Words can deceive. The way we fight reveals our true nature.
Generally speaking, I don’t miss having roommates. Those dishes in the sink are my own doing. The person-to-bathroom ratio is suitably low. I can walk around the house in various states of undress without offending anyone. It’s good to be king, even if your kingdom is a small apartment.
One thing that I do miss about living with a motley horde is being able to poke my head out into the hallway and instantly find a Smash Bros. opponent. Instead, I’ve been putting a considerable amount of time into the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U online mode. Because I haven’t yet abandoned my delusion of becoming competent at the game, I mostly play 1-on-1 “for glory” (meaning no items, no stage hazards) matches. It’s a unique experience that differs from your standard in-person Smash-fest in some key ways:
1. You have no rule options. It’s a 2-stock match with a 5 minute timer.
2. You keep playing the same person until one of you disconnects.
3. There’s no voice chat.
This set up makes it difficult to directly communicate with your opponent. Smash does give you the option of customizing your in-game handle, but apart from the occasional smiley face or 420 reference, names tend not to convey much. Instead, you have to get to know your foe based on their actions. What starts out as an anonymous slug fest can quickly morph into a strangely revealing portrait of someone’s inner Smash personality. Everybody has a unique identity, a fighting fingerprint comprised of habits, techniques, and flair that convey a personal style. With no voice chat and extremely minimal written communication, all you can do is profile and categorize people based on what they do. Here are some of the buckets I use to sort people:
The Die Hard/Try Hard
Play this person ten times in a row, and they’ll choose Fox ten times in a row. Or potentially Captain Falcon or Jigglypuff or whatever traditional “top-tier” character they’ve chosen to go all-in on. Oftentimes, they’ve made the choice for a good reason: they may very well beat you soundly. Even if they don’t, they refuse to switch things up and would rather get smashed than abandon their main.
The Sporting Samurai
Obsessed with an unwritten code of honor, these folks want competitive fights. They’ll often start the match with a taunt or a crouch to signify a handshake. If you accidentally fall off the stage at an early point in the match, they might also jump off to even up the score and ensure that whoever wins the match has to work hard to earn it. It’s an approach that requires a lot of good faith and trust in your opponent (or at least a certain Zen attitude towards people that don’t reciprocate). This happened a lot during the first couple weeks of the games release, but in my experience, this noble cult is shrinking.
Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve jut found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” These folks are either fully invested in self-improvement or too high to care. Certain opponents will just keep coming back for more, no matter how many times you defeat them. Last week, my brother and I were playing doubles and fought the same team for over 30 minutes without losing to them. Our opponents’ resolve was admirable in a sort of Quixotic way.
The Dash of Salt
The person that will play you until they win, at which point they’ll leave. It’s more of an action than a specific type of person, and of course, they may have legitimate reasons for quitting out, but it's always suspicious when someone (oftentimes a try hard) will keep coming back right up until the point they get the best of you. You can usually see their frustration in their early-match offensives and repeated use of their favorite abilities.
The Spam Chef
Speaking of favorite abilities, we now come to the Spam Chef. They’ve found something they like, and they’re going to stick with it. You better enjoy hearing “PK fire” or “Falcon kick” because their attacks will be divided into two groups: the one thing they keep doing and everything else. Their habits often transcend characters. The Spam Chef who loves dashing in and mashing Little Mac’s jab attack will also do the same thing with Bowser Jr. Characters are basically fancy skins for them; underneath it all is the same core.
The Taunting Troll
"Why would they include taunts in the game if we weren’t supposed to use them?” asks this player. Taunts don’t have much mechanical value, but folks that use them are all about the meta-game. A well-timed taunt can disrupt an opponents rhythm or anger them into making a poor choice. The most aggressive taunters will bust one out after landing a big shot and before their opponent has actually been knocked off. Sometimes this comes back to bite them, but the commitment to style that it represents is worth it.
This person wastes no time or energy in meticulously finding and exploiting the weaknesses in your game. There’s no taunting, just calculated action. You’ll see moves used in combinations that you didn’t know existed. Each jump is a precision strike rather than a floaty rainbow towards the center of the stage. You might get lucky and take a stock off of them, but rest assured that you won’t be able to beat them with the same move. They’ve learned your preferences and iterated on their approach. The only question now is how long you want to be a masochist before trying for a salty dash. Your loss may well be immortalized on their YouTube channel. They’ve also given you a label in their own Smash player taxonomy: scrub.