From Game Over to Global Exposure

An Oral History of The Melee Games

FEB 27, 2018

September 2015. We unlocked the rental car and tossed our bags in the trunk. The car keys nearly slipped through my fingers as I unlocked the sedan—I was tired, and I wasn’t looking forward to the rush-hour drive out of Boston. At the end of our journey, we’d be playing in a collegiate crew battle and, afterwards, a small singles bracket. Slamming the trunk closed, the five of us glanced at each other in excitement—and a touch of apprehension—before entering the vehicle.

Nothing ever goes quite as planned. Life is all about catching the curveballs thrown at you, and one’s actions can have unexpected and far-reaching effects. In Matthew “MattDotZeb” Zaborowski’s experience, no tale has embodied life’s twists and turns better than that of The Melee Games.

In August 2013, MattDotZeb, a longtime leader of Boston’s Melee scene, heard of a weekly gaming night hosted in a bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At the time, there was no regular local Melee tournament in Boston, and Matt knew an opportunity when he saw one.

“I hit up the head organizer of it and it turned out to be this guy who I knew from a few years prior, who threw house parties in Boston that I used to go to,” said MattDotZeb. “We started to do these Melee events… at the time we had maybe 400 people in New England Melee—we got about 80 people at our biggest events.” He called his new tournament series Game Over.

In order to foster a sense of community and help Boston smashers get to know each other, MattDotZeb meticulously tracked the results of each Game Over, posting brackets in the New England Melee Facebook group and tagging competitors in results threads. “I would take down people’s school, enter that into the bracket as their ‘sponsor name’… stuff like that.”

While previous Boston locals had struggled to keep up consistent attendance in the past, Game Over benefited from the nationwide influx of Melee newcomers inspired by Travis “Samox” Beauchamp’s seminal documentary The Smash Brothers.

“By November, we were seeing all these people from the colleges in the area who never really came out to tournaments—who’d never been to a Mass Madness, or a SWAGG, or a Hall of Gaming, or any events like that,” said MattDotZeb, referring to the New England tournaments that preceded Game Over. “We broke 40 people at two points, and that was wild, considering that our monthlies and bimonthlies were hitting like 40 people. And all these people who were super new to the scene, that were coming in from the documentary and everything, went to schools in the area… there was very clearly something going on in the scene.”

Unfortunately, this bump in attendance came with some concerns: due to their relative lack of experience, many newcomers would inevitably go 0 and 2 in bracket play.

“I had always been an advocate for doing things for the lower-skilled, more casual attendees,” said MattDotZeb. “So I really wanted to make sure that people joining the community in this time of growth were not just encountering people who had been in the scene for so long that they were better than them and were beating them, and I wanted to find a way to get them to meet other people at their universities or scene in general, make friends, and have reasons to continue to come back.”

As a member of Melee’s old guard, Matt recalled the past hype of crew battles such as Melee-FC3’s infamous East Coast-West Coast throwdown.

“Why don’t we do crew battles between schools?” he theorized. “I’d just write in a notebook… I came up with four or five schools that I could think of that had more than five players.” To test the idea, Matt invited a few college crews to his home for a “mattdotfest” and crew battle bracket. This proto-TMG, featured in the video above, was a smashing success.

“So I thought—you know, maybe we’d just utilize Game Over and do a couple crew battles… have maybe five or six schools take part in it. I figured it would just be a purely Boston-area thing.” MattDotZeb decided to name his crew battle league The Melee Games, after a suggestion from local Melee player Chas “CombatColdCuts” Quimby.

To streamline sign-ups, MattDotZeb created a Google form for potential participants to fill out. Over the next few days, he checked the submissions as often as he could. “I think in the first season we hit ten schools in New England, so it was more than I thought… The first school to hit five people—and technically to qualify for The Melee Games—was the University of Connecticut.”

The writer’s player card for his first The Melee Games crew battle, vs. UMass Boston in 2014. (Photo Credit: MattDotZeb)

Emboldened by this flurry of interest, Matt threw himself into organizing The Melee Games. He put together a regional crew bracket, organized events, and would often stay up until 6 A.M. the morning of each event to make “player cards” containing basic information about participating players.

“I was blown away,” said MattDotZeb. “I’m thinking it’s just Boston-area schools that were going to join in, but WPI gets a team, and Amherst gets a team, and I’m like, this is crazy, this is way more teams than I expected, more people from farther away are signing up for this.”

