There are very few places that rival the passion and intensity of the Canadian Super Smash Bros. scene. Home to some of Smash‘s best, Canada has become a hot spot for both local and international players. Canadian players square off, and often topple, their American counterparts. When hungry foreigners come looking for action, Canada is waiting with open arms.
To discuss Canadian Smash Bros. and the future of Smash Bros., Nintendo Enthusiast sits down with Joe “Toronto Joe” Cribari to get an inside look at the Canadian Smash community. His efforts in tournament organizing and representing Smash Bros. as a community leader are paralleled only by his tenacity and ability to give some of the world’s best a run for their money.
This weekend, Joe will be hosting “Get On My Level,” a Super Smash Bros. tournament featuring Brawl and Melee, where Melee players will be competing for Major League Gaming seeding points toward their Anaheim event in June.
NE: Describe to me the current state of Canadian Smash, in terms of both Brawl and Melee, especially for a foreigner such as myself. How healthy is the scene, who’s placing, stuff like that.
Toronto Joe: “The Canadian Smash community is one of the most inviting and welcoming scenes I have had the opportunity to take part in. There is a great mix of both veteran players and up and comers; and the long-time members of the scene make it very easy to feel part of the community. Ontario especially features a solid group of talented players who are willing to help you out regardless of where you fall in the ranks. The success our community has found can be directly traced to the leaders pushing the community forward and putting on multiple events across the board. Let’s Play KW, AC Games and Even Matchup Gaming all routinely host events, as well as stream them to a world-wide audience. Collectives like these are the heart and soul of our scene and allow us to experience the growth we’ve seen in 2014.
“My favorite part of the community is our open mindedness, I regularly host and compete in events that feature multiple Smash games, and it is refreshing to see how well both games mix. There is something for everyone here that is a fan of Smash, and you do not feel excluded for playing a certain game; it is really one big family. I have become one of the top Canadian placers in Brawl, Project M, and recently Smash 64 because of how diverse our community is; I’ve been able to consistently practice with skilled players in multiple iterations of the Smash series. There are also players like Weon-X who has emerged as one of Canada’s best in Project M and Melee. KirbyKaze as well has consistently been up there with some of the best in the World. The country is full of talented players, and when we have the opportunity to travel abroad, we take out some names along the way.“
NE: When you all do travel abroad, Canadians field a lot of good results. How do you and other top players manage to place so well in foreign events?
Toronto Joe: “I think it all boils down to mindset and ability to rise to the occasion. All the players that compete internationally in Smash events already have the skill to place well; the obstacle is mostly what you face outside of the tournament. Most of us travel on 10+ hour bus rides to make it to the larger events on the East Coast; I’ve competed in tournaments on Saturday after taking the Megabus to New York the Friday beforehand; sometimes, it can be rough to not be in the comfort of your own backyard but you need to push through it. A lot of it is just focusing on performing well and maintaining a solid mindset. The top players in Ontario all have had discussions about performing out of country and keeping a level head; it’s something we all believe is a matter of keeping composure. We are fortunate to have places like the YU Smash Club and A&C Games which let us come together and practice on a weekly basis, so the technical aspect of our gameplay is usually on point. For me, the biggest challenge has always been adapting to the environment in the U.S; that scene is a whole different atmosphere and beast in itself.“
NE: How so? How does the U.S. Smash scene compare to its Canadian counterpart?
Toronto Joe: “In the U.S., there is more on the line when it comes to winning and losing. Events are bigger, more people are watching, and there is a greater opportunity to make waves in the community. It is a huge shift compared to the Canadian scene, where events are more relaxed. When you play in the U.S., the crowd will let you know definitively who they are rooting for, thousands of people tune in on the streams and there is increased pressure to perform. The U.S. is your big chance to make a splash onto the scene and for most of us international players, we only get that opportunity one or two times a year. For me personally, I treat it as my moment to represent the Canadian scene, I want to help show that we can stack up with any competitor in the World.“
When he’s not competing, Joe is one of Canada’s most active tournament organizers. Major League Gaming’s Grassroots Program, working with community events across the world leading up to their Super Smash Bros. Melee competition at Anaheim in June, has made Joe’s upcoming event their official Canadian qualifier. 2,000 seeding points await the first player Melee player at “Get On My Level.”
NE: So let’s talk about Get On My Level. You’ll be hosting this international event in Toronto, Canada, and its an MLG qualifier for MLG Anaheim’s Melee competition. Tell me a bit about how this event came to be and your expectations.
Toronto Joe: “What got me in to the competitive community initially was watching videos of Melee matches from MLG on YouTube, so this was something that I had been dreaming about for a while. The go-to guy for Smash at MLG was Jake “Solid Jake” Kulinski, who reached out to me because he was familiar with the work I had done in the community at international/local events and through Even Matchup Gaming, and was looking for someone capable of hosting a Canadian qualifier for the MLG Anaheim Event. This past semester, I was approved to start a Smash Bros. club called “YU Smash” at my University, so it was a perfect fit when Jake let me know what was going on. The school is a great location for players across the province and also has the perk of being in the hot-spot destination of Toronto to build interest for out-of-region attendants. York University has been incredibly supportive of the Smash community thus far and have given us an amazing platform to grow our community and gaming culture. We are expecting to have 300 people at the event, which would be the largest Canadian Smash Bros. tournament ever, I believe.
