A community is a group or groups of people that are drawn together and connected through shared interests and/or goals. A community is typically defined by having a clear method of joining, definable values all members abide by, and a sense of exclusivity with distinctions between members and non-members. Various sub-communities can also form under a larger community for those that exist under the same mission statement but diverge in specific values.
The Super Smash Bros. series, like most other large video game franchises, has a community and several sub-communities. Significant sections of the community include tournaments, message boards, social media sites, journalism sites, hacking sites , and information repositories like SmashWiki itself.
The community's history dates back to the release of the original Super Smash Bros. back in 1999. The game, initially intended as a Japanese exclusive, quickly became a breakthrough hit, and after the game was released overseas, it became a global success, with fans across the world coming together over their shared interest in the game. Such groups got together just to play the game, either casually or competitively, and the latter would eventually begin a burgeoning tournament scene. However, these groups were small and fragmented due to no easy forms of global communication before the widespread adoption of the internet, and there was little interest in documenting such groups. While websites like Nintendojo were posting articles at the time and Nintendo themselves had occasionally used the internet, there was no infrastructure for people to congregate and get in touch without hassle.
This started to change in the early 2000s with the creation of Smash World Forums (now SmashBoards) and GameFAQs, which became major intersections for playing and discussing the Super Smash Bros. franchise. In Japan, sites such as Smarber-Garden and XMS were major avenues for its players to communicate . Larger tournaments also started to pop up around this time, with Matt Deezie’s short lived but influential Tournament Go series often considered a turning point. The competitive scene continued to grow with Melee's inclusion in professional tournament circuits such as MLG in 2006 and again at EVO in 2007 .
The creation of social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and later Twitter and Twitch, further expanded the community, as the ability to connect became easier than ever. This also turned figureheads of the community into celebrities, particularly well known competitive players. There were also instances of the entire community coming together to achieve a shared goal, with instances including the creation of the Global Smasher Compendium (now discontinued), a successful petition for Melee to be broadcast at EVO , and the first unofficial community census in 2013.
Nintendo themselves have also interacted with the community. Early examples include many members submitting Target Smash! and Home-Run Contest high scores as well user-generated content to the Brawl Smash Bros. Dojo!! while it was still being updated. Many tournaments have also been officially endorsed and sponsored by Nintendo. The community itself began partly being responsible for some of the changes and advents in later Smash Bros. titles, perhaps most notably with the Super Smash Bros. Fighter Ballot, an official poll to allow fans to directly vote for characters they wanted to see in the series. The Ballot went on to influence a number of roster choices, such as Bayonetta in SSB4 and Sora in Ultimate.
Today, the Smash series has an incredibly large and diverse community behind it, arguably the largest community for any fighting game, and one of the few without major intervention from an outside entity. Tournaments of many types and sizes frequently occur around the world, all games have their own active modding scenes, and fans frequently discuss various topics relating to Smash for long periods of time. The community's growth and strength is commonly attributed to the series' fundamental nature as a crossover fighting game with a large volume of icons across gaming and its easy to pick up but difficult to master gameplay, allowing players across the gaming spectrum to come together regardless of their skill. It being a crossover also readily allows pre-established communities to come together and form a sense of camaraderie around sharing their own favorite series.
The Smash community has been the subject of several incidents, minor and major, each with varying consequences on the scene as a whole.
Classic Vs. Modern
Throughout the early 2000’s, Super Smash Bros. Melee was honed and mastered as a fast paced, highly technical game that involved exploiting the game's mechanics to increase the skill ceiling to a level far beyond what most fans conceived and what the developers intended. When Super Smash Bros. Brawl released as a slower, more casual friendly game with many exploits utilized frequently in competitive Melee either nerfed or entirely absent, it was immediately met with a mixed reception by the competitive scene. Many interpreted the game's radical differences from its predecessor as a sign that the developers did not approve of competition at all and were solely targeting the casual fanbase. The release of Brawl also prompted those who disapproved of an entry level fighting game like Smash getting a tournament scene to voice their disapproval, feeling that competition went against the "spirit" of the game. Another major point of contention in these discussions surrounds statements by series creator Masahiro Sakurai, who regretted how Melee became the antithesis of the entry level platform fighter he wanted to create, thus choosing to deliberately tone the exploitability of the game down to better suit his vision. Thus, those that moved to playing Brawl and those that stuck to playing Melee became divided, and frequently argued whether Sakurai's intentions were reasonable or misguided; such debates popped up numerous times on almost every forum or social media site that discussed Smash for several years.