Two hours (and a few wrong turns) later, we pulled into a parking lot at the University of New Hampshire. Expecting to play on stream, I’d worn my favorite t-shirt, and I felt a little foolish as the cool autumn air bit into my exposed skin. Shouldering our backpacks and cradling our controllers in our hands, we set out for the venue.

Although the first season of The Melee Games was relatively small compared to its successors, it generated its fair share of hype and was covered in Boston Magazine. Season One climaxed at March 2014’s Northeastern Smash Attack 2, where crews from University of Massachusetts Boston and Massachusetts Institute of Technology duked it out to determine which school was New England’s best. In the end, MIT clutched it out over their opponents in a tight one-stock victory.

The next season of The Melee Games brought a new region—and dozens of new teams—into the fold.

“My very good friend Jesse [“Killahertz” Hertz] was from Brown University, I’d known him through the scene… he started living in New York City and was hosting events out there in a card shop called Nebulous, and that turned into all the stuff that you see now in New York,” MattDotZeb recalled. “He contacted me and said, ‘Dude, we should do NYC and Boston collegiate crew battles.’ When we were coming up with the idea for it we said, ‘Why don’t we just try to involve tri-state as a whole?’ So we involved New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.”

Registration numbers boomed after the inclusion of the tri-state area, with most of Season Two’s 50 participating teams coming from New York and New Jersey. This dramatic increase in participants led to an important development: the splitting of the league into smaller subregions, including upstate New York, New York City, and Pennsylvania. This subregional demarcation foreshadowed the regional conferences that would eventually form the backbone of The Melee Games’ national structure.

Although the Season Two final between UMass Boston and Columbia wasn’t played out in Apex 2015’s Salty Suite, as MattDotZeb had originally planned, it was still a singularly important moment in The Melee Games’ history. For the first time, the championship represented more than just a showdown between schools: it was a clash between two regions, a reiteration of the traditional sports rivalry between New England and New York. This time, New York came out on top, with Columbia University’s Alexander “Cheezpuff” Tong clutching it out with an all-or-nothing last-stock rest against UMass Boston’s Jermaine “Kaiju” Henderson.

By the time the third season of The Melee Games rolled around in spring 2015, the league had become well-known throughout the scene, and MattDotZeb opened up registration for a number of new regions in both America and Canada. Thanks to $7,605 gleaned from the community through the first-ever compendium, the top teams were to be flown out for the finals at New York City’s Super Nebulous 3.

Just as Killahertz managed the tri-state area’s TMG teams, a crop of new regional directors signed up to help carry the Melee Games torch in their respective regions: Northern California’s Ashkon “Ashkon” Honardoost, Southern California’s Victor “V$” Bhattacharyya, Mid-Atlantic’s Tom “tdude51” Georgen, and Ontario’s Joe “Toronto Joe” Cribari. Over the following years, several of these directors would go on to play important roles in the history and development of The Melee Games.

These regional directors found themselves in their positions of authority through a variety of circumstances.

“I saw The Melee Games was happening when I was a sophomore in college,” V$ reminisced. “This was just a time when I was beginning to look for more players to play against… one day, MattDotZeb was in a stream, and I was like, ‘Hey Matt, SoCal would love to do TMG.’ This was just me wanting to compete.”

Desperate for a piece of the action, V$ was willing to do whatever it took to bring The Melee Games to the west coast—so he went for a shot in the dark.

“’What if I run it?’ That’s what I said in the stream, and he was like, ‘Yeah dude, that sounds sick—DM me.’ In classic Matt fashion, right? Like yeah, let’s do it.”

Once we arrived, we introduced ourselves to New Hampshire’s captain and set out to get some much-needed grub. I wolfed down a burrito bowl from a nearby taqueria, then sat down at a friendlies setup, where I found myself getting bodied by a quietly focused Dr. Mario player. “What’s your tag?” I asked. “Infinite Numbers,” he replied. His face was one of many that I saw for the first time that night, but that would become familiar to me as I began to regularly attend New England locals. Another smasher I met that day was CKFlight—also known as FSBR_Tommy—a player whose knowledge would eventually prove invaluable for my writing.

With the huge concentration of colleges in Southern California, V$ had no trouble finding teams to enter his region’s TMG.