“I am extremely excited for this weekend to come; this has been planned for months and finally, we will get to see it come to fruition for everyone to enjoy. I am most excited to provide the attendants in person and online (big shoutouts to VGBootCamp coming from MD/VA to stream the event) with a fun experience. The cool thing about Smash is how it can connect such a diverse group of people and I want to really show off both the Melee and Brawl community at this. GOML is bringing in talent from across the world for both games, including the U.S and Europe. We have household names like Mango, Mew2king and more, plus we were able to raise a $400 pot bonus that was crowd-funded through the community.
“Everything is coming together for this and the Smash scene has been incredibly supportive of the event. To say that I am directly part of something that is going to benefit the Canadian Smash community, and the scene as a whole, is something I really cherish. This also is a huge opportunity for myself and the rest of EMG/YU Smash team, and we greatly appreciate MLG and the community’s vote of confidence to put on this event. I’m looking forward to creating an event that people will remember well past its expiration date; that is my biggest goal.“
NE: From a tournament organizer’s perspective, what are your thoughts on being part of MLG’s grassroots program and what are your thoughts on the grassroots program leading up to Anaheim?
Toronto Joe: “It is the biggest compliment you could ask for from those guys — to have the confidence in the community to represent their organization and be given an opportunity to be part of the incredible growth Smash has achieved in 2014. It has been a dream of mine to be involved in something like this, and I think it is a huge chance for the community to continue to evolve. The grassroots program is essentially a nod of approval to all the community leaders of the Smash scene from across the world who have been putting in the work and is uniting fans globally through our efforts to build hype for Anaheim. I am both honored and excited that MLG has given not just me, but the Smash community at large, a chance to be involved in something that will revolutionize the Smash community.“
NE: What do you think about Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Invitational at E3 and, as a community leader and top player in Canada, do you think you’ll be given the opportunity to compete?
Toronto Joe: “I wish I could record my answer on my camera, then send it in to you, because words cannot properly project the amount of excitement I have for Nintendo’s E3 event. This is single-handedly the biggest opportunity the competitive community has ever been given, and for me personally, it marks a dream I have had since I entered the tournament scene. For Nintendo to reach out to us and host an event to represent the competitive side of the game, it is so surreal. Nintendo’s support signifies an extremely bright future for the community, and another vote of confidence towards the efforts of what the scene has been doing leading up to the Summer of 2014. I already teared up once when I heard the news of the event after coming home from work, and I’m pretty sure the water works would flow one more time if I got a call from the Big N to compete in the tournament.
“Nintendo has been a huge part of my childhood and is a direct benefactor to my evolution as a person. I love the company and the memories they have created for me. Every medal and trophy I earned from previous events, I would trade in for a shot to compete at E3. I can’t say enough just how much it would mean to me. An invitation is something that would change my life forever, and I would tell my kids and their kids about it. I hope I can be involved; whether by competing or through successfully being approved for the media pass at E3 I have applied for (fingers crossed). Regardless, I will support the event in any way I can and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity Nintendo has given us.”
NE: If you are invited, who would you use in the tournament?
Toronto Joe: “If I get chosen, I would for sure set up a voting system and let the fans decide on who I play; the supporters of the Smash series are the reason why I would have this opportunity in the first place, so I would love to repay them in any way I could at the event. I’d also like to use a new character that is completely foreign to previous Smash games. I want to compete with a character that has not been explored yet and see how they function in the new game, plus more importantly, give the audience at home a chance to see them in action. The purpose of the event is to showcase Super Smash Bros. Wii U through the skilled players our community has and the event itself is a testament to how far we’ve come as a competitive collective. What better way to show respect for the evolution of the game and our community than to use a new character that Nintendo has been working on and let the fans decide on who I play? I will try my best to win the event, of course, but at the end of the day, I just want to put on a good show for everyone to enjoy and give back to the scene that put me in a position to receive such an honor. One of my strengths as a player has been my ability to adapt and creatively use characters in the game, so best believe I would be ready to show the world the character like never seen before.“
NE: Any closing thoughts?
Toronto Joe: “Thank you so much to MLG/York University for giving me the opportunity to host Get On My Level, and I hope everyone comes out or tunes in on May 10-11 to see some of the best in world compete in Brawl and Melee! Big shout-outs to the Canadian/Smash community in general for supporting me at every event I go to; without you guys I don’t know where I would be. And lastly, thank you SO much to Nintendo for giving our community this opportunity at E3 and your continued efforts towards growing the game. You have touched the lives of so many through this incredible franchise, and I am honored to be a competitive player and community leader for the game you created. Smash has changed my life for the better, and I owe you most for providing our community with countless memories that we have cherished for years to come.“