Genesis 6 Grand Finals and the Super Bowl
Last week, while the fascist Tom Brady was in the final seconds of another Super Bowl win, the Genesis 6 Super Smash Brothers Melee grand finals were just starting. There was an easy analogy in the finals of each sport, with the eternal champion New England Patriots matching up against the upcomer Los Angeles Rams; in Melee finals, the eternal champion, Juan “Hungrybox” DeBediema just beat out the upcomer Jeffrey “Axe” Williamson. After the Super Bowl, my friends streamed the grand finals, and the consensus saw the Melee matchup as the more interesting game. Reddit user u/nuggetman415 wrote, “deciding to watch this instead of the super bowl was the best call” [sic].
There were 180,000 people streaming the Genesis 6 Grand Finals on Twitch, and just under 100 million watched the Super Bowl. Both were just shy of record viewership numbers, but the Super Bowl dragged on compared to the fast-paced environment of the Genesis 6 Grand Finals. Drive after drive, the teams punted the ball seemingly without end, while Melee, even in a defensive match, has a near end: there’s an eight-minute time limit on each game. Hungrybox is known for a defensive style whenever he plays with Jigglypuff, but it never affects the immediacy of the end of the game. Football is a comparably bloated sport, with millions of dollars for a thirty-second commercial and plenty of breaks in the action for the commercials to play.
Corporate Esports Association organizer and University of Pittsburgh student Nolan Freda, says that Melee is “more comparable to tennis, with moments of extended action leading to a small victory for one side.” In Melee, you have to win five games of four stocks to win the match; tennis is six games to win and four points to win each game. With football, some will make the argument that each play is a win or loss for some team or the other, but the only concrete evidence of a team getting closer to a win at the end stage of the match is some form of point scoring: a touchdown or field goal or safety. Yet, the breaks in football don’t only come after point scoring. There are breaks for team timeouts, television timeouts, play reviews, two-minute warnings, turnovers, and most other breaks in the action, which means commercials don’t really come during breaks in action. They interrupt the action. By ending some action with concrete evidence of growth or loss, the match becomes less stilted, and the commercials come at a satisfying conclusion to a segment of the action.
That isn’t to say the competitive Melee scene comes without its faults. Football has its fair share of issues, like baseball and soccer and every other human sport, and competitive Melee is no exception. Hungrybox has been the top player in competitive Melee for a few years now, and it’s due in part to the defensive style of play with Jigglypuff that works in tandem with the time limit on each game. He’s able to protect himself against aggressive players that get worn down by the end of the clock. Freda says that “despite his massive success, competitive play is being destroyed. Many professional players are citing Hungrybox’s Jigglypuff as the reason they’re quitting the competitive scene. It’s going to kill the professional Melee scene, viewership of it, and therefore, the amateur scene in Melee.” People don’t like to play if they know they’ll lose, and people don’t like to watch it, either.
Somehow, in spite of the potential issues raised by a defensive play style in a short clock system, the grand finals at Genesis 6 were nail-biting. In the first game, both players had stock percentages in each character’s kill zone after losing three of their four stocks, and taking the first game by the skin of his teeth was Axe, the underdog. However, Hungrybox handily took the second game, with two stocks remaining at the end, to knot the series at 1. And a tense third game set the tone for the rest of the series. After trading stocks down to one stock each, Hungrybox and Axe quickly traded percent in each character’s kill zone again, but this time, each player had trouble landing any hits as the game clock sank down under a minute. If the time runs out, whoever has the most percent wins the game, and Axe was leading under a minute. Then, Axe choked his lead away, and Hungrybox wouldn’t make the same mistake.
One more game for Hungrybox and the match would be over. And it seemed, as the first stock progressed, that the fourth game wasn’t looking great for Axe. But Axe took the first stock from Hungrybox with a lower stock percent and didn’t look back. Axe ended the game with eight percent on the last stock, which was a big win in this series. It came down to game five, final stocks, and the last minute running out on the clock. Hungrybox took the lead in the final stock, and he never allowed Axe back into the game, winning the Grand finals with a final stock percent of 17.
Just like the Super Bowl, the Super Smash Brothers Melee grand finals at Genesis 6 came down to the wire in a defensive match that lead to another win for a dynasty. One was more interesting than the other, still, and I think that’s a sign of the times to come. Football had to start somewhere, and eSports has a growing fan base for first-time and casual watchers like me.