“I talked to Matt about the format and how he organized everything, and I made a post in SoCal Melee and got all these people on board and found captains for all the teams, and it sort of just snowballed from there,” said V$. “The first TMG, we had four groups… we had groups play round robin, made sure all the captains knew where to send their players, and it sort of just happened from there.”

Upon its inclusion in The Melee Games, California immediately became a hotbed for trash talk and regional rivalries due to the region’s high concentration of very skilled players.

“[University of California,] Irvine was insanely stacked at this point,” recounted V$. “Irvine had like all their hitters: [Santiago] “Santiago” [Piñon], [Jeremy] “Squid” [Deutsch], [Connor] “CDK” [Nguyen], [Griffin] “Captain Faceroll” [Williams], this crew was stacked… There was a lot of SoCal-NorCal beef, right? And so UC Irvine handily won SoCal and UC Berkeley handily won NorCal, and both teams had a bunch of ranked players, so it was sort of like the final showdown, and we all knew it was going to happen. And when it happened, it happened in San Diego—both teams showed up, it was super hype.”

A four-year member of UC Irvine’s The Melee Games team, Captain Faceroll gave his take on a crew battle that would later be dubbed “The Irvine Massacre.”

“We were decidedly the favorites,” said the current SSBMRank No. 52. “So we were going to [the west coast finals at] I’m Not Yelling. Basically, the story is we were in NorCal, and had this insane crowd for what I was used to—and keep in mind I was like 18, I was not ranked in SoCal (or anywhere), it was just like really weird to me. I was in the crowd and I was seeing people that I had watched on stream… [Dajuan] “Shroomed” [McDaniel] was there, and [Kris] “Toph” [Aldenderfer] was there, and they were rooting against us. I just didn’t understand at the time how things worked—I was so surprised that I was seeing Shroomed and Toph there saying ‘fuck SoCal’, ‘fuck UCI.’”

Facing off against a Berkeley team led by Ralph “Ralph” Arroyo and Richard “Delphiki” Cappel, the heavily favored Irvine squad faced a significant loss towards the beginning of the crew battle, when Santiago—then Irvine’s best player—cleanly lost all of his stocks to Delphiki, an under-the-radar Ice Climbers main of considerable skill. Shaken by this upset, Irvine’s lower-ranked players fell to Berkeley’s hitters, with Ralph cleaning up the last game to give UC Berkeley a three-stock victory.

“To explain to you how big of an upset this was, MattDotZeb had already purchased [Irvine’s] tickets to nationals,” said V$, retelling a popular rumor. In truth, Matt hadn’t purchased the tickets in advance, but the myth—perpetuated by Toph in his commentary of the crew battle—helped elevate Berkeley’s underdog performance to legendary status. The west coast finals at I’m Not Yelling were a de facto national championship, and UC Berkeley took home the gold two weeks later at Super Nebulous 3, defeating University of Maryland, who found themselves in the championship finals after making an impressive upset over a York University team featuring top Canadian Bernard "RaynEX" Mafei.

“The storyline was sort of creating itself,” said MattDotZeb.

For the fourth season of The Melee Games, Matt brought in even more regions, including the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, the American South, and parts of the Midwest. This time around, the league supported its larger structure by requiring teams to pay dues for the first time. Although the $50 paid by each school was a relatively small sum, asking teams for money never sat right with MattDotZeb.

“I hated charging people to play in TMG—it was not fun for me to do that. I didn’t like to ask people to pay to play in a fun crew battle, even though it was justified in how large [The Melee Games] was growing and what the costs associated were,” said Matt.

Aside from requiring dues for the first time, Season Four was notable in that it gave Irvine—still arguably the nation’s most stacked team—a chance to redeem itself. This season, the national finals were held at Genesis 3.

“Genesis 3 was definitely the most memorable moment, I think,” said Captain Faceroll. “There was a bit of an underdog story, kind of.”

In the championship final, Irvine was slated to face off against Georgia Tech, whose deep roster boasted such heavy-hitting players as Sami “Druggedfox” Muhanna, Kevin “KPAN” Pan, and Daniel “baka4moe” Blado. However, before the crew battle even started, things began to go horribly wrong for UC Irvine.

“Matt [“Stab” Tafazoli, one of UCI’s top players at the time] had a very bad bracket run… he was super not feeling it at all, so he straight-up texted me, ‘Yo dude, I’m not gonna play.’ I was like, ‘Okay, that’s fine, I’ll just sub in for him,’ and then Connor also got upset… so Connor wasn’t feeling it, so that was two of our players who just didn’t want to play, and Santi also was just someone who never really cared that much about TMG in general,” said Captain Faceroll. “So basically none of our team wants to play.”