These debates cropped up again with the announcement of Super Smash Bros. 4, which the developers claimed would aim to strike a balance between the styles of Melee and Brawl; while the decision to balance the two styles was lauded, discussion centered on which one of the styles it should lean more towards, or if it should attempt to strike a "golden mean" between them. The release of the game resulted in the discussion shifting to one between Melee and SSB4, culminating in Melee players jeering at the game during Grand Finals at Apex 2015. While this divide has died down since then with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate praised by both sides as a good compromise between the two styles, and the two camps have even agreed to work together at times, animosity between them still remains.
Community Vs. Nintendo
While the Smash community was created on a mutual passion for a series they cherish, many in the community have accused Nintendo for failing to appreciate what they helped cultivate.
As stated above, Sakurai's decision to make Brawl a slower and more casual-friendly game was a divisive issue, particularly among those that relished how technical Melee gameplay had become. Many also accused him of being hypocritical, feeling that making a game enjoyable at all skill levels did not involve intentionally excluding a significant group of fans to attract others. Other fans believed it to be a necessary sacrifice due to the fact that the games' casual fanbase greatly out-scopes the game's competitive fanbase, pointing to Brawl becoming the best-selling fighting game, a title it held for over ten years, as evidence that it was overall the better decision.
While, as a grassroots community, many community members express animosity at the idea of Nintendo intervening in the competitive scene, there had never been any major feuds between them until the lead-up to EVO 2013. After a massive push to add Melee as a main stage event, fans created the largest donation pool of any contender at over $94,000. However, Nintendo contacted EVO three days before the start of the event and blocked the game from being played. The swift and intense backlash from this decision was enough for Nintendo to reverse their decision, and Melee enjoyed a main stage presence for several years afterwards.
As with most other Nintendo game communities, Nintendo has targeted those modding or hacking the games, forcing community members to take down hacking projects lest they undergo a legal injunction. The highest profile example is Project M, a mod that gained significant traction in the competitive scene, to the point of major tournaments hosting brackets specifically for the mod and its scene eclipsing that of Brawl, the very game it modded. The mod ceased active development on December 1, 2015, with members of the team saying it was done out of fear for legal ramifications of making a gray market product.
Another major example is the cancellation of The Big House Online. Before the tournament could begin, Nintendo wrote a cease-and-desist letter to the venue, forcing the event to be shut down. The reason given was that the online aspect forced the Melee bracket to resort to emulators like Dolphin and Project Slippi, which Nintendo openly disapproves of. This spawned #FreeMelee, and later #SaveSmash, to trend across the internet with enough traction to be picked up by famous influencers and news outlets. It even bled over into other communities, with a notable example being the finals of an official Splatoon tournament livestream being canceled likely due to several members having nametags that reference the movement in some way. This caused most of the teams to simply walk out and join a fan-made tournament, canceling the official finals.
Widespread DDoS attacks on community sites
On 4 May 2011, Smashboards had its index page replaced by an automated script that exploited vBulletin software. A replacement page with a looping video and an announcement that the site had been hacked was the only consequence.
On August 15, 2013, All is Brawl came under a sustained distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS attack). Other sections from the "All is" network were affected as well. The following day, SmashBoards suffered an intrusive attack that led to a reset that lost the forum roughly 10 hours of data. On August 25, Smashboards went down, initially reporting that it was experiencing server issues and later confirmed that the site was also under a sustained DDoS attack . It is unknown if the SmashBoards intrusion on August 15 is related to its DDoS attack on August 25. On August 27, the Project M website became the third site to go down as a result of a DDoS attack.
All three sites remained mostly unresponsive until August 28, when SmashBoards briefly went back up before trying the CloudFlare anti-DDoS service. AlphaZealot reported that owners from each site were working together to find a solution. Project M webmaster Warchamp7 later told video game blog site Kotaku that "the only viable solution to the problem at this moment is expensive and not something we can easily pursue", but added there were plans to mitigate the attacks if they continued .
