Zero Apex Champ

It's clear that eSports have evolved and grown on a significant scale when calls for it to be considered an Olympic sport are, for the first time, not entirely unreasonable. With sports such as shooting, archery et al - which are arguably reliant on skill and co-ordination rather than athleticism - are included, and others such as snooker claim they should be involved, it's not too much of a stretch to suggest that elite gaming should be considered. We don't expect it to happen any time soon - it certainly won't - but the debate highlights that eSports is no longer a little-regarded activity for a small minority, with millions of viewers now following some branch of eSport online.

The Super Smash Bros. scene may not be of an equivalent size to the likes of those devoted to Call of Duty or core PC titles, but it's certainly growing - Apex 2015 was the largest Smash tournament yet, with a sizeable crowd in attendance and watching online. Yet despite the community mobilising to help the tournament take place after problems with its original venue, there are issues at a competitive level that are drawn from loyalties to specific entries in the franchise. The favourite of the majority is Super Smash Bros. Melee, but unfortunately it appears that a small group take that devotion a little too far.

This was demonstrated when long-term and respected Smash Bros. player Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios lifted the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U title at Apex - he has form in the new title, too, having come out as the victor in Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Invitational at E3 2014. You can see the final match and his moment of triumph below.

Unfortunately his victory wasn't roundly celebrated by all in attendance, with a group chanting 'Melee', effectively celebrating the end of the Wii U tournament and not ZeRo's win; this was compounded when a post from ZeRo on the Smash Bros. Reddit, addressing this, was subsequently deleted. An excerpt from that post is below.

It wasn't cool and my heart was crushed. But I was only annoyed at the individuals who went ahead with it. I'm not saying all Melee players do this, but this is to those who did. Let's make things different. Don't apologise to me, that's not important. What's important is fixing an issue in the community.

ZeRo is keen to see the Smash Bros. community be more mutually supportive of any game in the entry, and the competitors that opt for entries other than the GameCube crowd-favourite. He said the following to Red Bull.

I've been wanting to win an Apex for many, many years. I've dreamed of the moment where I can finally hold that trophy and just smile. But when the crowd was cheering it wasn't for me, it was for the fact the game was over and they can now see Melee.

...The friction between Melee and other Smash games has always been there. It's at events, in forums and chats. I've seen disrespect, and I've been disrespected in many different ways. This issue is old, it's a part of the scene, regardless of how some feel about it. I personally think that if we collectively bring to light the fact that this is a critical issue then we are one step closer to fixing the problem.

Though his initial effort at encouraging greater unity on the Reddit board was shut down, ZeRo feels that the community's positive actions at saving the Apex event prove that it's not inconceivable for attitudes to shift, and for the dissenters to be drowned out.

We simply all worked together. We all had the same objective, and collective effort can go far! We're growing and we're doing great things. This past Apex was a milestone in many, many ways for our wonderful community. I really hope this one issue at some point can be resolved. But I believe we can do it. It will take time, but it's possible.

It seems that the latest entries on Wii U and 3DS have certainly helped to grow the audience for the competitive scene - here's hoping that inclusivity and support regardless of game choice become hallmarks of the community. Whether you prefer the Nintendo 64 original, Melee, Brawl or the latest entries, we're all just gamers and Smash Bros. fans - that's surely what matters the most.

Image credit: Red Bull