Vaccinatin' from the Hatin'
September 18 2018
Feeling the poison
When Hungrybox stood on stage to accept fourth place at EVO 2018, the disappointment in his eyes was beyond apparent to Melee followers. Viewers could see his disdain at the results, especially after a three-stock defeat to Armada in the losers semis.
But there was one homie in the crowd who knew that Hungrybox's fall to fourth was about more than disappointment. That homie was his best friend and coach Luis “Crunch” Rosias. And he knew exactly what it was that led to Hbox's excruciating defeat more than anyone else.
It was the Smash community.
While Hungrybox showed the world why he is considered the best Melee player when playing Leffen earlier on at EVO, things took a turn for the worse after he missed a rest in game two against Armada. It was something he would usually have landed, said Crunch, and Hbox began to crumble right after.
“It's hard to not let the negativity affect you,” said Crunch.
Hungrybox had announced a wrist injury just a few days before EVO weekend. And while playing through pain is nothing new to Hbox (he once placed fourth at Genesis 4 with a broken finger), the response the Jiggly main received regarding his disheartening tweet was just the cherry on top of the toxic Smash sundae that's been plaguing Hbox and other players for years.
Not only did unsympathetic Melee viewers call his injury “an excuse,” but fellow competitors - “without naming names” - cheered upon hearing the news.
The negativity within the Smash community is currently “the biggest thing” weighing Crunch and Hungrybox down this year.
“The toxic environment is what's getting to Juan lately,” admitted Crunch. “It's very hard to play if you have things distracting you from the game itself. If you have animosity from the community behind you or the players next to you. When you don't feel welcome anymore.”
It may sound trivial to some people, but being focused is one of the biggest concerns for many top level Smash players. As a Melee legend himself, Crunch has experienced this first-hand and knows it plays a major role in Melee players' performances.
“I have a tendency to overthink,” Crunch admitted. “Historically, that's one of my biggest struggles. It's a drawback. For me, Melee has been a tool to help me become more confident. To stop caring so much about what everyone thinks all the time and just enjoy what I'm doing. But it's a constant battle.”
Being an analytical player is what makes Crunch a great coach to the instinctual Hungrybox. He helps break things down frame by frame. And analytical players like Mew2King need a coach that will “help ground them,” noted Crunch. “He needs more mentality coaching.”
When it comes to Melee, the success of a player truly relies on their state of mind during tourneys. Just a week before EVO, Hbox bodied Leffen and Armada at Low Tier City. Crunch recalled their positive mentality throughout the weekend, visiting family and having a good time. And – more importantly – Crunch could clearly see that positivity and clarity allowing Hbox to perform at a high level. He had faster reflexes, a more analytical approach.
“When you're upset, your brain reevaluates things,” Crunch said, “and your mind becomes more judgemental. You can't play Melee with that mindset at all.”
Finding the antidote
What Crunch has always loved about Melee is that it's like no other game. Unlike most fighting titles, Melee offers freedom of movement that makes players feel like there's no limit in what they can do. The endless possibilities are what has led Melee players to call the game “deep,” with new tech skills still being discovered 12 years after its initial release.
“It shows how much depth Sakurai put into this game,” noted Crunch.
Always able to discover more to learn, Crunch and Hungrybox never grew tired of the game they started playing together at 11 years old. But since Crunch's parents notoriously kept him from attending tournaments, Crunch could see his skills falling behind Hbox's, and he began falling into the role of coach. He knew Hbox's style. His gimmicks. His weaknesses. Helping him fight to reach the top was exhilarating. They were both hungry. Excited by the possibilities.
His analytical mind came in handy, helping Hungrybox explore various options, breaking down situations. Grinding. Grinding. Grinding.
“I really enjoy when we work on something really, really hard and then it shows up [in a tournament],” said Crunch. “It's a very rewarding feeling. The work we put in for weeks becomes a deciding factor in a giant set... Seeing it all come through...”
But even as Hungrybox's coach – out of the direct spotlight – Crunch couldn't escape the toxic fumes coming from the Melee community.
“I definitely received crap, too,” he recalled. “They'd say I was helping to 'kill the game.'”
Fortunately, this wasn't the sentiment of the majority of Smash players. Still, their voices were the loudest, especially with help from their platform of choice: Twitter.
“Twitter gives too much voice to these minority opinions,” explained Crunch, who has since left Twitter. “Reddit at least has an upvote system, so crappy comments get downvoted. Twitter gives everyone an equal playing ground. These people who are extremely vocal, looking for a reaction.”
After experiencing this negativity first-hand, Crunch began to realize what his true purpose as a coach really was for Hungrybox. It wasn't just analyzing plays. It wasn't just hours of practicing. It was simply being there for him.
“Sometimes you just need that one homie,” Crunch said with a laugh. “There can be nine people cheering against you. But if you have one homie who is like, 'Come on Juan, let's get it!' That's how Hungrybox tries to overcome the negativity, too. Thinking of the people who want to see him win.”
Dumping toxic waste on the world
The constant booing during the EVO Smash 4 finals really shined a light on the community's comfort with being toxic. At one of the largest esports stages ever, fans of the game left mid-match and loudly heckled players for choosing Bayonetta.
But Crunch believes this behavior was reinforced by Lima and Captain Zach's reaction during the finals.
“To be frank, this toxicity comes from the top,” he explained, noting how idolized the top Melee players are within the community. “If you look at the scene, even local players are so toxic. And these mid and bottom-level players and see how they behave. If a top player is doing it, it becomes the cool thing to do.”
He said this especially happens when it comes to trash talk. Fans will see who their favorite player is shitting on and join right in. This culture is even more prevalent on Twitter, where pro players - “without naming names” - will openly speak negatively about another player.
As an analytical and calculating person, Crunch has already come up with an easy solution: Send a DM and discuss the disagreement in private. Have a third person mediate. Resolve it. Keep it between yourselves.
“As figureheads of the community, they have a responsibility to keep the toxicity in the community low,” explained Crunch. “To say certain behaviors are not okay. If they would condemn that there would be a lot less toxicity as a whole. There are lots of wonderful class acts in the community, like Armada and Plup, but other people – without naming names – will speak bad about others on a regular basis instead of, like I keep saying, talking to the person about it.”
The clean up
Even when they were 11, Super Smash Bros was a game that brought out people's competitive side. It was always a salt fest, even if it was just a small tournament at a local mall with free-for-all rules and items.
And it was that sense of competitiveness – of wanting to reach the top – that kept Crunch fascinated with the game. Being the “kings” of their school wasn't enough once he saw how easily he was destroyed at a real tournament. When he saw things being done he didn't even know were possible. The levels. The depth.
It's no surprise that a game with so much competitiveness driving it forward has negativity within that community.
But Crunch said that Melee is so much more than that to him. It wasn't only about being the best. It was about the challenges that got them there. The people he came across throughout that journey. Friends – genuine friends – he met from all over the world. Sweden. German. Japan.
And doing it all with his best friend of all, Hungrybox.
“Many friends come and go, but Juan has been my close friend for more than half of my life. And I don't see that changing for the rest of my life,” gushed Crunch. “He is a friend that's become family. He comes to my family's Christmas parties. I celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. I am very blessed in that sense.”
And that's what Crunch hopes the rest of the Smash community will take from this. That the players are people. They are someone's friend. Someone's family. They have feelings. Thoughts. Worries. Hopes. Dreams.
“Words can have an impact,” said Crunch. “Be nice out there, guys.”
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