D1: 'Smash players are definitely in the esports spectrum'
There are few personalities in the competitive Super Smash Bros. scene as recognizable as D’Ron “D1” Maingrette.
Maingrette got interested in the competitive Smash in 2004, but it wasn't until 2009 that he found the niche that would make him famous in the scene: commentating. He broke out at one of Smash's biggest tournaments, Apex 2010 in New Jersey, where his in-depth knowledge and witty elocution reached a massive, national audience. He’s been on a sharp rise ever since, commentating pretty much every major tournament, both in the United States and internationally. He’s currently a Smash Bros strategic partnerships specialist at Twitch.
We had a chance to sit down with Maingrette and get his views on the future of competitive Smash.
Can Smash Bros for Wii U (Smash 4) reach the same level of excitement as Melee?
I definitely think Smash 4 has the potential to be exciting. The game is new at the moment, so of course there are unexplored characters that players still havent invested time into, and, because of this, the easier to learn characters are the characters that we see grow in popularity. I think with more time you'll definitely see variety when it comes to these events, which will probably get more people to pick up the game and try their favorite character and enter a tournament.
Does having multiple Super Smash Bros. game’s at tournaments split the community and hurt the competitive scene?
I don't necessarily think it hurts the scene to have, like, subscenes within the actual Smash community. But I think the thing that probably needs to happen less is just people trying to make their game look better than the others. What basically needs to happen is more people focusing on the game that they love and putting the time and effort in their particular game. Creating writeups, producing content, and just broadcasting their favorite game to everybody else instead of worrying about what everybody else thinks. Basically trying to help raise the visibility for their game and try to figure out how to get better at their game, instead of worrying about all the trivial things people say about their particular game.
What about the future of Smash 64 and Brawl?
I think that people need to advertise or broadcast for 64 and Brawl a bit better. There are a lot of people that enjoy the games, but not enough people who actually put in the effort to broadcast 64 and Brawl to the masses. Circling back to what I said about Smash 4, you know, putting out writeups, producing content, letting people know the game exists and giving them a reason to care about the game, stuff like that, will help raise the popularity of the game. ‘Cause the players are out there. But we just need the dedicated players to let the rest of the world know that these games exist and that there is a dedicated scene with players that still play the game.
And how about increasing the participation of women in response to issues of harassment or lack of inclusiveness in a very male dominated scene?
Well I’d like to say that [Lil “Milktea” Chen] and LiloNStitchface—that’s Neha Chhetri, she was also at the E3 Smash 4 Invitational along with MilkTea—they came out with these pieces that rose awareness about sexism in gaming communities. And thanks to their efforts, there’s basically a "how it works" for women. To come to events and enter and basically show that they can hang with the rest of the guys. ‘Cause its not like it’s a physical sport or anything like that, they're using their brains, you know? And I believe that they definitely can stand toe-to-toe with us. Like I said, basically raise awareness so that people can realize "hey the girls can definitely play along with us too." It shouldn't be like a boys club mentality, or anything like that, everyone can hang.
What about more proactive measures like female only tournaments?
I definitely think there’s nothing that separates the females from the males. They can hang with us and that there’s really no need for a female only tournament to be honest.
There’s a player named [Hannah “Admiral” Taylor,] who’s an Ice Climbers main, and every time she’s at a tournament she makes upsets all the time. "Hey, did you hear? Admiral beat this guy: and it’s like really fun to hear, regardless of her gender. Instead of saying "a-girl-won" they just call her by her tag. That’s what a lot of girls basically just want, to feel like they're a player, they don't want to be categorized by their gender.
To touch on one more thing, there was a player named [Emily "Kiwi" Wajda] who won at AGDQ, beating, I think, Cosmo, in Smash 4. And the funny thing, I dont even think the people that heard that Kiwi won even knew that Kiwi was a girl, they just respected Kiwi as a player. ‘There was a player named Kiwi that beat Cosmo, awesome!’ And that was it. Nobody mentioned gender or anything like that
Are sponsors taking Smash Bros. as seriously as League of Legends or Counter Strike?
It definitely looks like it's going in that direction, which is making me really happy. Team SoloMid just picked up [William “Leffen”Hjelte] recently, and we still have [Joseph “Mango” Marquez] who’s sponsored by Cloud9, and of course all the Liquid players. At PAX East I had the opportunity to speak to numerous people who made it known to me that they realized that Smash is getting big and that they’d love to get involved in any way shape or form.
What can Teams do for their sponsored players?
What probably could help even more is just more social media promotion. Just promoting the players even more, letting the people know that we have Smashers on our team, these guys exist. Whenever I check these esports teams that I follow on Twitter, they're usually talking about their League players and such. It would be nice, you know, if they let people know that, hey, their sponsored player is at such and such tournament, and even shouting out the name of a stream so people can tune in and watch their sponsored Smash player. Or let people even know more often when their sponsored player is live, and any updates I guess in regards to their player. Just letting them know that Smash players are definitely in the esports spectrum.
Photo via D’Ron D1 Maingrette