There’s always something so special about Summit. Whether it be the incredible spirit of competition, the presence of high-profile stars, the bonds built between the community’s most significant members, or some perfect combination of all three, Summit always ends up serving as a highlight.
Perhaps it’s the quaint nature of the event that really makes it stand out year after year, time after time. Instead of seeing the scene’s greats at a grand venue with thousands of onlookers and competitors in attendance à la Genesis or EVO, Summit focuses on the simplicity of Smash and the beauty that the game can hold in its sincere, basic roots.
Roots. Think about that word for a moment and analyze it briefly. It’s a word that is so foundational in nature and can often bring even the most complex and significant entities crashing back down to earth whether they want to or not. In the case of Smash, Summit is that catalyst that forces even the most grandiose of players and figureheads to come back to their humble beginnings. It has the talent level of a major with the feel of a local.
And to the thousands of fans watching at home, Summit is the perfect reminder that despite the ever-present drive to win, it’s not the desire to succeed and dominate that brings the Smash community together – it’s the desire to create bonds and memories with some of your closest friends and idolized figures.
This past weekend, some of those legendary figures gathered in Los Angeles to celebrate the game that has done so much for them in its most pure form. Among them: the decorated, the wealthy, and the legendary. Whether it was through the bombastic personalities and memorable success of Joseph “Mang0” Marquez and William “Leffen” Hjelte, the incredibly garnished pasts of Gonzalo “Zero” Barrios and Adam “Armada” Lindgren, or the presence of current Smash kings like Leonardo “Mkleo” Lopez and Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby, Smash Ultimate Summit served as the eye of the Smash storm. With so much talent congregating in one place, Southern California’s supply of accolades drastically increased this weekend, and still, Summit did everything in its power to leave all parties involved with a raw, humbling experience.
And it succeeded.
Despite the ridiculously high profiles in attendance, egos and achievements alike were left at the door. Not the gates or the entrance – the door. Remember that Summit is held at a simple house in a quiet neighborhood, one where the game’s most elite and historic players can be seen conversing, eating, and relaxing just steps away from the action. If anything, Summit feels like a friendly neighborhood competition in someone’s living room with the vibe of an event that even the most casual of Smash players might have attended – the only differences being the presence of the best players in the world and the $50,000+ prize pool. But other than that, it’s pretty low-key and laid-back.
The event felt natural – just as it always does – focusing on the prominence of personality rather than the technicality of the game itself. All of the grandeur of the esports side of Smash was thrown to wind and even if it was just for a minute, it felt as if we had been transported to another moment in time. One where sponsorships, enormous venues and high viewer counts were put on the back burner.
Of course, there were still esports to be had at Summit, as Mkleo won the singles tournament through winners’ side, dropping only one set the entire tournament back in the event’s group stage. At any other tournament, Leo’s dominant run through the upper precipice of the Smash community would end up being the headline. At Summit, it’s another highlight in a weekend that was filled with them.
The vibe of Summit focuses on camaraderie and bonding with a counterbalance of competition and high-octane gameplay. Sure, everyone is there to play Smash at the highest possible level, but it’s the simplicity and bare-bones nature of the event that makes it a highlight. The commentary is casual, yet elite. The atmosphere is welcoming, yet cutthroat. The competitors are warm, yet have ice in their veins.
It’s this juxtaposition of intensity and coolness that lets Summit stand on a different plane from every other Smash tournament on the planet. One minute, players are at each other’s necks, trying to topple one another for one of the largest cash prizes and most prestigious titles in the entire scene. Another moment, those same intense warriors are gathered in a circle playing friendly party games with tens of thousands of eyes glued to the action – just as they were for the actual tournament. In many cases, games of Mafia provided just as much tension, suspense, and drama as the singles bracket, itself.
It’s practically unbelievable how fans can be just as enthralled with the competitive side of Summit as they are with the personal side of things. Throughout the course of the weekend, it was the side events combined with endless sketches and constant banter that provided the ultimate balance to the pinnacle of intense gameplay. Seeing the game’s best in a different light on stage is incredibly refreshing and provides a dynamic that only Summit can administer. When most Smash tournaments only allot time for players’ personalities to break through during a celebrated pop-off or an interview with subdued trash-talk, Summit lays everything out on the table and gives the entire event’s population free reign.
It’s almost surreal how Summit can bounce back and forth between the calm before the storm and the storm itself – but the event had it down to a science this past weekend – just as it does every year.
Photo Credit: Beyond the Summit – Smash, Nintendo, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate