Esports Fighting Games

Smash 4: Let’s Talk About Evo 2018 Grand Finals

Evo 2018, the world’s biggest fighting game tournament of the year, wrapped up last weekend, and was a pretty routine event. We saw upsets, new champions crowned, and breathtaking sets in every game played. One game was the center of quite a bit of controversy, however.

Last Evo was amazing for Smash 4. We saw one of the most riveting grand finals to date with Saleem “Salem” Young stealing victory from the clutches of defeat, upsetting Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios. Smash 4 at Evo this year also delivered many hype moments, but most of it was overshadowed by the controversial ending.

Smash 4 Grand Finals

Bayonetta hate in the Smash 4 community is nothing new, and it hasn’t really gotten better over the years. So you can imagine the joy spectators felt when they found out grand finals of Evo would be a Bayonetta ditto. It wasn’t enough that top 8 featured 3 Bayonetta players, Tamim “Mistake” Omary, Bharat “Lima” Chintapall, and Zack “CaptainZack” Lauth. These three young men tore through bracket and fought hard to make it into top 8. Fast forward a bit and grand finals is set to be CaptainZack versus Lima.

Once the grand finals matchup was set, people got angry. The crowd began to exit the viewing area near the main stage in droves. People were booing during and after each match. Add a Captain Zack bracket reset to the equation and now we have even more Bayonetta action. At the start of grand finals set 2, Zack and Lima began by stalling for almost two minutes.

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They charged neutral B while talking and laughing with each other as the crowd looked on. This stalling was eventually stopped when a T.O came on stage and ordered them to play the match. Grand finals continued and Lima went on to win Evo 2018. Needless to say, it was a great achievement for both young men to do so well in the super bowl of fighting game tournaments.

However, many spectators weren’t pleased with the two stalling and appearing to not care much about the set. Many see this as a disrespectful move, that tarnishes the appearance of Smash’s community. Lima and CaptainZack were berated on social media and the community was set ablaze with discussion about their actions. Were they wrong for stalling? Was it disrespectful? To better assess the situation, we must first look at what got us to this point.

How Did We Get Here

Playing a top-tier character can come with a lot of baggage. In the case of Bayonetta, that baggage is pretty darn heavy. This character is unlike any other in Smash 4, and while she is nowhere near Brawl Meta Knight, she garners a lot of hate from the community. This hate for a character can often fall upon the shoulders of the person using them, and this is where things get bad. Almost all Bayonetta players have faced some sort of ridicule at one point or another simply for the character they choose. Players have had opponents SD both stocks immediately after seeing that they are playing a Bayonetta on For Glory.

This goes further than just online hate, as players have been booed at tournaments about as long as the character has existed. CaptainZack, in particular, is very vocal about how he has been heckled and booed by crowds in tournaments. He has even received death threats by people in the Smash community. This isn’t to say that these are the biggest travesties to ever happen to a person. For the most part, people just shrug it off, no big deal. But when we look at the incident at Evo, it’s very important.

There was booing all throughout top 8. Just about every Bayonetta win was met with some sort of vocal negative reaction from the crowd. We saw CaptainZack give the crowd the Middle finger after he was heckled after a come-from-behind win in top 48. The reason for bringing up all of these factors is to illustrate the toll these things have on a player. When the community shows its disdain for you and actively roots against you every time you walk onto the stage, at some point, you embrace it. You accept that they’re going to hate you anyway and you become a villain.

That’s what happened at the beginning of the second set of grand finals. Zack and Lima were rooted against, heckled, booed, counted out for the entire tournament, and still made it to grands. So when they got there and noticed that the crowd was still being hostile, they bit back. Zack and Lima got on that stage and gave back all the negative energy they had been receiving when they stalled. They used that moment as a way to get back at all of the hate that had been thrown their way for years now.

Who’s Right?

Stalling to begin set 2 of grand finals on the biggest fighting stage in the world was certainly not cool. It wasn’t the proper reaction to the hate the two had gotten. The best revenge is success and they achieved that just by getting to the grand finals of Evo. While it wasn’t necessarily the most disrespectful act in the world, it wasn’t a good look. I understand that they’re good friends just having fun, but you have to look at the bigger picture. Melee players fought hard to make the FGC even consider Smash as an actual fighting game. They had to go through a lot of hate from other communities who saw Smash as a simple children’s party game. So acting like this on the game’s biggest stage is wrong. The criticism for stalling is understandable and warranted.

However, there is a lot of hypocrisy to it as well. The main problem people had with this situation was how it would negatively affect other communities’ perceptions of our scene. In reality, however, some of these same people won’t give our scene the best look regardless of how Smash’s Evo tournament turns out. I don’t understand how you can constantly heckle the Smash community’s most coveted players, straight up ditch grand finals over a character pick, and say that it’s a good look for our scene.

I’m not saying that booing or leaving early is a terrible thing, because that’s your decision, but don’t make it seem as though you’re so concerned with the Smash community’s image when you display toxic behavior. If people were that concerned with how Evo sees the Smash community, they would be supportive in spite of their character bias.

Walk out if you want, boo if you want, but own it. Stand by it and say “I don’t like Bayonetta so I’m going to leave the venue”. But don’t back peddle and try to make yourself look like someone who’s just concerned for the Smash scene’s greater good. Because if being at Evo, impressing other communities, and upholding Smash’s image was peoples top priority, they wouldn’t act toxic to Smash players. And yet here we are, booing and heckling 16-17 year olds for choosing the same character you had the ability to scroll over to and select.

What Zack and Lima did was stupid, but many of their detractors are no better.

What Now?

This was a huge issue over the weekend, but luckily, the newest Smash Ultimate Direct reveals stole the show, and everybody’s happy again. It’s great to see positivity in the Smash community again and Ultimate is looking even more like the game we all hoped for. We have less than four months to go until we all get a fresh start in Ultimate. If the last four games are any indication, at least one character is going to be a problem for people. In every fighting game, someone has to be the best character. Ultimate is going to be no different. There are going to be so many characters to use when it’s all said and done. We have to do our best to keep this toxicity out of Ultimate.

As amazing as Ultimate will likely be, there’s no way to get rid of the negativity surrounding players that will use the best character – it’s in the nature of competition. But let’s do our best to leave this drama in the past as we look towards a brighter future with Ultimate.

 


What do you think about the Evo 2018 controversy? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured image courtesy of YouTube.

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