This is a two-part blog series. This portion is simply a recap of Smash Sisters from my perspective. The second post will focus on tournament organizing strategies and tips for hosting your own Smash Sisters event. Stayed tuned for a wealth of information in Part 2.
For those who don’t know, Smash Sisters (#SmashSisters) was a series of ladies’ crew battles held at Genesis 3, on January 15th and 16th. The first night featured a casual version where everyone was included, and the latter was a competitive version, participants based on draft picks.
So how did Smash Sisters come to exist? Uh, about that. There is no extravagant backstory. It all happened on a whim, within days notice before Genesis 3, one of the largest Smash Bros. tournaments to date. When people ask me how that happened, my answer is usually, “It was serendipity.” The puzzles pieces just fell into place. Allow me to explain.
Genesis was only two weeks away, much to my surprise. I had just written my post on all women’s tournaments which had been relatively well-received. For those who didn’t read, the TLDR was to stop bickering over whether they work or not. Instead, just test it out and then go from there. It was a strong message, cloaked behind strong words.
Yet when my friend messaged me asking why I wasn’t going to take action at Genesis, I panicked. It was too soon. What if something went wrong? What if it then soiled the public’s perception of women’s’ events for the rest of Smash’s lifetime? Despite my adamant stance on exploration, I still had some reservations.
On one hand, only the feelings of the participants truly matter. They are our priority, nobody else. On the other hand, if we we failed to lay down a fluffy foundation of mild acceptance for women’s events, the heightened backlash would scare away new participants. This would defeat the purpose of pushing for inclusivity.
This is where Emily comes in. Unlike myself, Emily doesn’t give a f*ck about backlash. She’s a fearless tournament organizer and competitor, most recently known for her role in hosting the weekly Nebulous series in New York City. She has run several women’s only brackets, each garnering about five or so entrants. Therefore, it was not nerve-wracking or abnormal in the least bit when she posted on the Genesis 3 event page (which has thousands of attendees), inquiring to see which women would be interested in doing a crew battle. It was a genius idea, running an all women’s regional crew battle would encourage teamwork instead of pitting women one on one against each other. I liked it.
She messaged me too, asking if I wanted to participate. I asked her to hold off on adding me, my name tends to conjure up too much unnecessary controversy. The last two years and the growth of social media introduced me to new levels of paranoia and anxiety I didn’t know I could feel. Still, I sat and monitored her post to see who else would sign up.
This is when the first puzzle piece clicked into place. Emily was doing exactly what I advocated for, taking action instead of being held back by fear. Why was I resisting? Screw it. I messaged her back immediately saying that we should work together. Two gals working together to put on an event for even more gals. She would handle all the logistics, I would deal with design/branding, social media, and press. I told her to add me to the East Coast roster because what kind of shitty person would I be advocating for women’s events only to not compete?
I blasted her initial post out on Twitter that same evening, being sure to follow up with a disclaimer tweet featuring my blog post on women’s events. It was important that others know this was more of an exploration than a statement that women’s events will solve all our problems forever. My blog post coincidentally provided a fallback cushion that helped ease resistance. I saw others linking it as well, before I had even got a chance to. This wasn’t planned. It just so happened that I had written it right before Genesis. Thanks, fate. You saved a lot of people from a lot of angry typing (myself included).
Diving into the branding, I realized that it was imperative to create a sense of camaraderie, rather than a unhealthy/toxic sense of rivalry amongst women. In hopes of promoting a sense of unity, I whipped up a simple template to create Smash Sisters avatars. This concept was something I’d wanted to experiment with for while, because I’m quite a fan of social media. In all honesty, I had no idea if people would actually care for these silly avatars. Yet before I knew it, my hard drive was filled with the many lovely faces of lady Smashers. The hype was real, and so was the sense of fam.
Only a day had passed but there were over 50 women expressing their interest in crews. Heck, it completely caught me off guard that even old-school Smashers wanted to play too. Due to the overwhelming interest, we had no choice but to divide crews into two formats: casual and competitive. This is when next the puzzle piece clicked. Having two formats turned out to be quite beneficial in drawing forth more women. One would be all inclusive, and the latter would actually fit into the time constraints given to us by the Genesis staff. Win, win.
The next few days were a blur. Facebook groups and spreadsheets sprouted up left and right. Captains were assigned, and our strongest/weakest match-ups displayed for our region to see. Emily wrangled with organization, and I plowed through design needs. The participants trained on their own time in hopes of representing their crew well. All that was left was ramping up and waiting for the actual crew battles.
And then came the skepticism.
A friend messaged me shortly before Genesis, expressing her doubts. She confided that she felt similar to the way I once did conveyed in my blog post. This event seemed foolish to her and she didn’t get along with women. All I could do was tell her that I once felt similarly, and that my gut tells me a lot of other Smash women do too. This event was only a means of meeting each other and not trying to undermine our skills, I reassured her. Every participant hopefully understands that the end goal of being a competitive Smasher isn’t just to be the best woman, it’s to be the best. Period.
In all honesty, I saw a bit of myself in her. I completely understood her concerns. After all, I had once shared the same ones. All I could hope was that this event would turn out okay, and that it would inspire more women to compete and maybe, even change her mind.