Faceroll, who had just made it into his first major-tournament bracket, was raring to fight, but for the moment, his team’s prospects were looking pretty dismal.

“I talked to MattDotZeb and I was like, ‘Yo dude, I think we’re gonna forfeit,’” he recalled. “’I don’t think we’re gonna do it.’”

Fortunately, Matt pushed back against the idea, and after taking some deep breaths, UC Irvine decided to go through with the crew battle after all.

“We just destroyed them,” said Captain Faceroll. “That was super memorable because the season was a comeback story, but there was such an emotional swing [in the finals.]”

Two days after UC Irvine clinched the Season 4 title, their fans filled Genesis 3's venue with Irvine chants

Finally: the crew battle we’d all been waiting for. The venue was filled with UNH students—our rivals—but the atmosphere was friendly, even jovial. As I watched my friend BigFoig saddle up against Kalvar, New Hampshire’s starter, a stranger wearing a University of New Hampshire hoodie sat down next to me and pulled out a bag of Swedish Fish. “Want some?” he asked, gesturing towards me with the bag. I smiled and grabbed a handful.

While the fourth season of The Melee Games was as hype as ever, the league was starting to experience some serious growing pains by mid-2016.

“At this point, TMG started to really show potential, but also issues with the scale of it,” said MattDotZeb. “Going into future seasons, this is where we started to realize… we needed to figure out how we can actually handle this thing.”

One source of the league’s issues was the sheer amount of labor involved behind the scenes—labor that Matt and his board of regional directors were performing on a purely voluntary basis.

“TMG for many people was very much a passion kind of thing, and there was no money going to organizers at all—I certainly never got paid for TMG in any way. As it started to grow more into Season Five, when we increased the entry fee and expanded a bit further, people on the team of directors started to feel the pressure of it… and I think it became a little less enjoyable to execute TMG as it became more of a demanding and stressing thing.”

Although The Melee Games had risen to multinational prominence and would eventually offer a $1,000 grand prize for its Season Six champions, there was still very little money to go around within the organization; it remained at its core a grassroots effort.

“At one point the North Conference finals in Season Five happened in a hotel room [that happened to be the midpoint] between Toronto and Chicago,” said Matt, laughing. “There’s a handheld VOD of North Conference finals from Season Five between York and UIUC in a hotel room—it goes to show the dedication people had and the level of grassroots we were in.”

Despite his love for the league’s grassroots ethos, said Matt, “It eventually became way too much for me.” To give his team a break, The Melee Games’ fifth season didn’t involve a national championship; instead, teams competed solely for dominance within their respective conferences. By the league’s sixth season, MattDotZeb began to feel the strain of running another national final, despite some much-needed organizational restructuring that had occurred during Season Five.

“So we’re going into 2017 and we have a couple of the conference finals done, and some of the directors were starting to tell me they don’t want to do this anymore,” he said. “…we finally get through the season, kind of postponing the finals until Shine 2017.”

After the graduation of some of Irvine’s top players, other states besides California finally had a shot to win TMG’s national finals at Shine 2017. In the end, the championship came down to a crew battle between University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Central Florida. After half an hour of spirited play on both sides, UCF’s David “Lad” Fine closed out the win for his alma mater with two quick shine spikes.

Alongside Central Florida’s historic victory, Shine 2017 heralded another changing of the guard: the acquisition of The Melee Games by Collegiate StarLeague, an intercollegiate esports company with roots in the StarCraft scene.

The origin of CSL’s deal with The Melee Games originated in a deal the company brokered with TMG’s Smash 4 counterpart, Smash 4 Collegiate. In late 2016, Max “Max Ketchum” Krchmar, the co-founder of S4C, was approached by Neil Duffy, Vice President of Collegiate StarLeague, while commentating at eGames Rio 2016. After a few months of discussions, CSL offered to provide Smash 4 Collegiate with funding if the organization allowed itself to be absorbed by the larger entity.

“At the time it was really just about Smash 4,” said Max Ketchum, “but I brought up the possibility of getting TMG partnered with it. I figured Matt directly inspired us, so we might as well share the wealth, and I think both games being on the circuit would really help a lot.”

