With physical Smash events starting to ramp up, commentators are finally returning to their former way of life. Terrence “TKbreezy” Kershaw has been waiting for this moment. Just now returning to live events, TKbreezy has spent the past year filling in the time with streaming, podcasting, and commentating online. Inven Global had the chance to sit down with TKbreezy, and discuss his thoughts on commentary, Smash’s relationship with Nintendo, and his future.
One thing I like about your Topic Talk stream block is that you do a lot of Smash questions, but you’re also down talking about other stuff. And there are other people in gaming I know like Trihex or Destiny that basically have made a complete shift to social and political commentary. Would you ever want to go that deep?
Somewhat. I don't think I ever want to be like fully that. I don't think I'd ever want to just be a political commentator, because I really enjoy the gaming aspects of streaming and all that other good stuff. But I am also a human being and things outside of gaming affect me as well. That's why I like Topic Talk so much. Because it really depends on what the people who bring topics want to talk about and I'll talk about it to the best of my knowledge. And if I don't know it, I’d look it up the day before to see what my opinion is on that.
I think one of the real reasons why I started doing that and being less about Smash questions is because I know I have a Smash audience — that's solved. I don't really need to go too deep into that. But I want to 1) Build my audience; and 2) Educate Smashers, because I feel like a lot of the time, Smashers don't look at other things. They don't think about how the world has changed. They're kind of in their head about Smash all the time. So I'm like, "You guys got to pay attention to the world too." That's kind of why I started doing Topic Talks.
You’re someone that watches the FGC closely. People always discuss Smash becoming more ingrained in the FGC. Do you see it improving at all?
I mean, it's wrong from both sides. I mean this in the lightest way possible — it's mostly people that don't matter. You don't really see top commentators from either game openly shitting on the other. I love a bunch of fighting games. I hang out with FGC commentators frequently, and we just talk about fighting games in general. We talk about Smash, we talk about Tekken. Most of the time that you see people throwing jabs, it’s those games' fans, not even the players. And so I try not to take too much stake in that. Obviously, I know that's gonna get back to whatever other side is getting the stones thrown at them, and then it's just going to start the war all over again. So it sucks. I do think it's gotten better since 2010, but it's still not that great.
Do you think there's any chance of these obstacles being overcome? Or do you think it'll always be at this level?
I think it will always be at this level. I think that you can minimize it little by little, but I don't think anyone's ever going to stop finding a way to make a joke about Smashers. You know, not knowing about inputs or whatever. And then the Smash players will answer back with, "Well our game's not as easy as you think, I'll come over here and win a tournament.”. We're never going to not have that argument. I feel like the best thing that anybody who really likes the game or really doesn't care is to just ignore it. I don't really go about trying to find who's talking bad about Smash, because you don't matter. I'm here with a bunch of people who enjoy the game. If you don't enjoy the game, that's cool. Go play the game that you enjoy.
"We don't care about Nintendo anymore. They're not helping us. We've been trying to get them to help us. We're definitely not going to get them to help us after last summer."
The only shame is that it would be so beneficial for the FGC and Smash to be more tight-knit to grow the scene as a whole.
That's what EVO is. And I don't think it really crosses over too often because more often than not — this is just the way that Smash is. Smash is a long game in comparison to the rest of the EVO finals. And when you put it in between games that people want to watch, then they're upset because they have to wait this long time. And then if you put it at the end, everyone just leaves after they watch the games they want to unless they’re Smashers. We did that the last EVO that was actually offline and people did leave.
But it was still super packed with a bunch of people who liked the game. So it doesn't seem to affect anything too much, but it does suck that that's the dilemma: Smash is a long game so you can't really stick it anywhere.
Something interesting you said regarding commentary in Smash is that it started out with a very grassroots and casual approach. Then, I would say around Apex 2015, it graduated to a more buttoned-up style, and now it’s back to casual? Why do you think this is? What do you think caused it?
Because we don't care about Nintendo anymore. They're not helping us. We've been trying to get them to help us. We're definitely not going to get them to help us after last summer. So we got to the point where it's like, "I just want to be comfortable." And honestly, I think for me, Coney, and EE specifically, we had already proved our worth. So I don't have to show up in a suit to commentate as well as I do. I just want to be comfortable commentating so that's mostly why I think we three changed.
But for the majority, I feel like it's just the whole button-up/buttoned-down stuff was to appease and look more professional. And I don't even know if it worked. I think that Nintendo was going to do whatever they did with Smash those few years regardless because they had to promote their new game. And yeah, I think that after all these setbacks that Nintendo has kind of given to the Smash community, after a while you just kind of chalk it up to, "Well, they're not here to help us. So let's just go and do our own thing like we've been doing."
I've heard a lot of figures say that not being able to feed off the crowd is a big downside for an online commentator. Are there any other big ones?
I'm way more easily distracted. I'm sitting in my room with all my shit. I have three monitors, so I can watch Smash on one, I’d be looking at Twitter on another, and watching someone's stream on another. It's much easier to get distracted.
Also, it's possible to have more mishaps, because the way that we had to do it was by watching through a restream, from VLC. And if we weren't all synced up together, then one person would be either one or two seconds ahead or behind, so your reactions are late. We're doing the best we can, but even the best… there are so many workarounds to get Smash to be streamed the way we need it to be streamed.
And then on top of that, cutting down on the lag. In other fighting games, you can just hop in spectator mode and the commentators can see it in real time. But in Smash, we have to have one person in spectate mode, and they have to share the screen with us and then we have to use OBS Ninja to send in our cameras to them. There’s just a lot going on. But I think my biggest thing for sure is it was too easy to be distracted by other things.
