Previously on Inven Global Awards
2020 was a brutal year for the Smash community. COVID-19 alone would have made sure of that. Adding to the global pandemic, the Smash community faced an open battle with the game’s developer and a huge amount of confirmed sexual abuse cases. Yet, however bad 2020 was, it was no waste of time.
2020 has a chance to represent a turning point. Many long-term issues inside the Smash community came closer than they ever had to having some kind of solution and that’s almost exclusively because of the difficult, emotional, and intellectual work of several key community members.
That’s why, as a part of the Inven Global Awards, we want to honor the many people that made 2020 a year to build off of. In most cases, these aren’t just singular people, but groups that came together to give back to the community. Equally often, they’re volunteers or community members that are stepping up without any real promise of reward. They’re people that put the “C” in “FGC” and help make one of esport’s smallest niches into one of its most durable.
5. Brandon “HomeMadeWaffles” Collier
HomeMadeWaffles (HMW) has been a mainstay in Melee’s scene for years. He’s recorded many of the most iconic moments not just in the esport but in esports as a whole. As COVID shut down the offline Melee majors and locals, HMW stepped up again by creating his own online tournaments — the Rollback or Rona Rumbles.
These tournaments laid the groundwork for the later online scene and helped outline the structure and style of online competition. They also helped to iron out some problems early on, before they’d grow too large, such as smurfing. When larger tournaments and events came around, the Rollback and Rona Rumbles created easy and natural qualifiers as well.
Esports as a whole is young and not many games are genuinely resilient. A halted momentum can kill even the most dynastic esports. HMW used his experience and knowledge to create a reputable tournament series that kept the hype alive and then helped roll that forward into larger tournaments and events.
4. Ludwig “Ludwig” Ahgren and his team
Many of Melee's larger tournaments in 2020 would be hosted by a rising variety streamer named Ludwig Ahgren, along with his house of friends and coworkers. Called The Ludwig Ahgren Championship Series, or LACS, the tournament series helped the Melee community stay alive during the COVID era by raising the stakes of competition.
LACS came into the rollback era with much larger prize pools than most online tournaments had, as well as a significant platform and a solid media strategy. Ludwig tied his tournaments in with the character of his stream, adding an extra dollar or two to the prize pool just to break previous prize pool records. That media strategy and platform was particularly helpful in the scene’s wider battle against Nintendo.
The LAC3 charity stream also generated over $260,000 in donations to Games For Love. The credit shouldn’t all go to Ludwig either. Aiden “Calvin” McCaig, Anhony “Slime” Bruno, and others in the scene helped make the LACS tournaments into successful events with their own unique feel.
3. Jas “Fizzi” Laferriere and the Slippi team
In the world of fighting games, “rollback netcode” was the term of 2020. The fighting game scene had known for years that the best way to create quality online matches was to implement rollback netcode but a lot developers either didn’t want or have the time to spend on implementing it.
There’s no shortage of reading on why rollback netcode beats out the traditional delay-based netcode. However, there’s also a lot of documentation on the hefty amount of man hours it takes to build rollback into a game. The fact that a game like Melee has rollback netcode at all is a miracle, and the miracle worker’s name is Fizzi. Or more accurately: Slippi
Slippi is a small team headed up by Fizzi that’s been making significant quality of life changes to Melee since 2018. However none were as important and as forward-facing as the mod that gave Melee rollback netcode matchmaking.
Slippi’s rollback isn’t perfect but it was easily good enough to make same-region rollback matches have very close to the same credibility as offline matches. All the more incredibly, Slippi is entirely community-funded from Patreon or donation. Given how much time the project demanded, it became practically a full-time job for Fizzi, who worked on it despite no guarantees of financial security.
In that way, Slippi feels analogous to Smash as a whole. The scene has always been one large risk, and it’s a risk that pays off because of a scene that refuses to be anything less than invested.
RUNNER-UP: Jacqueline “Jisu” Choe and those who came forward
In 2020, Jisu was a community artist who had seen firsthand the abuse that happens in the Smash scene as well as how hard it could be to expose. She knew the difficulty that came with bringing big truths to light against even bigger names and came forward anyways. By coming forward she set an example that many others followed.
On top of setting that example, Jisu helped others follow her lead, actively working to give anonymous sources a platform to speak out. Jisu actively compiled evidence and thoroughly revealed a huge amount of misconduct in the community. In the process, she helped dismantle toxic institutions like Sky’s House and she took a huge amount of flak.
It is already tough to come forward about trauma, broken relationships, and sexual abuse. It’s even tougher with thousands of anonymous people calling you a clout chaser for it. Jisu and many others who came forward did so at the expense of their mental health. In many ways, they pushed against their own self-interest in order to make the community better by showing just how bad it had gotten.
The Smash community owes them a lot for that.
WINNER: Kyle “Dr. Piggy” Nolla and the Code of Conduct Panel
There is physical and then there is emotional work. Sorting through the evidence behind some of Smash’s ugliest controversies is the deeply emotional work that Dr. Piggy and many others on the Code of Conduct board took on without pay and underneath great criticism.
That work only became more difficult and necessary in 2020, where it became clear the scene had sexual abuse and grooming problems. Cases ranged from the bottom to the top, resulting in some of the biggest names in the esport leaving the scene. Fans of these large figures started retaliating by attacking whoever they saw as a threat to their favorite parasocial relationships.
Many times, this was the Code of Conduct Panel or Dr. Piggy herself as they did their best to avoid revealing anonymous sources and sensitive information. It took a lot of emotional work to take a boatload to defend against the scene’s misdirected anger until more and more truths came to light.
Much like anyone else on this list, the Code of Conduct panel made its own missteps and had its own issues. For a volunteer panel working through some of the toughest issues a 20 year old scene may have ever seen, it would have been naive to expect anything else. Especially when the community support often wasn’t there and major voices in the community would undercut the panel’s rulings.
By the end of the year, the Code of Conduct panel dissolved and Dr. Piggy took her own step back from the Smash community. It’s easy to look at the entire venture as a failure because of how things ended - easy in the way that looking near is easier than looking far. In the short-term, the Panel helped a lot of victims come forward. In the long-term, the Panel puts down a foundation to build off of.
- The BeyondTheSummit Team
- Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby
- Walter “turndownforwalt” Brandsema
- The MeleeItOnMe Team