Dissecting the speculation outrage culture of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

On Sept. 6, an earthquake struck the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The most recent reports of the disaster state that over 30 deaths have resulted from the events of the earthquake. In response to this and in respect for the event, Nintendo delayed a planned “Nintendo Direct” (a pre-recorded, live-streamed video focused around revealing new games and content) to Sept. 13.

“What has that to do with a Nintendo Direct? The presentation is already pre-recorded and ready,” tweeted one fan (the top comment on the twitter stream).

“I understand why this is happening, but I’m still disappointed it’s not happening today,” tweeted another user.

“Lives are more important than games. Hope everyone is safe.”

This mix of vitriol, disappointment and sympathy stemming from the Nintendo fandom has its roots in one aspect of gaming: “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” and, more specifically, rampant speculation culture.

The first installment of “Super Smash Bros.” released almost 20 years ago on the N64. A fighting game featuring an ensemble cast from various Nintendo games (including Mario, Pikachu, Link and many others), “Super Smash Bros.” quickly became a meteoric success. The sequel, “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” came out only a few short years after and created the culture we see today: gigantic competitive tournaments, fans begging for their favorite Nintendo character addition and an occasionally toxic community.

17 years have passed since the release of “Melee,” and now, fans are preparing for the fifth installment of the series, “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.” With a cast of over 70 characters and Sakurai (the creator and director of the series) specifically addressing fan demands, the community is at an all-time emotional high. YouTubers like RelaxAlax have received hundreds of thousands of followers over the past few years from “Smash Bros.” speculative content. When a character like Isabelle (a dog companion from “Animal Crossing”) is introduced and does not meet the fandom’s expectations, even in the wake of an earthquake some fans cannot contain their rage.

“If Isaac (a character from an older Nintendo game series, “Golden Sun”) isn’t announced in this Direct, I will post a video of me eating feces,” promised one fan.

“All irony aside, there’s probably not a single person alive who has a positive association with [Nintendo’s newly announced content]…thanks to the delay. They effed up,” said a user in a popular “Smash Bros.” speculation Discord chat, discussing the delay that occurred in response to dozens of deaths.

Mimique, a community-famous “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” predictor (featured on YouTube Gaming’s Twitter), responded to my comments on Isabelle’s addition as a character.

“It’s just objectively not as hype as literally any other reveal,” said the predictor.

Why do fans feel so strongly about this series? What drives some players to act this way in the face of real disaster? Coming from a longtime fan of the series, it all stems from fans’ obsession with their other favorite games. When “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Final Fantasy,” “Pac-Man,” “Mega Man,” “Zelda” and “Mario” all mesh into one game, certain fans feel like their favorites weren’t “invited” to the series when they deserve to be. Add 20 years of expectation and anticipation and the fact that not getting into one game means waiting another five years, and fans can grow emotional.

Hopefully, fans of “Super Smash Bros.” will find the middle ground between anticipation and anger in time for the game’s release in December.

Max James is a fourth year communications studies with minors in creative writing and French  MJ853459@wcupa.edu.

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