Smash is obviously going to survive. It doesn't need Nintendo's support. But do you think it's a hopeless situation, or do you think that any sort of involvement from Nintendo is 100% quashed at this point?
I think it won't be for this game, or it won't be anytime soon, at least. They're gonna take their step back. They already weren't really here in the first place. But it's not like they're not looking. I'm sure that they know what's going on over here. I just don't see them reaching out for the Smash scene anymore. It even trickled down into the Splatoon scene. For The Big House, Nintendo said no. And Splatoon — they changed all their names, like "Free Melee" and stuff. And they just said, "We're not gonna stream it." That's how much they don't want to do Smash that they trickle into another game. And they were like, "Well, we're not gonna mess with that game either." So yeah, I don't see them coming back.
"I didn't want to be a leader, I just wanted to be a commentator. But I know that I'm in the spotlight and the stuff that I do will shine on the community to other people."
One of the big effects of all the different abuse allegations that happened last year was not only that a lot of high profile figures were shown to have conduct unsafe for the community, but we also saw a lot of high profile people leave or distance themselves from the scene. Was that ever a consideration for you? What made you want to stay?
It wasn't something I signed up for, for sure. But I think a lot of people look toward us — the ones who did stay — as community leaders, but we had to do even more. I didn't want to be a leader, I just wanted to be a commentator. But I know that I'm in the spotlight and the stuff that I do will shine on the community to other people. Whatever I do reflects on the community.
I feel like I have been around long enough to see change within the community. See things that were acceptable once — not acceptable anymore. And I just want to make sure that those are upheld before I decide to retire. I want to make sure I'm passing the torch to someone who is also going to continue to uphold these good values and safety for our community.
So that was the biggest thing that really made me stay, but more so, there is still good in the community. Yes, there were a lot of people that got outed that needed to be outed. But that doesn't mean that the community is all inherently evil. And I guess I feel I almost have some of them improve in that aspect — that we do have good in the community, and we can still do good. And it looks like the big start right here was to get rid of a lot of the bad seeds.
You seem to be someone that believes community figures should try to lead the community and make it a stronger and safer place to be. From your perspective, what is a problem with the Smash community you see right now that you don’t think is being addressed enough?
I think this is something that Devin actually taught me. I think that when people are asking for evidence and stuff like that, that's a valid thing to ask about. But the way they go about it is usually re-traumatizing for victims. I think that's something that I didn't really recognize until I also asked some questions about the D1 stuff. But it wasn't… I phrased it the wrong way and it came off as if I was asking, you know, for proof of the things that came out about him. In reality, I was really just asking, "Hey, man, what do you have to say for yourself? This is like the second, or fourth thing that's come out about you." And I understand how I phrased didn't look like that. And so I talked to Devin, she was like, "Yeah, it's just re-traumatizing for victims and stuff."
Now clearly, you obviously want to believe victims, but you also want to have the info that it makes it 100% easily believable, without any doubt, because there has been a couple of false allegations. But I think the way people ask in the Smash community is just so targeted and rugged, that it doesn't really feel like they're coming for proof to make sure that they are making an informed decision. They're coming at proof to be like, "Hey, you're lying. Tell me how you're not lying." And that's just not how you should be going about doing that.
"There's also that little bit of luck that I feel most streamers don't want to talk about. They want to act like they just grind it to the top. But no, sometimes you get lucky."
Where do we ideally see TKbreezy in five years?
I think by that time, I probably would have retired from Smash commentary. I'll be 37. But I'm not completely sure, because I thought I was gonna retire at 30 and I'm now 32. So I know that even if I don't retire, I don't want it to be my main thing. As far as my main income. I want to work as some type of partnership manager or influencer — relations and stuff — for a company that I am already working with. I've been on this side of streaming, I understand that it's hard work.
But then there's also that little bit of luck that I feel most streamers don't want to talk about. They want to act like they just grind it to the top. But no, sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you make friends with the right person. Sometimes you happen to just be in the right place at the right time when it comes to viewers looking for another stream. And if you're already up there, like, say, I'm streaming Fortnite and Ninja's number one but I'm number five, people are not going to go past those first two to three rows. So it's going to be easier for me to grow just because I'm already up there. And I think a lot of top streamers just don't admit stuff like that.
I just want to be able to help people in my shoes. I am somewhat of a mid-level streamer. I feel stagnant. I feel like it's hard to grow up and I don't know what to do next without doing stuff that is out of my character. I don't really do sub goals that are humiliating or anything like that. But it seems people obviously watch that. I just want to be able to help people get to where they want to go. If that's the job that I can do, I think that's probably a job that will still allow me to commentate and probably stream every now and then. And that's kind of where I want to be in five years: a decent job, being able to stream and commentate still.
I’ve always appreciated that you seem to be a very introspective person. So I wanted to conclude by asking you this: what is a lesson that you’ve learned that you’d want to tell people so they hopefully don’t have to learn it on their own?
I think the lesson — and I am still learning this — is that you need yourself first. I feel I spent a lot of time in my younger years really molding to what I thought people would like. I did not take criticism or negativity well. As I grew yo and I looked into the error of my ways… I won't say I don't care what you think, but if you think low of me without knowing me, then I definitely don't care. You know nothing about me, you only see what you see from the internet or the few times you may have passed me at a tournament.
If we're not close, then usually your opinion doesn't matter. And I feel like that's a thing that most people can take with them. Your opinion matters to you first, how you feel about yourself. And then, if you can start by liking yourself first, then it doesn't really matter if other people like you or not. Just as long as you like yourself, and you feel like what you're doing is making you happier, then life is good. Assuming that you're not obviously doing anything illegal or shitty. But just in general, if you like yourself, that's what is first and foremost the most important.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.