Saleem "Salem" Akiel Young is one of the top Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players, coming in 30th in the PGRU rankings in 2019. Smash fans were blown away when he beat Gonzalo "ZeRo" Castro at EVO 2017, but Salem often gets attention for more than his raw talent in the game.
Salem rocked the Smash community when he stated that "years of research" proved how toxic the Super Smash Bros. Melee playerbase has been. But that's just the beginning. Salem still has a lot to say, whether it's about Nairoby "Nairo" Quezada's return to streaming or Nintendo possibly shutting down the Smash World Tour. He's also working on a pretty unique project outside of the game.
And yeah, he still thinks the Smash community is just as toxic as ever.
Salem started out playing Super Smash Bros. 64 but wasn't able to play competitively when Melee was released. He finally got his shot during Brawl's competitive run, inspired by the time he finally beat his brother in a 1v1 offline.
Salem started playing Smash on WiFi and even entered some online tournaments at the time. He started to climb the AllisBrawl ranks. He was soon noticed by CT Chia, who started taking him to tournaments of the LAN variety. He would place around fifth consistently at locals and fight up to 33rd or so at major events. But that was just the beginning for this competitive and passionate player.
What has made you stick with Smash Ultimate?
The reason I've stuck with Ultimate and also what I like about the game is there are tons and TONS of fun characters in the game and they've brought back Smash characters they had removed from Smash 4 as well. They've made more characters viable and overall balanced things out so you can play the characters you love!
What fighters do you find yourself using competitively right now?
I mainly use Steve and Snake competitively! They may be the perfect character combination for me at the moment.
What mostly drew me to these characters is their playstyles. They're mainly defensive characters but when you gain the advantage it's basically all set play from there. It's very easy to control the game when you have advantage with either character. I do believe they're viable overall though others may not think so.
What did you think about the Smash World Tour announcement?
The Smash World Tour is very interesting — though it being online is a bit sad. However, that is only for a portion of the Smash World Tour. The rest is to be played offline. The only thing that kind of scares me about it is that it may get shut down mid-way by Nintendo.
Why are you upset about it being online? What do you miss about in-person tournaments?
It's mainly due to there for sure being people that won't make it far cause of their playstyles not being viable online — as well a lot of top players won't be there simply because it's online in general.
What I miss about in-person tournaments is the rawness of people's skills being shown. Online that's not really shown — or rather not shown very much.
The toxic Smash community, Nairo, and Team Liquid
So you don't miss seeing the Smash community at all? Do you feel like have become less toxic over the years?
That's hard for me to say. But the toxic part? I feel like the community has become more toxic over time. Mainly because there's no community leader nor an influential group of people to tell the community to cut out certain behavior of theirs. People just let the community do and say whatever they want really to a certain degree and it's really not fun to be around.
Do you still feel it's a Melee versus Ultimate thing? What toxic behaviors have you noticed more of recently?
It's a number of things really! Some past things such as the Evo drive to get Smash into Evo, the failure to understand things like "years of research" and more recent things. Though, if anything, I'll mainly have to say it's the mob mentality and cancel culture trying to be forced in the community.
Recently, we found out that Nairo is innocent of the Captain Zack situation and is the victim. But even with such evidence, there are people still treating Nairo as someone horrible because they feel like that doesn't change the events that have happened.
The harassment and attempts of bullying are still there. The mark is still there. That's there forever and won't go away. That applies to everyone even remotely involved. The community tried and TRIES to treat everyone involved like trash.
People don't have very much empathy in this community really. Even if you tell someone the genuine truth and all there is with it they won't try to understand you or give you the chance. It is somewhat understandable though — people are often spiteful. I'd appreciate it if people would actually try to take the time to understand but that's not likely. This is a human problem. Not just a Smash community problem.
Are there any Smash players in the community that you respect?
I respect quite a lot of people really! But I wouldn't really want to name anyone since I don't want to leave anyone out. All these people generally are understanding. I don't really consider them Smashers even though they're part of the Smash community. But they all think quite differently from the usual people.
Do you believe that your "years of research" statement was what got you removed from Team Liquid?