To get the ball rolling, Max introduced MattDotZeb and Big Blue Esports to Collegiate StarLeague. “Matt and Big Blue Esports worked with us, and, independently of myself and [fellow S4C founder Toronto] Joe, worked out a deal that was satisfying on all ends. Effectively, they hired both Joe and I as directors, and put both TMG and CSL in our hands.”

At this point, MattDotZeb was struggling to balance his “real life” with his work on The Melee Games, and his responsibilities at only heightened his fears that he wouldn’t be able to effectively manage the next season of the league. “Burnout definitely hit me more than once during the TMG series as a whole,” he said.

“We talked to various organizations that said they wanted to help out, like Twitch and Red Bull,” added Matt, “but unfortunately those discussions never went anywhere tangible… towards the end of the season in 2017, it started to be painfully obvious to me that I wouldn’t be able to continue doing TMG—and I mean painfully when I say that it was very difficult for me to acknowledge or accept that realization, because I didn’t want to stop doing it, I didn’t want TMG to disappear, I didn’t want all of this effort that we’d put in to just turn into nothing. And CSL started to reach out to us about working with us on TMG.”

Although MattDotZeb officially gave up his title as director of TMG during the transition, he remains an important source of knowledge for Max Ketchum and Toronto Joe, the league’s current directors.

“The work he did was incredible,” said Max Ketchum. “Literally, directly, the source of inspiration and guidance for us.”

Under the aegis of Collegiate StarLeague, The Melee Games looks very different than it did during its early days in Boston’s dive bars. As leaders, Toronto Joe and Max Ketchum now split the duties that once fell on MattDotZeb’s shoulders.

“While me and Max wear a lot of different hats in our roles, I think mine is more focused on tournament operations,” said Toronto Joe. “Whereas Max is more of the networking and outreach, but that’s not to say that he doesn’t help with organizing events… I don’t know what I’d do without him—it’s definitely crazy and hectic, with a lot of work involved.”

With a prescient forward smash read, BigFoig finished off Kalvar, then managed to take two stocks from New Hampshire’s next player, a Peach main known as Octomom. As my crew’s Jigglypuff main, I was called up to vanquish our turnip-pulling foe. I’d heard of him before, and I was nervous—I was a newbie, with no real in-game accomplishments in my short career. Steeling myself against New Hampshire’s battle cries, I stuck to my game plan, taking Octomom’s stocks before knocking off two stocks from the Fox that UNH sent in to counterpick me. I was elated; I’d done my job. “Cool shirt!” remarked one of the commentators.

For better or for worse, the absorption of The Melee Games by Collegiate StarLeague has had many effects on the structure and culture of The Melee Games. One loss lamented by some members of the community is the reduction in qualifying events during the latest season.

“The more events there are, the more grassroots it feels… the more game time everyone gets, the more recorded sets everyone has, the more everyone comes out and has a good time,” said V$. “The shift of CSL was sort of sad in that way, that there was only one event for all of SoCal for the whole year, and only if you made Top 4 at that event did you get to go to the next event.”

However, V$, who still works as SoCal’s regional director, was quick to add that such a shift was necessary for the continued development of the league.

“I could see why they did it. They need to organize this on a mass scale and get it done… the TMG system sort of wasn’t sustainable. It was really sustained on the hard work of tournament organizers that wanted to throw two or three events per semester. It is a lot more organized now because it’s like, ‘okay, this is the event,’ and everything’s laid out months ahead of time. It’s cool that TMG kind of ‘grew up’ in a certain way—it’s more official, there’s a prize pot, everything’s laid out beforehand.”

When questioned about this culture shift, Max Ketchum also contended that it was an inevitability not necessarily tied to the organization’s merger with Collegiate StarLeague.

“I feel like it’s less of a disconnect between grassroots and CSL being a corporate entity—Joe and I are grassroots to the core, we’ve both been in the Smash scene for ten-plus years easy—it’s more of, like, Matt built TMG from the ground up, so he’s had a very hands-on relationship… we picked up four or five years into this project so we’re just faces to these people. It’s clearly something we want to improve on, so next year one of the number-one topics for discussion is: Do we go to 32 local qualifiers over 16?”

“It comes with interesting challenges because I want to keep the authenticity [of past years]”, said Toronto Joe. But the benefits of CSL still far outweigh the drawbacks. “Obviously, having more resources, the fact that we have a $30,000 prize pool, in a way helps to legitimize not only Smash, but competitive collegiate Smash.”

