Smash 4 Stockholm Syndrome

As it always does any time Bayonetta performs well in a tournament, the Smash 4 community has been set ablaze with discussions of banning, the death of the game, and so on. These discussions range from reasoned discussions all the way to wacky conspiracy theories. While hypotheticals, tips on sdi, and ban discussions are fun on Twitter, I’ve grown a bit tired of seeing the same discussions swirl around with zero resolution, so I wanted to take a different approach.

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See, part of the issue with these discussions is that we waste so much time debating aspects of the “Bayonetta problem” that are irrelevant due to several irrevocable truths. I want to approach each truth in turn, and then discuss a solution that I see too few people exploring.

Truth 1: There will never be a Smash 4 patch

This is the easiest truth for most people to accept, but I still see a few pointless comments about Nintendo needing to balance the game. The Wii U has been abandoned, and rightfully so–there’s a new console out there. No one at Nintendo cares about the balance of a game on a previous generation console. They will not release a patch for Smash 4 under any circumstance. It would be a complete waste of developer time and resources

Truth 2: There are Viewers who Like Bayonetta

One of the biggest arguments we see in favor of banning the character is how she affects viewership. However, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are actually people who enjoy watching Bayonetta. She intrigues people outside of Smash 4, especially in the wider FGC. Go back and read any social media reaction during the Smash 4 finals at Evo in 2017. Prominent FGC figures were popping off at the combos, the sudden kills, and the movement of the game’s flashiest character. There may be a vocal portion of the entrenched community who dislike watching Bayonetta, but we have absolutely no true data to suggest that attendance or viewership will radically suffer as a result of more consistent Bayonetta appearance in Top 8.

People citing the drop after Fatality lost need to stop. People tune in specifically for stuff like Captain Falcon. There will always be more viewer interest when a mid- or low-tier hero makes a run, especially one as fun to watch as Falcon. If you want to make this argument, you need to chart at least 6 months of viewership data across multiple tournaments and compare all factors, not just “was there a Bayo”.

Truth 3: Bayonetta is Difficult to Play at Top Level

The top 20 players on the PGR are REALLY good at Smash 4. To suggest that any player who consistently performs well purely because they play Bayonetta is lazy, ignorant, and rude to not only the Bayos, but the players who have worked hard to learn the matchup. There’s absolutely no denying that Bayonetta is strong, probably the best character in the game by a meaningful margin. That fact does not invalidate the amount of practice, commitment, knowledge, and skill required to actually make top 8 at an A- or S-tier event. Playing the character may give a player a small boost and get them further than they would get with a lower tier character, but that is true in literally every fighting game. Top tiers will always be a thing, if you can’t accept that you’re in the wrong genre. Disparaging a player for picking a strong character only shows your own ignorance of how fighting games, and the esports industry as a whole, function.

Truth 4: Bayonetta Will NEVER Get Banned

This is the most pointless argument in the entire smash community. It’s too late to ban the character. There are too many organizations that are too prominent in the Smash 4 TO space, many of whom have deep pockets and little interest in catering to the whims of the community. Evo would never ban the character, Dreamhack won’t ban her, CEO likely wouldn’t ban her–it isn’t going to happen. Having separate rulesets for different tournaments would segment the Smash 4 community even further. It would cripple the effectiveness and influence of the PGR, confuse newcomers to the scene, and ultimately be worse for the game than players who dislike her simply losing interest in following the scene. If you want Smash 4 to succeed and grow, banning a prominent character is the last thing you actually want.

Truth 5: Smash 4 isn’t Going Anywhere

There is no new Smash game on the horizon. If a new game gets announced at this year’s E3, we still won’t see the release of the game until at LEAST the end of 2019. For over 12 months minimum, this is the game you’ve got. There will be no bans, no patches, no fixes to stages, no new DLC characters, no changes to the game. You’re playing Melee now–your choices are to mod the game yourself, or play it as is.


Arguing any of these truths just doesn’t matter. This is the game as the developers chose to make it, and they’ve moved on to new things. As Smashers, we’ve always had to make up our own rules since we chose to play games that were never intended for competitive esports. However, we can only do so much without actually changing the code of the game. We already tried that with Project M, and we know how that goes. There won’t be a widely accepted, tournament standard Project 4–what you see now is what you’ve got.

Your problem is very similar to what the competitive Hearthstone community has faced for years. You adore competing in a very specific type of game, and you’ve sunk money and time into mastering the game, growing within its community, and establishing your knowledge of the competitive scene and the game itself. Just like every Hearthstone player, you’ve ultimately got two choices–accept it or leave.

Hearthstone players have accepted that the game will always have wacky RNG effects that can change the outcome of a million-dollar tournament. Those that couldn’t deal with that fact have moved on to other card games. The ones that stayed have altered their expectations, and learned how to find a fun competitive experience within the game the devs made, rather than the ideal game they’d prefer. That’s where you’re at with Smash 4 now. The game isn’t going to change. Bayonetta is going to be in every top 8 for the next 12-18 months, maybe even the next several years if Nintendo somehow doesn’t have a new Smash in the pipeline for the Switch yet (unlikely, but not impossible).

See, in other games, you only have to deal with a meta for so long. Patches come, new characters are released, bugs are fixed. That isn’t going to happen for Smash 4. So, your complaining is never going to change anything. As a result, you have to look deep inside yourself and decide–do I want to play and watch a game where Bayonetta is the best character, and multiple Bayos consistently make top 8? If the answer is no, then you’re going to have to find a new game. The Smash community is wonderfully welcoming, no one wants you to leave, and I know many of you don’t want to leave either. For so many Smashers this game and this franchise are a core piece of your identity. It sucks that the game has changed in a way you don’t like. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of the world we live in. Adapt, change your expectations, or find a different game to play.

This is a point I almost never see brought up, I think in large part due to just how fundamentally entrenched most Smashers are in their scene. I watched the same thing happen with so many Hearthstone players. They hated the game and longed for another more competitive and balanced experience, but never even considered quitting to play Magic or Eternal. There are no other games like Smash 4, sure, but the platform fighter genre is growing every day. Go try out Rivals and Brawlhalla, check out some more traditional fighting games, step away from the genre completely for a few months and allow your emotions to recover, then approach the situation with fresh eyes. You are not trapped by Smash 4. No one is keeping you here. You’re free to leave at any time. If you aren’t having fun, or you don’t want to learn to deal with Bayonetta, there are a hundred other great games out there where she doesn’t exist.

At this point, if you stay in Smash 4 and still complain about Bayo, you only have yourself to blame for your misery. If you can’t leave for whatever reason, you’re going to have to find a way to enjoy a game where she’s the best character. Armada had to make a similar choice earlier this year. Hungrybox finally surpassed him as the best player in Melee, and he had to realize finally that Puff was always going to be a part of his tournament life. If he wanted to have fun playing Melee tournaments, he’d have to find a way to have fun playing against Puff. Be like Armada and find the fun in your game. Or don’t, and find a new game to play. Either way, whining about Bayo only hurts your community, so you need to move past it one way or the other.

 

Whatever your decision, it’s entirely yours and deserves respect. Stay with Smash 4 and embrace your new witch overlord, or move on. Instead of arguing about Bayonetta or complaining about her, discuss how to embrace what Smash 4 has become, or talk with your friends about taking a break and playing a new game. Any other decision will just keep you trapped in a cycle of negativity, which seems real pointless when the whole point of video games is to have fun!

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