By September 2013, all three sites were functional again, though while SmashBoards and the Project M website came out relatively unscathed, the DDoS attack dealt significant damage to AiB's aging website that was already in notoriously poor condition, playing a part in accelerating the site's ongoing decline and eventual shutdown. The perpetrator behind the DDoS attack remains unknown, though it is believed to have been someone with a vendetta against the competitive Smash community, given the targeting of the two primary competitive Smash hubs at the time and the website for the mod created with a heavily competitive-centric focus.
Sexual misconduct allegations
Starting in July 2020 and continuing through to 2021, numerous people came forward and accused not only several notable community members of abusing their power to prey on those that could not stand up for themselves, particularly women and children, but also the community as a whole for working in a way that enables and protects said abusers, actively making it difficult for victims to speak up through peer pressure. Many of the accused have since been banned and ousted from the community and its events. When it became clear that these behaviors were happening for a long time, many questioned who else in the community knew these incidents were happening and for how long, causing distrust and skepticism to grow within the community.
After the initial wave, the community began taking steps to ensure these incidents would not happen again, mainly by encouraging more avenues of communication and a proper procedure in the event that another incident did occur. A committee was created to oversee these changes, but they were quickly disbanded as they proved ineffective in actually enforcing them. Several tournament directors, meanwhile, began attempting to restructure their events and brackets to help keep people away from potential threats.
Panda Cup conspiracy allegations
In November, 2022, the then upcoming and highly anticipated tournament Smash World Tour suddenly announced that their tournament would be canceled at the last minute. Their reasons for doing so were that despite productive conversations with Nintendo months earlier claiming they would not be shut down, the company came to them and said they will not grant an official license for the tournament and, in response to if SWT can still run their tournament without a license, Nintendo stated "those times are over." SWT took this as an indirect threat of legal action if they continued and felt forced to shut themselves down. Due to not receiving a license and being barred from receiving any license in 2023, SWT organizer VGBootCamp also shut down all of their major 2023 tournaments, including Glitch: Duel of Fates and Double Down. While Nintendo spoke to Kotaku defending themselves by stating they did not specifically request the tournament to be shut down, SWT would rebutt with written evidence to back their claims.
In the same document, SWT also explained the involvement of esports organization Panda, specifically CEO Alan Bunney, in this situation. Unlike SWT, their own Panda Cup was officially licensed and sponsored by Nintendo. Panda Cup had an exclusivity clause where all tournaments participating in their circuit could only participate with them and no one else. The document claimed that throughout 2022, Alan would approach tournaments that expressed interest in joining SWT and tried to convince them to join the Panda Cup instead. If they refused, Alan would insinuate that Nintendo might shut them down in the near future, which happened several times. This implies that Alan had convinced Nintendo to follow his orders and used them as a protection racket to monopolize the competitive scene. The highest profile example is Beyond the Summit refusing to surrender the broadcasting rights despite direct threats from Alan, forcing Panda to lift their exclusivity clause. Many other tournament organizers came out to corroborate these allegations, including Panda themselves confirming the incident with BTS. Alan also stepped down as CEO of Panda while still being a majority share holder. Alan then made a personal response detailing his side of the story that was widely criticized and rebutted by many members of the community. This saga caused a majority of Panda sponsored individuals to cut ties with the organization or vow to cut ties when their contract expires, resulting in a brain drain and putting the future of the organization into question.
- ^ The Kitty Corp Meow Mix Forums
- ^ Smash History: The Early Ages (2001-2003) by EdwinBudding, 26 January 2017
- ^ Super Smash Bros. Melee at Evolution 2007
- ^ Update: Smash is Back!! Changes to the Evo 2013 Schedule
- ^ Smashboards was hacked
- ^ Smashboards' Facebook announcement on server issues
- ^ Smashboards' Facebook announcement acknowledging a DDoS attack
- ^ The Great Smash DDoS of 2013 by AlphaZealot on Reddit
- ^ Top Smash Bros. Fan Sites Knocked Offline, Hackers Blamed on Kotaku, 28 August 2013