The evening for the casual crew battles arrived. Emily and I stood in the center of the friendlies room as women drifted in. As she rearranged teams and instructed captains, I tried to nudge newcomers towards the larger group of women. I noticed that the larger the group got, the more reluctant new gals were to approach them.
Luckily before long, Emily began to break down the massive group into smaller crews. Quickly, Smash ladies began syncing up. How were the captains going to order their lineup? Which matchups did we feel comfortable with? Did we feel comfortable playing character dittos? It was splendid. Everyone quite literally bonded over Super Smash Brothers, the game. I don’t think I’ve ever chatted purely Smash strategy with a group of girls before.
The next two hours were comprised of a mix between hype and regional pride. An assortment of mains, playstyles, and chants filled the room.
Sadly, the venue was shut down before we ended up finishing. Regardless, a mixed sense of pressure and joy lingered in the air once the first rounds wrapped. We had all just made several new acquaintances who cared about Smash equally enough to haul themselves to a global event in San Jose. It was now time to wait until Saturday’s competitive crew battles.
To be real, casual crews surprised me. I was shocked at how much pressure I felt being the anchor for my region’s crew despite it being casual. I recall bonding with the other girls over how our hands shook, and how we couldn’t possibly fathom what the top players went through on main stage. It was great that those who hadn’t gotten a taste of this competitive spotlight finally had a chance to experience it.
The next twelve hours were a blur. After sleeping at most 3-4 hours, I jolted awake to quickly create the crew overlays in Photoshop. Once that was done, I bolted out of my room towards the elevator so I could warmup before our crew battles. This was when I somehow managed to drop my phone down the tiny crack in the floor on the elevator. Down five stories it went, and there I was, left without a personal phone.
Jaw clenched, I forced myself to walk away from the hotel after realizing there was nothing I could do. Crew battles were going to begin shortly and as an organizer and potential asset to my region, I couldn’t afford to be late. I’m fairly positive that I didn’t smile for the next 30 minutes and played on tilt while warming up for crews (I apologize if anybody introduced themselves to me during this time). Nevertheless, the readily growing amount of women around our Smash setup was enough to distract me from my seething rage.
As the start time drew near, Shi from Big Blue Esports, Emily, and I struggled to organize and setup for the recording. Speaking of which, major shoutouts to Shi. He volunteered to record Melee crews at the last minute, meaning he packed all the gear with him as he flew out from the East Coast. He also introduced himself to the participants and assured everyone that he wasn’t in this for personal benefit, and was down to do whatever everyone felt comfortable with regarding the recording. Amazing! Thank you Shi!
During setup, Emily had gotten Wobbles to come over to help commentate. I thought it was super awesome to have a high profile player and commentator contribute to the Smash Sisters crew battles. Wobbles is a well-known community member, and the fact that he lent his hand at commentating this hopefully shows others that he approves of this initiative to enlarge the Smash community.
At long last, four o'clock finally came and crews began.
As the battles progressed, our corner of the main room gradually grew louder, and louder. Guys trotted over to witness the hype, despite plenty of other ongoing events.
By the end of the event, we had garnered a large audience and entirely exhausted our voices rooting for our respective regions.
In the end, it came down to a tight battle between East Coast and NorCal, with East Coast taking it in the last few stocks. The results were as follows:
1. East Coast
3. America (Midwest + other regions)
Real talk though, let’s set aside the results for a hot second. Can we focus on how many awesome chicks we have gathered in these photos for the love of SUPER SMASH BROTHERS!?
I’ve never met so many new Smash gals in the short duration of two days! On top of all the new faces, there was also an established group of homies I’d known for years. Seeing how much they had improved since I last played them inspired me to want to try again. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way!
Remember my skeptical friend who was hesitant to enter Smash Sisters? Later that night, she and I discussed the day’s ongoings. She confided in me that while she performed well and took a substantial amount of stock, this crew battle only invigorated her to take even more the next time. She didn’t only want to strive to be a great female Smasher, but a great Smasher, period. Additionally, she told me that this event also helped her bond with other women more.
This conversation was probably the most memorable and meaningful moment of Smash Sisters for me, even over East Coast’s victory. In a week’s time, I watched my friend transition from a skeptic to a believer. She had fun, she was proud of her performance, and she only wanted to compete harder next time. For me, that’s enough to tell myself, “Goal accomplished.” I can still feel the traces of the warm fuzzies in my heart now.
Enough of my incessant rambling though. Let’s wrap this post up with a few tweets of how others felt about #SmashSisters :)!
#SmashSisters was one of the most positive experiences I had at a tournament. I made new friends and played Smash. What else could I want?— ARC Lyric (@emformz) January 19, 2016
One of the coolest things about #SmashSisters was that i got to see a lot of players with different strengths. Patience, strings, space, etx— Estradiol | Nyani (@Nyanidesuka) January 17, 2016
Hope you enjoyed seeing things from my shoes! Stay tuned for the next post on organizing tips, which will be FAR more structured and informative. This was more of a personal diary entry than anything.
Good night :).
- This post is only written from my perspective.
- No where does this post claim that the event was perfect! We received some constructive feedback, and that will be covered in the next post.