Almost two decades from his first run-ins with the Smash scene, Hugo "HugS" Gonzalez is still working his hardest to make the community as strong as possible. Inven Global had the opportunity to talk with HugS, discussing his thoughts on Nick All-Stars Brawl, the community's relationship with Nintendo, and his future.
You’re someone that I’ve wanted to pick the brain of just because of how long you’ve been involved with the community. Now that events are coming back up, what are your thoughts on the state of the scene? Is it where you expected it to be?
That's a little tough because events aren't all the way back yet... Because we're still dealing with the pandemic. So it's not all the way back where I thought it'd be. Also, I think the landscape has changed during the pandemic, due to the fact that we got our online going with Slippi. I feel like a lot of players kind of really liked it. And they're feeling less of a need to attend live events.
I'm hoping that changes when things really clear up. But a lot of top players and the people that would normally go to the big live events are kind of choosing to stick to staying at home. Because it's more beneficial financially in a lot of ways and probably just way more convenient too.
What's your opinion of this change? It's obviously nice having people like Ludwig, Alpharad, and Mang0 be able to drive more investment and interest in the scene, but obviously we want as many people at tournaments as possible. Is it overall a positive, or something to be concerned about?
I think it's still a positive, because you do have new people getting into the scene. Even on a casual level because of the audiences those people command. But it's unsustainable for the live tournament scene, because without those people attending — moreso Mang0 than the likes of Alpharad and Ludwig, because they're content creators, they don't need to show up the same way — it would be tough for the scene to continue to exist.
And I literally don't blame them for doing that or choosing to do that. And I also don't blame it on the TOs [tournament organizers] for not having the money to pay for these people to show up like that. It's really just an issue that we have with our ecosystem. And there's not too much that we can do to change that with Nintendo being the way that they are.
We have big tournaments, we have Slippi, we have a documentary. What do you think is the next "leap" Melee needs to take to grow?
I think the Smash World Tour is doing a damn good job. And they have a proper idea. I think that tournaments probably need to take a different direction in the future, where they need to offer incentives for new people to be attending.
It can't just be the best players competing for the prize. It's got to be a little more than that. I don't know exactly what that answer is. But it's got to be more, in my opinion. It's tough to pull off though, because this shit ain't free.
Let’s talk about Nick All-Star Brawl. What is your perception of the game and how it’s going to impact the Smash scene?
I think it's a great game. It definitely has its flaws, and its issues right now. But the team is really interested in making it work, and specifically as a competitive game. So it looks like...I think that as long as you have a developer that is willing to nurture the scene, that we're all good. Even if it's got its flaws, they're going to attempt to make the game better. So I think it's in a really good spot, and I think the future's bright for it.
And playing it, I think there's enough potential depth in that game where it won't be like a fleeting thing. I think people that have an interest in it now will continue to do so as the gameplay advances. There are things to dig into that make it a long-term type of game.
What do you think is going to happen with its relationship with the Smash community? Do you think it’s gonna be like Brawlhalla where it becomes its own thing, or do you think it’s going to be more conjoined with the Smash scene?
Oh, I think it'll definitely be conjoined with Smash, and then it'll have its own stars, its own top players that just came from that scene. Which will be cool.
But it's just... I don't know why this game, in particular, feels really warmly embraced by the scene to the point where it feels like it's a third Smash game at the live events. And I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it's just because it's the other platform fighter with a crazy IP. And the developers really care. So it's just something we hadn't really seen before with this kind of IP.
You’re someone that had obviously said some unkind things about Nintendo in the past. My reason for why I think Nintendo doesn’t do esports is because they feel they don’t need to. Other games have huge prize pools to drive interest to the game. Hypothetically if Nintendo pledged $5 million for a year to the scene, would they see any impact on their sales of the game?
Honestly, no. I think the people that were... you know, they might see some. But I think everybody knows that that's not really going to drive sales to the casual community. So from the business perspective, I understand why Nintendo wouldn't care to do that.
But there are decisions that companies make that do not directly increase their bottom line. They make decisions that do other things for them. And this would be one of those... I don't know what to call it, a PR thing? Where if they were to support the scene — which relative to them that amount of money is nothing for them, but they could do so much for us — that kind positive relationship with the scene would be good for everybody.
