By J.T. Buchheit
Many students find their calling in the fields of teaching, medicine or journalism. Student Robert Fraser, however, has found a different path. In the winter of 2011, Fraser picked up a video game cartridge and unknowingly began his trip to stardom.
Fraser started his “Super Smash Bros.” journey at a friend’s house. According to Fraser, his friend Mat had a copy of “Melee” in his basement and they began playing. Fraser was more skilled than his friend from the start, leading to a fierce rivalry with each of them working to be superior to the other.
“Eventually we got good enough that we were watching all these videos and were like ‘Competitive “Smash” is awesome. We should definitely do this,’” said Fraser.
Fraser and his friend were determined to play against more skillful opponents, but they encountered some obstacles along the way.
“We found a thread on this site called ‘Smashboards,’ and it’s like guys in their mid-to-late 20s and early 30s playing a game in this basement 15 minutes from Olathe, in northern Kansas City,” Fraser said. “I tried to tell my mom about it, and she was absolutely against it. She was like ‘Are you trying to go play video games with older men you met on the internet?’ It was absurd to her.”
Despite these concerns, Fraser and his friend were able to overcome their parents’ objections and sneak out to enjoy the game with the other nearby “Smash” fans.
“So one day, me and Mat said we were sleeping over at each other’s houses, and then we drove 15 minutes to Kansas City and played for a couple hours with the guy who owned the house and the people who showed up. They said the party usually gets jumping after 10 o’clock, so we stayed until eight, but we had to get home before our parents got suspicious. … Eventually our parents got on board with it.”
After playing “Smash” for a while and beating people he had never opposed, Fraser noticed his talent at the game and decided to begin participating in tournaments.
“The first time I felt like I could be a competitor was the first time I went to a tournament and won some money. To do that, you’ll have to beat people that you’ve never beaten before. So I got top three and got five bucks back, and I thought ‘Hey, maybe I can start doing something with this.’”
Fraser has participated in more than 50 tournaments over the past few years, and he makes sure he adequately prepares for each one with a regimen he uses.
“You can put together things that you need to practice in order to perform at the highest level,” said Fraser. “Just things that you need to be able to do mechanically, and make sure you’re really consistent. Consistency is a pretty big part of the game because of how fast some of the inputs need to be done.”
Fraser’s main claim to fame is the 2015 Big House 5 tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan on October 2–4. It held tournaments for both the “Melee” and “Brawl” versions. He placed 92nd out of approximately 1,300 people in the “Melee” tournament, and he came in second out of 117 people in the “Brawl” tournament.
“I outplaced some really prominent names in the project and the community, so that was really kind of a landmark tournament for me,” Fraser said.
Fraser’s favorite character to play as in “Smash” is Fox McCloud, who is often considered to be the best character in the game for those who make the effort because of his mechanical attributes.
“The technical ceiling on him is extremely high, so to actually be able to use these techniques, you have to be able to practice a lot and work on having a high mobile consistency. … He has a lot of options, but you have to be really good to be able to use all the options that are presented to you. If you don’t, you’ll just get destroyed.”
Fraser doesn’t have an end in sight for his “Smash” endeavors; however, at age 19, he knows his window of dominance could be closing soon, so he wants to enjoy playing the game at a high level for as long as he can.
“It’s tough, because the best players right now are actually my age,” he said. “21, 20, in that age range generally. The older players fall off a lot of the time. You might want to keep playing, but you probably won’t continue to do as well as in your prime. … The game is developing so quickly and players are improving so fast that if you’re not absolutely dedicated to the game, especially people who grow up and have things in their lives, like children and relationships, you’re going to lose track of how fast the game is improving on you, and you’re not going to be able to keep up, and you’ll have to retire at some point.”
There is club on campus dedicated to “Super Smash Bros.” It meets every Friday in CC 234 and consists of friendly matches and tournaments for different “Smash Bros.” games. According to club president Adam Shafton, the club has grown from five members to over 40 people attending meetings. Everybody is welcome to attend, regardless of skill level.