By Alayna P.
Super Smash Bros. is an undoubtedly popular game, among competitive and casual players alike. From the moment I first started playing it, I was struck by the fact that competitive players don't play it the way the game is advertised, or the way it is initially set up. The game has a myriad of items, and widly varied stages where anything can happen - yet for competitions, they throw that all away, and play on always the same stage, and take away all those fun items that make the game so exciting. So I wondered: why? My answer seems to come in the form of "it makes it more fair". But does it really? Or does it just take away all the fun?
Most of the fun and excitement of Super Smash Bros. comes from the relative chaos of it. Things are happening here, there, and everywhere, ever changing, ever engaging, ever keeping you on your toes. This is traded in for the supposed fairness of one-on-one fighting with no items, and no stage hazards or obstacles. It is thought that by having items and interesting stages, skill is swapped for random luck. But wouldn't it also be more fair to have everyone play as the same character? Then it would be purest skill and nothing but. So where is the line really drawn? Where should it be drawn? I think it is very possible to have fun and remain competitive, and I will explain just how.
Now, I am not a master at Smash Bros., nor am I intimately aware of all its intricacies and nuances. But there is another, similar series that I am finely aware of, to the utmost degree: Mario Kart. Mario Kart is similarly known for being unfair due to randomness with its items (some of those items appear in Smash Bros. as well), and yet, myself and others manage to win consistently at it. So, clearly, the randomness is not the issue. It's about learning and practicing what to do in all of those random scenarios that can come about - the best players will be able to pull off all the evasive maneuvers and recoveries required to quickly get back in the race after catastrophe, or to make the best of being dealt a low hand. This is why experienced players will almost always (if not just always) beat inexperienced players at Mario Kart, because they are more attuned to the ins and outs of the game and its mechanics, every curve and obstacle of every track, every shortcut, how to make use of or avoid every item. It is possible, but not likely, for an inexperienced player to win purely on luck. And Mario Kart usually works in a tournament of four or more races, with an accumulated score; so you will basically always end up with the more experienced and practiced player winning.
So what does all this have to do with Super Smash Bros.? As established, Mario Kart has a lot of random chance in the form of items, as does Super Smash Bros. Mario Kart has many different stages, as does Super Smash Bros. And I know from experience that in Mario Kart, it is possible to get good at it despite this. All it takes is learning the different stages, the items, and what works best in different scenarios. And it's great fun, as well! Mario Kart is incredibly exciting, even when you get to that level where it becomes second nature. The way people play Smash Bros. competitively would be like playing Mario Kart, but always on Baby Park, and with the items turned off. How incredibly boring would that be?
In Super Smash Bros., it is still just fine to play as whatever character you choose, so players still need to be prepared for random possibilities of what the opponent may do or who they may choose to play as. Playing with items and many different stages is just that much more to learn - and I argue players who would get good at playing despite these obstacles and hazards would be even better and more in tune with the game than those who play it in a completely bare-bones manner. It requires just that much more learning, that much more challenge, and I am surprised that this is not a more sought after goal among serious players of the game. Even the items that seem to be the most unfair, such as the hammer, or the Smash Ball, all of these have ways to be counteracted (in the case of the hammer, whoever weilds it is up for attack briefly and it is possible to smack them around and prevent them from using it, as well as it being possible to easily dodge by experienced players), different stages and items have different strategies to use them to give an upper hand, and more. And all it takes is practice and learning how to respond in many situations.
So skill, evidently, is able to conquer the so-called "evil" of random chance in these sort of competitive games. Unpredictable situations are just another trial to overcome, and those who do are the true masters of a given game. Not only that, but an unpredictable battle (or race) is more exciting and fun, too! So it is my hope that by now you've seen how you can have fun and excitement as well as be competitive. All it takes is learning the minute details of how the game works and having the upper hand in any situation that may come your way.
These are not thoughts I have seen made or expressed before now, and woe betide anyone who criticizes Super Smash Bros. or the competitive side of it, so I am curious to see the thoughts on this. Feel free to post your thoughts on this in the comments below!