Unfortunately, they don't really think like that. I am aware that Nintendo of America has had views like that, where they're kind of willing to work. And it's mostly Nintendo Japan that kind of stops things. But yeah, I think something like that could definitely make an impact on our scene. I don't think it's really going to just create crazy sales. But what can you do? I don't really know.
Recently, you've been in discussion regarding big figures in the community working on Nintendo's US Fall Open. You're someone more on the side of thinking figures should try to have Nintendo leave the community alone — after all the damage they've caused to the scene. What's the end goal with that idea? Ideally, what happens if all major figures refuse to work events for Nintendo?`
I think that in the end, Nintendo is going to be just fine, even if we don't support them. But if there's anything that our scene does have... we have this scene that we cultivated. It is ours, not theirs. And those people within this scene have their specific influence, right? They have their fan base, their audiences, etc. And Nintendo, when they attempt to tap into that for their events... This is the only time we have any kind of power, and we have the power to just say no and not do it.
I'm actually in the middle of speaking to Vikki [VikkiKitty] about it, because I think she might have a perspective that I'm not seeing. Where in the end, that might be a decision that you take that trade-off, and it's worth it. But to me, it just sucks to see that this one thing that we have — we let them take that away with money as well. I'm just not about that.
It makes the efforts that the scene has put in to show Nintendo that we don't like what they do—it kind of feels like it invalidates that. To just say yes to them offering us money for a gig. That's the one thing we have, and we're giving them that too. It upsets me, but I understand why someone would do it. I was just hoping that they wouldn't. You know, since the summer when all the info came out about what Nintendo has done over the years to our scene. I was really hoping that that would be the point where people just get to say no to Nintendo from here on out.
And, you know, people will make content and they do shit when like a DLC character comes out. But I know it's gonna happen and I gotta just be mad on my own. But even that I could kind of deal with because it's just them going on their YouTube, making their content, etc. Making their money their own way. Fine. But to directly take the money from Nintendo is what I thought we would stop doing. But it happened and then I got very upset. Probably a little irrationally and probably not best to take it to Twitter, like I did to be honest. But it is what it is.
Editor's note: HugS has since offered comments and apologies on this topic, per TwitLonger from Oct. 20.
You’re someone pretty politically engaged. Could you ever see yourself going into a more political direction like Trihex or Destiny?
No, I don't think so. I believe what I believe, and I'll talk about it on stream. But I don't want to make myself create content on that. It's just not where my interests lie. I don't know how other streamers go about it. Perhaps they do the same thing where they're just passionate about certain things, and that's just what they talk about. Or they might try to make it their central type of content.
I'm not looking to make content out of it. It's just sometimes I have things to say, and I have a platform so then I say them. So I don't think I'm ever going to try to make that my brand. I just say what I believe in. And that's about it.
Having been involved with the scene for so long, you're someone that has seen a lot of people leave. Who are some people you think have left the biggest holes?
To be honest, probably Wife. Yeah, probably Wife. I thought that guy was a grinder back in the day, and it would have been cool to see him stick to it. Other than that, from the old school? Not really. I'm glad to see the people who are coming back return, like Husband and DA Wes. But I think, for the most part, the people that quit back then might have just not been cut out for this. If they quit back then, it might have just not been for them.
Ideally, where do we see HugS five years from now?
Hmm, I'm not sure. I'm not sure. I'm looking to improve things in my life personally, I want to pay off my parents' house. I want to secure a future. I'm talking like retirement shit that people get out of a normal job typically, but I want to do it through the line of work that I've chosen.
And so I think me five years from now is just being closer to that goal, if not having achieved it. Where I don't have to struggle to do a paycheck to paycheck kind of thing. And it's starting to get there. So that's what I'm looking forward to the most over anything. Just financial freedom.
What is your fondest memory of your involvement in the Smash community?
Probably my Genesis run where I made top 8. Yeah, that's my favorite.
I don't want to boil it down to just like a set that I won. Because there are so many other things that I'm fond of in the scene. And it might not even just be moments. It just might be like the act of hanging out with friends at an after-party post-tournament. Or like going out to dinners with Smashers and just all the friends I've made. It's just kind of like a collective bunch of ideas that I really love about the scene.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.