a history of smash bros. as it happened to tate geborkoff

smash me, bros

by tate

A long time ago, when I was a baby gay (14 years old), I had very few video game friends (first kiss excluded). More often than not I was on my own when it came to games. Occasionally, I could coerce my younger sister and later, her first boyfriend) into playing with me. And I could get my mom to play Mario Kart - she’s the best worst driver there ever was. But for all intents and purposes I was a lone gamer. In April of 1999, Super Smash Bros. was released for the Nintendo 64, and it rocked my world hard. I was fanatically excited about the idea of the game; it immediately became central to me as a gamer.

But for a lone gamer, Smash had one big, predictable disappointment - I didn’t have anyone to play with. So, I spent a lot of time going up against the CPU. It was me and my OTP, Link, until I unlocked Ness and practically pissed my pants.

(As a side note, the reason for the almost pant-piss is that EarthBound is one of my all-time faves and when I unlocked Ness, I felt like Nintendo was giving me a knowing wink, since no one I knew had ever even heard of him or the game. Sweet validation from Big N.)

Melee was a little better for me; I had my sister’s boyfriend to play against, but our bouts didn’t last too long (he wasn’t dating me, so I guess that’s understandable.)

so in the end smash bros melee turned out to be just like 64 - me and my hot date - the cpu.

Brawl’s years-long teaser campaign left me rabid and I so clearly remember March 8, 2008 (the day after I moved to Chicago from Denver to be with my boyfriend). I had preordered the game at the nearest GameStop and we walked a long, cold 17 blocks (each way) to get the game. I played for a long time, and he tried it out, too, but unfortunately for me, Smash Bros. isn’t really his style. He’s a (puzzle & platformer) lover, not a fighter.

So again, I was on my own, which was not as troubling as with 64 or Melee since I had the fantastic single-player Subspace Emissary to work through.

And then 2010 came along and brought with it the greatest thing that has ever happened to me as a gamer: I found a core group of gaming friends. I don’t exactly remember how it came to be, but we all followed each other on Twitter, and one of us suggested a Smash Bros night. Tony invited us all over to play on a summer weeknight. We’d all been hanging out with each other for a couple months already and we were all incredibly excited and wearing our best gaming shirts (mine was from fangamer.com). We ordered our pizza, popped some bubbly and it was love at first fight.

Since then, our little group (@iwasahumanboy [Kirby/Meta Knight], @getawayfromu [“Daisy”/Jigglypuff], @jonoor [Yoshi], @tone_def [everyone] and I {@tageborkoff [Lucas]) have rotated hosting duty and played Smash roughly every three weeks (pizza and champagne always included). The four of them quickly became family to me. Suddenly, I wasn’t a lone gamer; I had a crew. And my little gaming family has only deepened my love for games. The lead-up to Super Smash Bros for 3DS/Wii U was intense, as I’m sure you clearly remember. And what I was most excited about was that my friends and I would get to experience the new game together for the first time. It was an enormously exciting 16 months of speculation and anticipation.

But when Smash 3DS came out, I was in for a disappointment - it just wasn’t for me. I found the 3DS difficult to hold and play comfortably for our long Smash sessions and I couldn’t find myself on the screen. All in all, it was the exact opposite of what I wanted a Smash experience to be. My excitement was replaced by the fear that the years we spent playing together were about to come to a crashing halt. The future was now, and I was not going to be a part of it. Would we still play together? If we did, what would we play? Whatever it was, would it bind us together as tightly as Brawl? Or was a permanent dawn breaking on our Smash Night?

As much as these fears gripped me, I held out hope for Smash U. If it was a gorgeous as it looked, if the characters were as perfectly conceived, then our Smash Nights would live.

Since I’m insane, I decided the logical thing to do would be to buy the deluxe package with the adapter and the controller (good thing too, it’s going for $100 on ebay); and download the game at midnight (I’m almost 30 and I still have no patience.) Everyone had pre-downloaded it and we all just sat around in our chat waiting for midnight. And then it started downloading early. We freaked out.

It was with no small amount of trepidation that I started the game. After all, the stakes were so much higher than my first fight as a lone gamer in Brawl.

nothing less than the survival of a crew was on the line.

Immediately, I chose Robin, who was a wildest-dream-come-true character - I might have burst into tears when I saw his/her reveal trailer) and started getting to work on unlocking all the secret characters. One hundred single-stock matches against Pikachu later (because I hate Pikachu), and everyone was unlocked. I realized that this was everything I had been waiting for and more.

I played Smash until about 3:30 a.m. before I realized everyone would be coming over in a few hours (most of us took the day off, like adults do), so I forced myself to go to bed and dreamed dreams of Robin and Ike making out a little. I was back in the saddle and ready to rumble. We had a double launch party - on launch day and again on the Sunday after launch. We had our first Smashmas (no better present than all of us being able to play each other at once - 5-Player Smash!) and we look forward to all the other Smash holidays on the horizon (Auld Lang’s Smash, St. Smashentine’s Day, St. Smashtrick’s Day).

To our little group, we’ve added an army of amiibo to team up with and be destroyed by. So far, we’ve got Kirby (“Abyssos”), Little Mac (“Ding Ding”), Peach (“DAISY”), Fox (“FoxyWolf”), Yoshi (“Yolanda”), two Zeldas (“TwiliZelda” & “Hilda”) and two Links (“Fierce D” & “Esteban”.)

As I reflect, I realize something funny happened with Smash U. Despite the immense amount of single-player content that would have made me so happy in my lone-wolf past, my extraordinary friends turned the series into a very special thing I share with a very special group of people:

@iwasahumanboy as Kirby
@getawayfromu as Little Mac & “Daisy”
@jonoor as Yoshi
@tone_def as Bowser Jr., Greninja, Palutena & everyone
@tageborkoff as Robin & Ike

Epilogue: Interestingly, I later learned I wasn't the only one who had feared a Smash tragedy after my disappointment with the 3DS version of the game. At a recent party Steve told me, “I was worried you wouldn’t like Smash U, and we wouldn’t be able to play together anymore.”

No worries, Steve. Nothing to fear. Except, of course, my THORON!