Golden Guardians entered the competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee scene a little over a year ago with the signing of Zain "Zain" Naghmi, and about a month ago, the Golden State Warriors affiliate decided it was ready to build on its foundation. GG signed one Kevin "PPMD" Nanney, one of the Five Gods of Melee, as well as Kris "Toph" Aldenderfer and Edgard "n0ne" L. Sheleby, the latter of whom is a top 3 Captain Falcon player in the global competitive Melee scene.
Competing won't be the only thing Zain and his new friends will be doing now that GG Melee has been expanded, though — the team has launched its own YouTube channel under the Golden Guardians banner and is bolstering its competitive presence with a strong, consistent approach to content.
n0ne spoke to Inven Global about the formation of the Golden Guardians Melee roster, the importance of content in the Smash ecosystem, and how Slippi rollback saved Melee during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Can you walk us through the process that led to you joining Golden Guardians?
It was...I don't know, it was kind of out of the blue, you know? I've always been a fan of Golden Guardians - they've been with Zain for over a year, and I've been following them for a while. I was surprised and excited, and one thing led to another, and we found out it there was going to be a whole team consistent of me, PPMD and Toph alongside Zain. Overall, I was excited to get on board with a really great team that would be able to shoot a lot of great Smash content.
Did Zain's success with Golden Guardians factor into your decision to join the organization?
For sure. The way Golden Guardians has pushed and helped Zain overall shows that they have a lot of love for the Smash scene, so it was a no-brainer. I didn't have to think it through at all. *laughs*
We've seen orgs sign multiple players that compete in the same title before, but does Golden Guardians have plans to really make this group of talent into a team?
Oh, for sure. We're really pushing for the meaning behind 'team'. We're pushing out 3 pieces of content every week to the GG Melee YouTube channel, and overall, the Melee community is very tight. We're in each other's streams, and when someone is live, we are always in the chat talking. I think it goes without saying that this group was a team before it was even official, if you know what I mean.
Golden Guardians is very different from your last organization UYU. What have been some of the new advantages and challenges in joining GG that you hadn't previously experienced in your career?
It goes without saying that the main challenge is still this ongoing pandemic, right? When I was with my previous team, we had a lot of plans to do a lot of joint content with other members of the team. We were going to get together frequently, but the pandemic obviously halted all of that because of the travel ban.
With Golden Guardians, it's different because Golden Guardians has already been with Zain. They've already set up a base, and I, as well as the other people who got signed, are merely going to build upon that foundation. It's just a matter of expanding and making things better than they already were.
I interviewed Da Juan "Shroomed" McDaniel a few years back, and he said it was very difficult to be signed by a high-profile org as a Smasher unless you're creating content in addition to participating in competitions. Do you think this is true today?
For sure. I think that's even more true in this day and age. You have to be putting the content out there. I will say when a competitor is on his path to getting better, regardless of the game or sport, they have to focus on the sport itself.
However, you reach a point in time where you have to start to expand outside of the actual competitiveness of the thing that you're doing. Personally, that's my challenge, and my personal goal. I want to be able to ride that fine line between being an entertainer and a competitor, which is a struggle in itself.
Despite a pandemic cancelling live events and continued lack of support from Nintendo, Melee continues to persevere. How vital was the creation of Slippi rollback in keeping Melee afloat for the past calendar year?
I think it's fair to say that Melee is a beast. It's 'died' a lot of times, but it doesn't really die. It's gone through a lot of ups and downs, and we've still been able to persevere. With the deliver of Slippi, Fizzi and his team set the bar. Personally, I think this is the best thing that's happened to Melee since the documementary, and I think a lot of other people think the same.
Slippi opened up so many new doors. Anyone can compete from the comfort of their house; you can play with people in other countries and other contest — personally, I get to play against people from my home country without having to actually travel there. It just opened up doors for so many things, and I'm probably one of the people most grateful to Fizzi.
Despite being patchless, Melee's competitive meta continues to evolve. What is the reason for this, and from your perspective, has Slippi rollback changed how the meta develops?
It's funny — because there have been no updates to the game since its release in 2001, it creates this environment where if you don't like something, you either have to overcome it, learn to deal with it, or you stop dealing with it by leaving. If you want to keep playing the game as a professional, there are things you have to live with, accept, and overcome.
This ends up creating a constantly-shifting meta because players already know what they are dealing with, and Melee has always been the kind of game where you express yourself. I've always said that Melee is a very 'analog' game; it's not very digital. When I say analog, I mean that there are different ways of doing the same thing, and that opens so many doors to solving problems.
With the addition of Slippi rollback, it's even better. I come from a third world country where I couldn't travel to compete before, but now, the people in these same countries are able to play against the top professionals. That doorway of being able to play against different styles from all over the worlds opens up the minds of players and makes the meta grow even further.
So if Melee is an analog game, would that make traditional FGC titles like Street Fighter digital games?
Mhm. When I was back in Nicaragua before I moved to Canada, I was playing Street Fighter IV. I wasn't professional, but I was a top player in my country. In an alternative universe, I would have been a Street Fighter player instead of a Smash player.
Because I have history with a traditional FGC game like Street Fighter, I can compare a lot of the digital/analog aspects I mentioned before. In Street Fighter, there is a certain way to do something; at most, two ways to do it. In Smash, the ways you can accomplish something are limitless.
Do you think that Melee's resilience will see other organizations follow suit in what Golden Guardians has done in terms of investing in the scene?
I really hope so. I think the reception everywhere has been pretty much the same in that everyone is loving what Golden Golden Guardians is doing in going all-in on Melee. I know this might be premature to say right now: We're on our way to becoming the face of Melee. We have a strong team with strong content coming out.
Of course, it would be great to see other teams invest into Melee, and in doing so right now, Golden Guardians is setting the bar for something new. Everyone should have their eyes open at the moment.
All images by: n0ne