The Melee community needs to patch up its transphobia and misogyny problem before it’s too late.
The competitive scene for Super Smash Bros. Melee, the second game in the popular series produced by Nintendo, has remained one of the most popular fighting games in the current eSports landscape despite being nearly two decades old. However, if the dedicated community behind the game hopes to keep it alive and healthy moving forward, they’ll have to confront and alleviate a problem that the community has perpetuated since its inception: the prevalence of transphobia and misogyny.
My introduction to the Melee community at large came last year with The Smash Brothers, a 2013 documentary series on the community’s history. While I fell in love with the series’ ability to capture captivating narratives of the game’s different eras and was amazed with the players who defined them, I felt that something was off regarding how the competitive scene was presented.
The series focused primarily on the journeys of seven players — all cisgender males — who rose to the top of the mountain during the scene’s first decade. It’s precisely in the name: The Smash Brothers. On the surface, this is completely fine; however, the documentary soon began to reveal to me that not only was it a dated product of its time, it also represented a community held back by its exclusion.
The documentary was riddled with not-so-subtle jokes about sexual harassment, painfully uncomfortable stories about players getting “raped” (losing badly in a game), as well as a general attitude that girls couldn’t make it anywhere in the competitive scene, and that to lose to one would be an embarrassment.
I feel so strongly about The Smash Brothers not because I dislike it — I revisit all four hours of it rather often — but because I’m far from the only person who it introduced to Melee. In fact, the documentary was so popular upon its release that it birthed an entire generation of “doc kids,” players who discovered the game through the documentary — plenty of whom have gone on to great success in the competitive scene. The series was a major factor in bringing the community to heights that the old-school players featured in it would’ve never imagined were possible, given how small and grassroots the community was during its formative years.
Seven years later, The Smash Brothers remains a massively influential entry point for many modern players, but the impression that some…