Obstacle 19 (Part 4)

You can read the other parts here:
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3


Alex19 vs SilentWolf

Genesis 3 - GC | Silent Wolf vs Alex19

The team behind the Genesis series wanted to try something different for the event. 1000+ entrants would play their first round pools, and 64 top players would be introduced much later in the bracket. With less matches to play, this would save the organizers valuable time and many of these players welcomed the extra rest and noticeable dip of performance pressure. Alex was one of the 64.

Silent Wolf. Alex19. Please report to the side-stream stage.

Silent Wolf was a player whose own story ramped up in the previous year. Notable "greatest hits" included earning a small but important sponsorship, placing top 8 at EVO 2014, nearly taking the set against Armada at EVO 2015, and demolishing the competition at the latest North West Majors. A veteran of the scene, Silent Wolf's narrative was a upward slope of steady beats and long-form dedication. He is a towering wall to inconsistent play. In many ways he was Alex's biggest obstacle.

The Set

After a brief exchange of smile-heavy banter with his opponent and before the start of the first match, Alex's expression towed the line between serious focus and quiet ease. That sweet spot where comfort meets preparation and your body knows exactly what it's about to do. Alex was about to play a Fox, and he knew the Fox ditto match-up.

The commentators mention how exciting a Fox ditto is, but when you're actually standing in the venue, watching the same maneuvers over and over again, no one really bats an eye until something unexpected occurs. And when Alex took the first stock, it was a welcome surprise.

In the first match, his play was a fluid performance, free of sagging fear or heavy expectation. Both players converted heavy punishes into valuable stocks and both players launched strings of hits from creative openings. At one point they were both stuck in shield, then Alex broke the stand-off with a clever jab—the type of jab only a clear and present mind could summon. But in spite of his lucid style, Alex lost the first match to the Washington native.

The second match started off worse. Alex's arms tensed as he pushed each button with controller-bending force. He was letting his nerves get to him again. Then, while on his last stock and losing, something clicked. Alex reversed the whole match and clutched out a win from a risky edge-guard. You could see Lucky screaming and jumping for his friend. More people gathered in the crowd. "This was new." they collectively thought.

The last match started with a burst of hype, as the two came out scrambling. More spectators gathered behind them as the players went blow for blow, back and forth. A charged forward smash from Alex to block Silent Wolf's side-b recovery earned him a slight lead and many cheers. Then Silent Wolf pulled ahead again with a quick ledge snatch and capitalizing on Alex's mistakes. But in the last 10 seconds of the match, Alex took two stocks with an up-smash and a deep, off-stage shine-spike.

He had done it. He earned a world-class win. He finally handled his nerves.

Have Your Cheesecake And Eat It Too

Later, followers of the Melee scene look back at Alex19's Genesis 3 performance as a stand-out one. Partially because of the people he beat, and partially because of the final placing he earned (17th). Mostly because of his breakthrough with the years-long struggle he had overcoming self-doubt, nerves, and expectations. He was getting closer to his true potential in a competitive video game.

"It's funny because my co-workers would call me 'Gamer Nerd' but like Melee is the only video game I play. And all I really want to do is have fun with it. Getting better is just fun."

Back in the Esports Arena, the day after the Halloween party, he took another swig from his bottle of Bombay.

"I've been playing so long, that when I want to explain to people life stuff I always relate it back to Melee. Challenging mental states keep pushing you in Melee until you just start having epiphanies in your regular life. Simple ideas like holding back and being patient in the game, sometimes you gotta do that in life. The same things we face everyday, I can explain them in Melee terms. I solve them in Melee terms.

"Reflecting back, it's all about having fun. Today, [at Super Smash Sundays,] I just went 0-2 but I can't hold it against myself. Played stupid? Brush it off. Just have fun... be passionate together... and... grow this family.

That bottle of Bombay finally kicked in.

With his back against the chair, and a soft stare at the tournament-goers below, he looked peaceful. "The community is like family." and I already knew how important family was to him.

You can read the other parts here:
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

You can follow Alex19 on Twitter here: @mach1alex19

You can catch his Twitch stream here: twitch.tv/mach1alex19