Agreeing with his colleague, Max Ketchum pointed out the positive aspects of CSL’s trimmed-down system. “My vision for it is to become the NCAA, effectively. One thing that I definitely liked about doing this kind of stuff the way Joe and I have is that it’s a very linear and easy to follow system… easier to follow for people outside the system too.”

Simply put, Collegiate StarLeague’s involvement has given The Melee Games the platform, visibility, and accessibility necessary to increase in popularity among both players and spectators.

“I would like to stick within that structure—I think this does have the potential to become something that’s a major factor in the community or in esports in general. I think a huge reason that traditional sports are so huge is that there are avenues to pursue that passion alongside academics, so having something that encourages you to go to play Smash while you’re going to school just makes the transition easier, makes it something that you’d encourage your children to do,” said Max.

We didn’t win the crew battle—New Hampshire’s chaingrab-happy Sheik player made sure of that—but it was close, with UNH snatching the win by only two stocks. Our drive home was filled with cheer. We’d met new friends, acquitted ourselves well in the crew battle, and explored a new region filled with unfamiliar players. One of us had made Top 8 in the singles bracket, while another had fallen just short, losing a close set to Infinite Numbers (“he wobbled me for all four stocks!” griped BigFoig as he stretched his legs in the back seat). For many of us, it was our first sojourn to New Hampshire—and what better reason to go than for Smash? As for me, I spent most of the ride home thinking about when I’d be able to attend my next tournament. It was the start of an infatuation with Melee that would become a defining part of my college experience.

Ultimately, The Melee Games’ success lies not within any kind of structure or prize pool—it comes from the sense of community and pride fostered by intercollegiate competition.

“I wanted to find a way for people to meet other people at their schools, to kind of have something that they could all get behind, which is beating a different school with your team—the sort of school pride that comes with that and the camaraderie between the players that otherwise you might not necessarily have,” said MattDotZeb.

“It brings out college players,” said V$. “It’s the only event every year that you see this slew of faces that are all pretty good players. There are a lot of players that are mid-level in SoCal, and I’d say a fourth of them go to school and don’t go out to tournaments. And the only time you can see them and judge how good they are is when they come out and compete for their school. It’s more impactful for the collegiate players than it is for the community as a whole.”

No collegiate rivalry typifies this pride better than the titanic struggle between California’s UC Irvine and UC Berkeley.

“UCI versus Berkeley was sort of The Rivalry,” said Captain Faceroll, “but the teams aren’t even the same anymore, so now the rivalry extends to the whole school rather than the people on the team. If there was to be any beef, it’s gone now, so now it’s just organizational, like, a school rivalry, which is what you see in traditional sports.”

Faceroll recalled a TMG event at UC Irvine where some non-smashers wandered through the doors. “They cheered us on because we go to UCI, even if they don’t really know what’s happening in the game.”

Georgia Tech players getting hype at Genesis 3’s TMG finals. (Photo Credit: Robert Paul)

While storied rivalries like Irvine vs. Berkeley have emerged through years of heated competition, there’s still plenty of room for newcomers to write their own chapter of the TMG story. Toronto Joe said it best: “If you’re reading this, don’t be intimidated by the process of starting a team or a Smash club. It’s a lot easier than you’d think, and I think it’s really worth the time investment if Smash is something that you dig.”

There may be no better time than now to sign up for The Melee Games. The league is as active as ever, and it shows no signs of slowing down. More than 250 schools have fielded TMG teams, and last month St. Clair University launched a varsity esports program offering scholarships to Melee players. Elite players such as Jack “Crush” Hoyt and Zain “Zain” Naghmi have stepped into the fray. What was once a thrown-together local event with only pride on the line has blossomed into a professionally run national league.

“I have people who, through the years and even to this day, will occasionally come up to me and thank me for The Melee Games and say that it’s what introduced them to competitive Smash or what kept them in the community,” said MattDotZeb. “I mean, that’s just incredibly touching that I was able to do something that people felt so positively about… that it just kept them going. For me, that’s one of the greatest feelings.”

No matter what lies in The Melee Games’ future, it’s been one of Melee’s most inspiring success stories, expanding far beyond the Boston-only circuit that MattDotZeb envisioned in 2013. The blood, sweat, and tears of Matt and his fellow directors contributed to the development of a league that has brought scores of new players into the scene and instilled school pride in the heart of many a nerd.

Photo Credit: Nicola Yardy / CSL