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During finals week of my last semester in junior college I was called into the county Sheriffʼs office and yelled at. I was working part time at my townʼs newspaper and had written a story about a woman convict whoʼd leapt from the vehicle moving her to incarceration. Iʼd written that a witness thought the vehicle looked like it was moving over the speed limit and that the woman seemed to sustain serious injuries. “This is bullshit!” the Sheriff yelled. Somewhere in editing, the article lost the attribution of that information to a third-party witness and instead seemed to credit the information to the Sheriffʼs department. The information turned out to be untrue––the woman was relatively fine, and the vehicle was within speed limits––but the police hadnʼt been willing to comment at press time. Had it been clear that it was the opinion of the witness and not fact handed down from the Sheriff, it would have been a non-issue. The nuance of this was hard to recall when a high ranking lawman was raising his voice at me. I sheepishly apologized and tried to explain the problem and that I would publish a correction, but the situation stung. He threatened to cut all ties to the paper, effectively undoing a decadeʼs worth of relationship-building my predecessors and managing editor had delicately worked to preserve. I have never liked conflict. I keep the peace rather than confront others. Fighting games have always seemed to playfully and brutally embody the dirtiness of conflict, and I have never liked them. Aggression is a valid emotion, but expressing it through physicality has never appealed to me––in real life or otherwise. The only fighting game Iʼve ever liked is Super Smash Bros., and for reasons having nothing to do with aggression or conflict. The culture of fighting games exemplify the things I hate most about video games: trash talk, dismissiveness, and the expectation that one needs to be “good” at a game. If it werenʼt for Smash Bros., I wouldnʼt understand the appeal of this phenomenon. It happens when you become enraptured by the feel of a gameʼs mechanics, which is something thatʼs possible with any game, be they a game of platforming, shooting, or solitaire––but when it happens on a competitive platform, those mechanics suddenly become grounds to boast and challenge others. Iʼm less into Smash Bros than when I was younger. Granted, Iʼm still only 19, but there was a time when every day after school was dedicated to Smash Bros. Iʼve played Brawl, the Wii version, for over 230 hours and Melee and its N64 counterpart nearly as much. I feel as though I could write a lengthy book on the way Smash games work, knowledge that could only exist for a mechanical medium such as a video game. Still, most people who play Smash Bros probably experience something very different from me. While itʼs a step up in accessibility from most fighting games, I suspect most people approach Smash Bros to witness the smorgasbord of Nintendo jizz that constantly explodes all over the screen: Itʼs less of a fighter and more of a playground. And really, itʼs sort of remarkable how well all Nintendoʼs distinct IPs are able to fit cohesively on the same screen together in a way that doesnʼt feel completely gross. Donkey Kong can fight Marth, Jigglypuff can fight Peach, and Snake can fight Sonic, and itʼs all a visual delight. Each character fights in a way that makes sense for them, and when you combine it all with the nostalgia for 20th century Nintendo, itʼs hard to resist. Smashʼs control scheme is appealing in comparison to other fighting games: a handful of buttons and button combinations will produce something similar for each character, no need to memorize quarter-turns or lengthy inputs. Every input gets a response. There are two attacks, each modified by a direction via the analog stick. Thatʼs it. Plus, you can jump and dodge, but really, itʼs easier than it sounds, and the “Mario-and- friends” aesthetic makes it incredibly inviting. Iʼve never had to force a friend to play Smash Bros. with me (not that I make a habit of forcing people to play video games with me). The original Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64 was probably the most fun I ever had with a video game when I was younger. As a Nintendo child, the thought of having every character I loved collaborate in the name of kicking ass was dreamy, a place of complete control I would have loved to stay in forever. I am becoming more of an adult now. That process has meant different things than I thought it would. The woman who leapt from the car taking her to prison sent me a letter a month later. “I was trying to kill myself,” she wrote. Her handwriting was childish and full of errors. “I wish I were dead.” The woman had been arrested for drug use and sentenced to up to five years in prison. My adult impulse is to compartmentalize this knowledge away from myself, to file it in a way that projects how this woman and I are different. A drug-addled, illiterate convict, who wants to kill herself, is so far removed from me that I make no effort to wonder about the ways in which she and I might be similar. The adult mind partitions the world this way because it must. In order to handle the complex fallout of the adult world, we must bisect the world until it fits us. Nintendo announced at E3 2011 that a new version of Smash Bros. is being developed for its upcoming console, the WiiU. Like Brawl before it, I suspect the WiiU version of Smash Bros. will be the most extensive and graphically realized iteration yet. I wonder whether Iʼll embrace the new version. Returning to Smash Bros. today is like reliving that magical, formative moment when I first picked up a controller and watched the screen dance to my whims. It is an artifact from my childhood, periodically updated and revised to remind me of the dull logic video games first presented me with. Despite the robust mechanics, Smash Bros. is a very childish game. For all its violence, Smash is presented in the most innocent way possible: there is no blood or real pain, only cartoon slapstick. Characters donʼt die from unbearable pain or failing organs but only when they are hit so hard that they fly away and twinkle as they disappear, only to reappear next match. With Smash Bros. I feel the immediate sense of control that I miss as an adult. I suspect everyone has a game for him or her that, when they find again, makes them feel sad. Smash Bros. is a collection of my childhood imagery, ideas from a time when conflict manifested itself as a diorama of fun and playfulness. The idea that another person could be irreparably angry with me was far off. While the Sheriffʼs department did nothing wrong, my misprint could have been used in litigation against them, reflected badly during midterm elections, been cause to examine convict transportation, gotten someone fired, or had other sprawling, unintended consequences for things I hadnʼt even considered. Like all good Nintendo games, Smash Bros. obviates any hint of angry Sheriffs and broken relationships to the outermost edges. Adult life is mostly the reverse: the buzzing swirl of ideas to remember each and every day slowly sublimate the childish place where the world itself seemed childish. Sometimes itʼs nice to admit I wish I could return there, a place where someone would never willingly throw themselves to asphalt, and I would never have to defend my depiction of it.


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