The Big House 6: The Rise and Fall of My Tournament Career

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My journey to a Video Game tournament and the events that occur before, during, and after

Submitted: May 06, 2017

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Submitted: May 06, 2017



Alright, we’re going to start simple, do exactly as I say; start with shine - jump cancel - back air - L cancel - pivot turnaround - grab - up throw - short hop - up air - L cancel, and if they hit you then DI out. Got it? You're probably thinking “What in the world are you saying?” or “Are you even speaking English?”. While it may sound like gibberish, I am speaking the language of Super Smash Bros. Melee, a fighting game for the Nintendo Gamecube featuring famous Nintendo characters duking it out with each other. I’ve been a huge fan of this serious for as long as I can remember and just recently took the next step with this love for the game; I participated in an international level tournament with thousands of other players ready to beat me up (not literally). What I described at the beginning was only a fraction of terms for the game that the community has created since the birth of the game, back in 2001. This is my journey to The Big House 6, one of the biggest tournaments in the world, and what ensued throughout the weekend event.
First, some background on the game. Super Smash Bros. Melee was released back in 2001 for the Nintendo Gamecube. It featured a roster of famous characters, such as Mario, Link, Pikachu, and others-While also featuring some not-so-famous characters from other games. Intended as a family game that everyone could have fun with, a competitive scene emerged for the game as people found out how the game worked and how it can be optimized for competitive play. The scene slowly grew until 2013, when a documentary about the history of the competitive world was released. Titled The Smash Brothers, it caused a massive growth within the community and drew in a lot of new people in (including me). A lot of kids probably played this game when they were younger. I sure did. However, eventually you stray away towards other games or away from games in general. But a combination of my brother and this documentary brought me back to a 12 year old game at the time, now almost a 16 year old game. That brings us to now, a mere decade and a half after the game's release, to the Edward Hotel & Conference Center in Dearborn. Possibly to compete against the best of the best that are out there, and maybe, just maybe, rise out of the depths and make it out of Round 1 Pools to the second day.
It all started back in Summer ‘16, how long ago it seems; taking in the sun and that sweet, sweet school break. My brother texts me something about Melee and the big tournament that occurs once a year here in Michigan.
“The Big House 6 registration is open, we need to register and go this year!” My brother, Grant, promptly sends soon after the registration floodgates were opened. Going to the website, I didn’t give it much thought on how much this would cost, if at all. Not too long before the total adds up to $65, taking me back for a second. After contemplating about it, we decided to bite the bullet and register for the tournament.
Fast forward to October 7th, first day of the tournament, preparing to start the drive to the hotel center. First off, I have to retroactively apologize for being not being at school that day (Sorry Mrs. Kidle) but there were more important matters. Each of our brackets were later in the day, so thankfully we didn’t have to be there at 8 A.M. like some people. We left around noon to start our trek to the location, never having been anywhere in that vacinity of Dearborn. The whole car ride there was thinking about what the event will be like. How many people are going to be there? Will it be crowded? Am I even going to do well? All these questions were racing through my mind with excitement. 
Thirty minutes later we had arrived, the grand convention center looming over the tiny (and full) parking lot. As we walk up, my nervousness starts to get worse, due to my slight social anxiety and shyness. My stomach is taking a turn for the worst, nevertheless were here, so I just have to get over it. We walk in, it’s a typical hotel lobby, with the nice furniture, classic jazz music playing in the background, and little chatter throughout the lobby. At the end of the lobby there is a crossroads, two paths for two different games. Left goes to Melee, what we're here for, but right leads to Smash 4. Melee is the second game in the Smash Bros. series of four games; Smash 4 being the fourth entry. That’s all I really need to say about it, we Melee players don’t really speak on Smash 4, due to it being a lot different than Melee, alienating a lot of us. Turning left at the crossroads is when we started noticing more people and how crowded it really was. My mix of excitement, giddiness, and jitters were culminating right then and there, all leading up to the entrance. Were so close, just one last step, the dreaded line of check in. A good 15-20 minutes later it’s my turn, all they needed was my name and ID. 
“Are you a spectator or competitor?” The man helping me inquired.
A little bit of me thought it was pretty cool to say “I’m a competitor” but that could also just be the nerd in me.
