To kick off today’s Super Smash Bros. action, we’re sharing with you an exclusive interview with renowned Smash Bros. commentator, Wynton “Prog” Smith. I was able to catch up with Prog at a local Smashfest towards the end of March, the day before the regional Smash event KTAR 9 that was featured in my recent Project M feature. I made my way out to Farmingdale, New York to get a few words from Prog at, who found himself in the middle of the mass amounts of tapped control sticks and hungry players at Empire Gaming. After several more matches with some friends, I was able to pull Prog away for a moment to ask him a few questions about competitive Super Smash Bros.
Thankfully, Prog was willing and able to give me some great responses. I was able to put together a video interview of the encounter, which you’ll be able to check out below.
Unfortunately, the audio quality isn’t up to the standards I hoped for, so some bits may be a bit hard to hear. I tried to remedy this by adding a few subtitles here and there, and if that’s not enough, you can check out the full text transcription of the interview after the video.
Prog: Hey, how’s it going. My name is Prog, and I’m a member of the Melee It On Me podcast; one of the top commentators for Super Smash Bros. Melee, and had the honor of doing worldwide renowned events such as Apex series and Evolution 2013.
NE: How could you expect that Melee would be where it is today?
Prog: I don’t think anyone expected Melee to have this kind of resurgence its had. I know, talking with Scar two years ago, we said we have a couple more good years. But, what we ended up getting was something definitely special, something none of us could’ve ever expected. The resurgence of Melee, where our biggest tournament, Pound 4, doubled with Evolution; being accepted by Nintendo, with MLG and EVO; top players being signed to eSports teams, nobody could’ve expected this but we were certainly honored.
NE: Has Smash always had this potential to be an eSport?
Prog: Smash has always had that potential. I mean, who didn’t have that argument in their childhood, you know: “I love Link! Link would beat Luigi in a fight!” or “Link would so smash Samus in the face!” you know, “Bowser vs. Peach! Peach is sandbagged and gets kidnapped!” Everyone had that argument. So the fanbase is there. Everyone knows Nintendo and Nintendo products.
But, for what’s going into it, it’s starting to blossom, it’s starting to emerge out the coccoon, what we’ve always known was possible. We’re starting to see on grand scale – I mean, just this week, to date this, this is March 2014. We had a write-up on both ESL and Gosu Gamers, which are both known for larger eSports, so it certainly shows that Smash, especially Melee, is back with a vengeance.
NE: What is the importance of having spectators and casual fans?
Prog: The casual audience is something that can’t be denied. The numbers that we get aren’t just players. We’ve seen this scene, as Melee, grow from VHS tapes to DC++ to Youtube to the front page of Twitch, where you had to be the most initiating players in the world to find this. Now, it’s everyone. So, drawing in the casual audience to grow the scene is something that has to be done. It’s something we’re taking advantage of extremely well. I mean we don’t just break the record for most viewers for a fighting game ever seen, later broken by Marvel that same night. So, we’re definitely doing a good job of drawing in that audience.
Spectators are the lifeblood of this community, as much as the community itself. We won’t have a show to put on besides them, it won’t just be for us. We’re not that kind of self-serving community. We’ve always had something special. We want the world to know it. We want to put it on display time and time again.
NE: What is “One Unit” and what are your thoughts on Brawl at MLG and #FreeSSBB?
Prog: When Solid Jake and I were initially talking about MLG, the initial plan was just, from MLG’s stand-point was, you know, Melee is first priority. And we definitely said, you know, the way that Brawl supported us last year with the Evolution drive, we wanna repay the favor and give them MLG. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’ll be coming down to that.
Of course, they supported us. 64 supported us. PM has supported us, as well. We’ve all been waiting for something special to come up for the other games in terms of mainstream attention. MLG was an opportunity, unfortunately it looks like Brawl will have to sit it out.
One Unit originally started as a team name in NorCal, into a philosophy in the Melee scene and Smash in general, that we are all cut from the same cloth. When one of us survives, we all survive. When one of us thrives, we all thrive. I mean, look at how much attention PM has gotten, how much attention Melee has gotten, and by proxy Brawl and 64 have gotten the same attention. So I’m certainly a fan of One Unit.
The FreeSSBB movement is actually something I’ve been a huge fan of. At Apex 2014, I was telling a lot of Brawl figureheads: The time right now may look like a feast, but it can turn to famine at any moment, so you guys need to have a plan together. When Melee It On Me started, it was out of a community issue. We went from a famine of sorts, and because we wanted to see the scene improve, it turned into this bountiful scene that we have today, and a bountiful podcast.
We see that now with Brawl with State of Brawl. I’m kind of sad that’s happening now – I wish they had started a bit sooner, but you know there’s no time like the present when you have this going on. So the FreeSSBB movement is certainly more than getting to MLG, it’s about thriving as well. Apex numbers have stayed the same, but we want to see that growth. That’s what we want to see out of the FreeSSBB movement. You know, Melee has jumped, PM has jumped, Brawl…what does it take for that to happen?
And we’re seeing leaders talk about a lot of different things with that movement. Not just improving tournaments and how to improve the perception of the game on streams and in general. But, yeah, that’s what the FreeSSBB movement is all about. It’s about making this game survive beyond Smash 4. Because no Smash game is dead at this point. None of us are looking to throw dirt on the grave of Brawl. We want to see it survive and flourish as well.
NE: Any final thoughts?
Prog: Melee has gotten lucky.
We’ve had a lot of community leaders when necessary. There’s never been anyone that’s run away and said, “The time is not now.” We face our problems head on, whether it was HomeMadeWaffles during the Dark Ages, whether it was guys like The Kishes, way back, running events. Even now, we’re seeing people step up to the plate and always standing there. And Brawl needs to find those leaders.
Not just people who proclaim themselves to be leaders. They talk a good game, but don’t do anything in the back-end. Action speaks louder than words. And some of the most talkative are the ones doing the least. So this is a call out: you wanna be a leader, prove it with your actions, not with what you spit out. Be about it, don’t just talk about it.
And, of course, I wanna give a plug to the Melee It On Me crew. Of course, Clash Tournaments, VG Boot Camp, Smash Studios, Even Matchup Gaming, and just the entire Smash scene for putting faith in…faith in, I guess, in me in this position. I was just a player like everyone else and now, I don’t know what I am. I’m that guy. I never expected that. But its an honor and pleasure to serve this community, serve you all, and hopefully to lead by example for many of you.
I’ll see you guys in SoCal. If I don’t see you in SoCal, I’ll see you in Orlando. If I don’t see you in Orlando, find me at a Craps table in Vegas, half drunk, with White Russians. See ya at Vegas, see ya at EVO, MLG, CEO. And thank you all again for everyone that’s been supportive of me while I was having my surgery and recovery. You guys are truly my family. Anything I can do is just trying to pay this back.