There's a number of reasons why I could've been removed from Team Liquid. I wasn't really streaming for them and was doing the bare minimum when it came to such, though that was due to me not being ready and wanting to set up my stream my own way.
I also take quite a bit of time to be an actual "top player." So around the beginning of Ultimate, they had asked me a question about consistency. I usually take a year or two to gain consistency before I do something great, like win an Apex or an EVO. So I could see them dropping me because of that.
"Years of research" could've also played a part but I talked to them about it somewhat privately, discussing the things behind it. It could have been many things really. Though I didn't really care because I sort of wanted a team that focuses on me so we can grow together. Team Liquid seems too all over the place for my liking PERSONALLY and already seem to have everything planned out for themselves. I'd like to be a mascot for a team if anything and put all my time and effort into things for them.
What did you think of the community's reaction to your "years of research" TwitLonger?
I feel like they didn't understand it really. Some did and a lot of top players did as well. Though they won't say it on social media for obvious reasons. I originally was going to make a followup video but I got sort of lazy and stopped caring because this was around when I realized the community isn't really understanding as a majority.
Taking Steve seriously, but maybe not the Smash World Tour
Okay, I have to ask: When Steve was first announced were you thinking "WTF" or did you already see yourself playing that fighter?
At first, I thought it was gonna be a joke character till I looked at the gameplay of the fighter. I do forget that Smash Ultimate is a fighting game and characters fight seriously to a degree. It's very fascinating how Sakurai makes all these wonderful characters fight.
Have you started practicing even more now that the Smash World Tour was announced?
I use to practice Smash a lot during Brawl and Smash 4. In Ultimate I sort of practiced every character in the beginning. I've learned a lot though since then. I take my time to thoroughly look through characters options and I now more so theorycraft than play to practice. I kind of do this every Smash game so I know the capabilities of quite a lot of characters and what they can possibly do.
With the Smash World Tour coming up I've been focused mainly on labbing, theorycrafting, and practicing combos for Steve. Still, it is a bit scary to think about the Smash World Tour as it may be cancelled. I don't want to 100% focus on that if it's not going to be worthwhile.
What do you think is the importance of the Smash World Tour?
I don't really think the Smash World Tour is that important honestly. It's not a Nintendo event, though it is big. How I see it is, being part of Nintendo and working with them (regardless of their restrictions and rules) is a gateway to making things bigger overall (casually and competitively).
Maybe not now but for the future, for the long term, and the long run. Establishing a connection and relationship with them like that is most important in my opinion. But otherwise, this is just a world tour with a bunch of money.
Furry RPGs, coaching, and a lot of rain
What have you been up to outside of practicing for upcoming tourneys?
Outside of Smash I've mostly been writing for a game I'm working on as well as a webcomic. I've been artist hunting a lot for these things and getting a team together for them.
Inside of Smash, I've also been meaning to record a lot of my replays, practice sessions, and labbing sessions for my Youtube. But again, I keep getting lazy. Besides all that, I have been doing coaching lessons and people love working with me!
I've been entering some Smash wifi tournaments but as of late, where I live currently, it has been raining a lot and making my connection unstable so I haven't been able to enter much.
How long have you been coaching?
I’ve been a coach since Brawl. I only really coached my close friends back then, if anything. But more recently I’ve started getting paid for coaching. It’s very fun! I do have a unique way of coaching though, but it helps people for long term and the long run. I try to make sure the people I’m coaching go far so I try really hard for people!
Can you tell me anything about the game you're working on?
The type of game I'm working on is an action RPG and visual novel. It is a furry-focused game that I hope to get some cameo appearances in by talking to famous or somewhat known game developers as well writers of other furry works. It's somewhat unique. It's something I plan to have on PC/Steam as well Nintendo's latest console.
Wow, that's awesome! Do you have a fursona?
I do have a fursona. It's pretty much a black cat! They're actually one of the main characters of the game. I've also thought about getting a fursuit at one point. If anything though I'd probably get a furry merchsuit honestly. Since I've seen some fursuit combinations that looked high-tech and amazing.
Esports writer and editor with a passion for creating unique content for the gaming community.