A Time to be So Small
Smash Summit Crews - Team Alex vs Team Kage
It was the Norwalk Dream Team. It was a crew consisting of Mang0, Lucky, and S2J with Alex19 serving as Captain and mascot. It was a chance for Alex, and his tiny southern California city, to prove to voters and everyone watching that he deserved to be at the Smash Summit.
But then the matches started.
Smash Summit Crews: Team Alex vs Team Swedish Delight
The Norwalk Boys looked strong against Team Swedish Delight. S2J was able to take out Westballz and swipe a stock from Swedish Delight. Norwalk made the right choice of sending in Alex, because even if he only took 3 stocks from the opposing team, both groups would still be tied. But despite a promising start, Alex's performance quickly began to suffer.
"I feel like Alex gets pretty nervous. You can tell in his play." - William "Reno" Hsiao
A clumsy up-smash here, and a botched laser there, Alex took a disappointing one stock from Swedish Delight. Lucky and Mang0 were able to pick up the slack and the team moved forward into the finals, but Alex's poor play and nerves earned him the reputation of a wild-card choker.
In crews finals, Alex was selected as the starter against Kage, the player he feuded with in the weeks leading up to the event. Before the match, among the commentators, Arian "The Crimson Blur" set the tone: "Alex is either going to win by one stock, or Kage is going to win by three."
"I feel like Alex gets pretty nervous. You can tell in his play." William "Reno" Hsiao responded. And soon after, the match started.
Smash Summit Crews: Team Alex vs Team Kage
From the start, Alex looked sloppy. Flubbed grabs and ledge dashes. Missed opportunities to punish, and poor recoveries that left him vulnerable. He only took one stock. Two stocks total from both crew battles. And his team lost the finals to Team Kage.
In the singles bracket he didn't fair much better. For his first set, he was paired off against Armada, the world's top ranked player for 2015. While there were moments of brilliance in his play, Alex lost to a player that was a level or two beyond his reach. Then his second set in loser's was against Lucky, his friend, and he lost in a clean sweep.
At Smash Summit, Alex tied for last place.
Pioneer (Blvd) to the Fox
At Mang0's house, once the dust from Smash Summit had settled, I was able to ask Alex about the whole experience.
"I played so much Smash and I got so much better. I'm thankful for the whole thing. I SEE the game differently. I leveled up for damn sure."
I related with his words. At the time, I was in the middle of a leveling-up quest of my own.
From late November to mid-January, I lived in-and-out of Mang0's house in preparation for GENESIS 3. Genesis, or G3, was going to be the big one and I wanted to be ready.
Every day the guys were over I practiced what I could. Some days, I knew I wasn't good enough to play on the stream tv, so I practiced by myself until someone would come downstairs and play me on the small setup. Alex was my most common opponent and eventually I would see him as a mentor.
"What the hell are you doing?" he would ask.
"I'm moving. Mang0 says never stop moving." I would respond.
"Yeah, but you're being dumb about it. Look, I'm going to take this stock because you're always doing the same dumb thing."
And he would take that stock. He taught me the game the same way he learned it.
Everything I wanted to know, he'd share. When I asked why all the guys in Norwalk play so wreckless, he had the answer rehearsed and prepared.
"'Norwalk Spacies' is kind of simple. It's like HomeMadeWaffles used, to say, 'I'd rather do a cool combo than win.'"
"[In our Norwalk streams,] sometimes we do 'no chain grabs' and we joke around and I think people realize that we just want to enjoy the game. [...] We want people to come into our streams and feel like a family. [...] When you go to a tournament, just hang out with the homies. Not just in it for the win.
"Everything is different now." he paused. "So much pressure to get that perfect punish game. Perfect everything is the new meta.
I commented that maybe it was because of the incentives provided by the influence of esports. He wasn't an enemy of esports or a rapidly-evolving meta-game.
"It's great and I love it, because it will bring out the champions. [It will bring people] that love Melee and the people that don't know they love Melee yet.
"[But you want] people to stay for the long haul. To find passionate people to keep it alive. [We got friends] that work for NASA and still their passion is in Smash and esports because they find it fun.
"It's depressing and shit when top players lose and go on Twitter and think its the end of the world. Like Leffen is [one of] the best in the world and he's definitely in it to win, but he's so good I don't know if he enjoys the game. ESPECIALLY when he loses. You know how Mang0 won everything and quit [back then]? Winning and getting to the top takes heart, and then you're left with nothing else to give.
His emphasis on love and fun are the ideas I would remember most when I saw him walk onto the stage at Genesis 3.
You can follow Alex19 on Twitter here: @mach1alex19
You can catch his Twitch stream here: twitch.tv/mach1alex19