Finally, after all my wasteless talking, we have made it to The Big House 6, where all the top dogs compete and duke it out to find a winner. As soon as we walked in, my brother and I started fangirling over all the famous players that were walking around. He’d lean over to me and whisper “Oh my god there’s Mango” or “There’s Armada playing over there”, and I was right there with him on the elation he had. It was so surreal to see all the top players in person when you watch them play online; like seeing a sports superstar in person, it’s dreamlike.
It’s taken this long to get here, but we’ve made it. It’s time for my bracket to start and begin my matches.
Pool D120: My possible claim to fame, my starting point, and hopefully not my end point. Each pool (Beginning with A, all the way to F) is split up into 20 groups, each consisting of a bracket with 12 people in it. Mine being the last one of Group D, it only worsened my anticipation. 
My brother and I walk into a side room where more setups are and each group of setups has a sign with the number pool on it. 120, 120, where is 120? I’m going to miss my pool if we don’t find where I’m supposed to play. Eventually we find where I’m supposed to be and check in with the TO (Tournament Official) who is in charge of this bracket. 
“You are playing against ARAY on that setup” the TO begrudgingly pointing to the TV I’ll be playing on. There sits a man who looks ten years older than me, ready to, for lack of a better term, kick my ass. Schooching my way through the crowded sea of chairs and people, my brother wishes me good luck as a sit down. Unravelling my controller cord to plug it into the system, I couldn’t be more nervous. My heart is beating out of my chest and my hands are not ready to move to the extent that they need to to win. Nevertheless, we both choose our characters, decide on a stage, and fist bump as a prerequisite to the match.
“Good luck” we both say as the match starts.
To make a long story a little shorter, I lost… badly. Once we started, my hands locked up so hard, limiting my movement so much I could barely even move. Losing against this guy sent me to the losers side of the bracket, where I have one last shot of making it through to the end. I have to win the next four games to make it to the next day.
“For you, you go to KJ over there” Mr. TO asserting to me.
Making my way through another ocean of chairs and people, I sit down next to someone who seems just as nervous as I am. When I think back to why I was so nervous, it seems unnecessary and ridiculous; I know I could have done better and if I was in the right mindset, I could’ve done a lot better.
Once I pick my character, he hovers over his selection and chooses my worst enemy, my arch-nemesis, the alpha and omega for my tournament run: Marth. That name most likely has no effect on you, but just know, he is a slimy, broken mess of a character that can dominate so easily, he is still a problem for me to this day. 
This is it for me, I’m going to get destroyed again and leave this place in shame. Let’s just get it over with.
Match start, it’s very back and forth but I’m still managing a lead for the most part. While being very close, I manage to clutch it out and take Game 1. How… I managed to win a game, for being my first tournament, I never thought I would win anything. It’s not over yet, one more game and I’ve truly beat my first opponent. Same characters, same stage, Round 2. My struggling issues were seeping back into my head, causing me to start screwing up again. There goes Game 2, one to one, could it have been any closer than this. One last shot, with my brother over my shoulder watching me, I felt I needed to prove to myself that I could beat at least one person. Back and forth, back and forth, why did it have to be so close, it wasn’t helping my nerves at. After the dust settled, after everything that happened, I did it.
I won.
All the butterflies in my stomach finally fluttering away, I couldn’t have been happier after winning, literally only one match. Reporting back to the TO, I got to say the magic words.
“I won 2-1”
“Ok, can I have Rayd?” Sir TO spoke.
Oh, right, I still have to play three other people. After winning that match, I felt better, like I could go all the way to the next day. Then the match started, and all that went away once he eviscerated me 2-0 in less than three minutes. There will always be someone better than you (not saying I’m good or anything, I’m still awful compared to most).
I wasn’t really upset though, yeah the last guy crushed me, but overall the experience was awesome and something I had never thought I would experience. The event was the whole weekend, so we still went each day to watch, especially on the last day, when it’s Top 8, everybody in the tournament culminating to that moment, it was super hype. Leaving that first day only made me more excited for next year; to try again and (hopefully) place better. While I technically placed 7th in my bracket, which doesn’t sound that bad, overall I was still probably 1250th place out of 1500 people.
Going to this tournament was one the coolest and most different things I’ve ever done. That’s what I love so much about this game, you can suck so much and get wrecked by someone way better than, but it only makes you want to play more. Come October 2017, You’ll know where I’ll be, in Dearborn, getting bodied by someone, while enjoying every bit of it.

© Copyright 2017 Carter B. All rights reserved.

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