The Smash Echo Chamber

A month since the final Smash presentation dropped and here’s a topic that I will continue to ponder about since it’s never going away and will in fact come back in full force if a next game comes to fruition.

It’s no surprise that what the Smash Fighter Ballot caused was a movement by legions of fans to get their character voted to the top for inclusion. Since April, the talk is mostly compromised of “vote for x” and “y is likely over z for reasons”. Now, you’d think that something like this would be exceedingly simple. Vote, get others to vote, see the results when the eventual selected character(s) is/are shown .

It’s not.

Sad, really.
How to turn a community against each other in one fell swoop.

What spawned from the ballot was a massive popularity contest that only seemed to work by detracting any other fanbase that would be an obstacle to one’s end goal. Getting anyone possible to vote for your character above all others. And really, the allure of having input on a character you want to see in a fighting game is very powerful. But that’s not where the problems end.

Speculative communities such as SmashBoards in particular had an overwhelmingly narrow-minded perspective on who was likely to get in based on their fanbases from said site alone. Now, to those who understood the possibility of your most wanted not getting in and not committing to any specific expectations, I sympathize with you, since said line of thought is rare and this is a generalization of the community’s thought process. Speaking of which, a general list of characters seen as likely was as follows:

  • Wolf
  • King K. Rool
  • Inklings
  • Isaac
  • [bias character(s)]
lol
Try imagining the character’s head on this cow and you’ll get the idea.

And this was a list people committed to as near-gospel and the most ideal selection due to the power of like-minded peers. Now, having a wanted character isn’t bad. It’s when you commit to a narrow selection that it inherently becomes risky. Complicating things is the individual issues the characters had, regardless of what people elected to make of them. You have the semi-clone veteran Wolf(two were already brought back, coupled with statements from Sakurai that Lucas from Earthbound was specifically chosen as a Brawl veteran), the speculation juggernaut King K. Rool(turned into a Mii costume, which objectively can be seen as acknowledgement of the fanbase’s efforts if the character didn’t make it, something no one else received), the new kids on the block, Inklings(turned into Mii costumes as a game tie-in,  Splatoon possibly being too new of an IP to take a gamble with and the engine modifications needed for them to use their signature ink) and the removed Assist Trophy Isaac(hailing from a series considered dormant since 2010 and only really popular in the West).  You’ll notice the slot for bias characters; there’s always that one person who wanted something beyond the list and defended their potential inclusion to high hell. I’m guilty of this too, defending Sylux from Metroid Prime Hunters because it’s my bias character and had more than a few reasons for possible inclusion I consider valid and can be backed up with proper evidence. But I digress.

Now, what I mean by “commit” is staying squarely focused on your character making it; no other way. That is taking it too far. Such a stance is a double edged sword; staying committed makes victory all the more sweet, but defeat all the more bitter, as we’ve seen from none of the four named characters making it and thus fans resenting Sakurai over expectations that they themselves adhered to. You have people saying Smash is dead to them because neither King K. Rool or Isaac got in, while the more dedicated supporters of bias characters bemoan the exclusion of their most wanted, sometimes to silly or absurd degrees.

bandana_dee4
Pictured: a small fat blob with a hat and is sad because it wasn’t chosen.

But alas, the existence of the echo chamber brought it’s consequences. There are groups boycotting DLC out of sheer resentment for the last characters(hey, I never wanted Cloud, Corrin or Bayonetta myself but I’ll say they’re damn well designed), groups resenting Sakurai and demanding he be removed from the series, amongst many other things. Maybe the occasional death threat(I saw a few of these come up shortly after the presentation), conspiracy theory(these are exceedingly common, the most recent being Bayonetta labelled a marketing ploy and the Ballot being an illusion of choice because that’s logical) and of course, salt. It’s incredibly sad that this even occurs, but such is what happens within a fanbase.

To wrap this up, it’s not to say you shouldn’t support your most wanted. There are possibly like-minded folk who you might only find if you look around and begin supporting the character yourself. But try and look at the possibility of your character getting in objectively as well; by falling into the echo chamber, disappointment can ensue without a balanced mindset, which is exactly what is happening right now.

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