepted to speedrun the game in a marathon where speedrunners come together and play their games back-to-back, offering to do certain things in the game (like optional boss fights, route diversions, funny cutscenes and using certain file names) that viewers bid on. The bids all usually go to benefit charity.
In a recent marathon, the No Reset Marathon at Lan ETS, over $1100 was donated during my SMRPG speedrun, much of it donated with the intent of seeing me destroy an optional boss fight that everyone remembers being impossible as a kid. The next marathon I'll be involved in will be RPG Limit Break in May, which is benefiting the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It's a great community to be a part of and has given me another sense of personal accomplishment, and it's introduced me to some of the best friends I've ever had. There's just nothing like having a room full of people cheering for you when you pull off a really stressful technique in your favorite childhood game.
There is also now a small community developing around my stream chat and some of the unique games I play, which is really exciting in itself. Community-building is my primary goal as a gamer. But probably the most exciting thing in recent memory was when I surprisingly ended up on Kotaku for my Bernie Sanders meme layout and my viewership spiked higher than I've ever seen. Go figure the header image of the article is a perfectly-cut gif of me messing up a Donkey Kong Country 2 tech in an infinite loop.
SH: Was sharing your favorite glitches in games something that resulted from your interest in speedrunning? Have you found any glitches on your own?
PZO: The only glitch I can take credit for is that pausing during the last hit on Wario in Super Mario Land 2 makes his boss music continue to play through the ending cutscene and credits—which is completely useless! But the other SML2 runners try to do this for swag now, so it was pretty funny to discover that by accident. I end my speedrun timer with the start button on my controller, which normally does nothing in games I run, but pauses during this one, and freaks the game out a little bit.
For most of the games I speedrun, the glitches have been known for a while, but I have made some tutorial videos about existing glitches for newcomers struggling to perform them. I do love talking about these glitches when I'm demonstrating the game in a marathon, because most of the viewers are not speedrunners and are watching because they loved the game as a kid, and are usually excited to learn about some of the glitches. My favorite of these is Mack Skip, a tech that skips a boss fight in Super Mario RPG, because it looks really hard and impresses casual viewers but is actually very easy. I taught a lot of people how to do this tech at Awesome Games Done Quick 2017, and they all got it within 10 minutes of learning it.
SH: How long have you been developing apps?
PZO: I make web, mobile and desktop applications rather than games. I work in the health care industry, but in my spare time I also work on some other projects, like extra tools for Twitch streamers, and practice and routing tools for speedrunners.
In the Super Mario RPG speedrun you have to do a bunch of puzzles, including a multiple choice quiz where all the questions are randomized and in Japanese, so I've made a mobile app for players to practice these puzzles when they're taking the subway to class or whatever.
I also made a universal damage calculator that the other runners have used to save hours of work in publishing a new route for SMRPG, which is a very recent development that we're all pretty excited about and that I'll be showing off during RPG Limit Break. Basically anything that I know will make someone's life easier is a job well done to me!
SH: Why is it important to you to create tutorials as resources for speed runners?
PZO: It's important to me that people who want to learn a new game can do so on their own with good documentation. When I started speedrunning SMRPG, what stood out to me the most was a runner named SeanCass who hung out in my chat all the time and helped me through the basic techs. I was having a hard time understanding them, but they ended up not being that difficult. He was extremely patient in a way that I wouldn't expect anyone to be with how badly I was playing.
At this time, LackAttack24 hadn't made his extensive tutorial video yet, and most of the game knowledge was tribal and you had to learn it from other experienced runners. We can't all be around all the time like SeanCass was for me back then, especially as the game has grown to have such a big player base. That's why I looked around for possible tutorials and tools that the other guys had thought to make but not gotten around to yet, and just did it myself to relieve them of it since it was all fresh in my head as a new runner.
The best example of this is my 100 Super Jumps tutorial video. I figured I was in a good place to make one when I had just learned how to do that technique and had not quite mastered it yet, since most people watching it would be in the same state of mind and experience I was in when I made it. Most of the tutorials I've made are on the smrpgspeedruns.com wiki, which is a community effort that's now the main go-to resource for new runners. Now they can probably learn how to get a sub-three-hour time without even needing us to help them firsthand (although we still do!).
SH: What advice do you have for someone who'd love to do work like you have?
PZO: Firstly, that there's always work to be done. Secondly, that yes, you can help out if you want to. But most importantly, don't second-guess yourself! Take on whatever opportunities you want to take and feel are reasonable for you, but don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. I thought I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I helped SOJ with the Brawl Netplay code, but now our work is integrated into the most popular Wii emulator.
There is a place for you in gaming, whatever you want to do. You probably have some awesome talent that would have a place to shine here if you wish to be involved. Just be yourself and keep being awesome. Whether you want to organize events, create content, invent new things, or be the best player at your favorite game, sometimes the hardest part is taking those first steps, so make friends in the community who will motivate and bring out the best in you. I owe everything to mine.
For even more on competitive gaming, click HERE to read our interview with one of the top women Hearthstone players in the world, CaraCute.