Have you heard the chants "Scrub that dish!" or have seen people wear flags on their backs like Axe does? Well, those people are from the proud state of Arizona.
I come from SoCal, arguably the strongest region in the world, but I don't see myself or many other SoCal natives showing as much pride as AZ does. When I watch tournaments, I find myself cheering for pros of other regions like Axe, ChuDat, Leffen and more. Even the SoCal Gods, Mang0 and Mew2King, would often represent their status as gods than their regions.
I eee many AZ group pictures, but not too many of other regions
Recently, Arizona has held two tournaments that have had over 100 competitors, Smash the Target! and MVG's Endgame. With the sudden appearance of MVG, Arizona looks to grow with the upcoming tournament, Sandstorm, in April. In addition to those, MVG's regionals, in Phoenix and Tuscon, Smash Pad and Maker House will be holding monthlies and weeklies respectively, looking to expand throughout the state. Check out what other tournaments happen on Arizona Melee Community's Facebook page.
I was able to talk to Arizona Melee stars Andrew "Tai" Vo, Robert "Wobbles" Wright, and Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson about their loyalty and pride of their homestate:
How do you think AZ ranks with other regions?
Tai: AZ is certainly one of the stronger regions, all things considered. AZ might not be in the very top tier, but it's definitely up there in the first or second tier. Between Axe, Forward, Wobbles, and Taj, our state has accomplished a lot over the course of MANY years. All four of those players are/were in the tier immediately under the gods (of the time periods), during their primes. Behind those guys, there are still many talented players like MEDZ, GG7, Vectorman, Silly Kyle, Light (though he lives in NM now), a few others, and I guess myself. So overall, AZ is a pretty strong region. Something interesting about AZ, however, is that it's always been extremely top-heavy. The four AZ legends (Axe, Forward, Taj, Wobbles) are/were really outstanding players. Period. I feel like AZ historically has had really defined skill gaps between tiers of players, though. There was a really noticeable gap between those guys and the next in line. And then a noticeable gap between the next in line and the tier below them. In other words, while AZ has always been a threat at the top level, the skill distribution wasn't as good below those four people.That being said, AZ has recently hit a major growth spurt, so we're expecting really great things across the board in 2015 for our state. Forward has been playing more actively and seriously trying to get better in recent times, which is a huge win. Players like MEDZ and I personally have been training a lot and making big strides to close the gap between us and the AZ legends. Tagless Kyle is also another notable player that moved here from Louisiana (my home state, actually!), helping to fill in the skill gaps, and contributing to the level of competition overall. A lot of newer players have been starting to find their stride and stepping their game up, and the even-newer players still seem to have a decent amount of drive and dedication that I didn't really see before, and it makes me really happy to see. I'm really excited to see what AZ players become the new hotness and join the ranks of the names I've already mentioned. Along with all this growth, MVG is doing a lot of things in AZ to help foster the scene. In fact, Mew2king (and ZeRo) are supposed to be moving here in about a month into the MVG apartment, meaning we're about to acquire more world-class talent.
What separates AZ smashers from other regions?
Wobbles: When you’re a top player it’s easy to feel welcomed in other states and regions because people have a strong incentive to play you. If you aren’t very good, that’s not necessarily the case; players don’t have this instant incentive to play you, pick you up if you’re twenty minutes out of the way, whatever the case may be. My experience when I first got to Arizona was that people basically didn’t care about my skill level. They were willing to drive and pick me up from my college campus to hang out with me and make me feel welcome. The same became true of other out-of-staters and newcomers to our scene; if they wanted to be a part of it, the AZ crew welcomed them. For me, this is the biggest standout factor in our community. Nobody gets excluded for being new, or bad, or anything like that. If you want to show up and play and you bring a positive personality, you are welcome there. Somebody will drive out of the way to pick you up and take you home.
Tai: AZ has an extremely friendly and supportive scene. We're not very elitist, we love our inside jokes (S that D, Walgreens Drake, etc.), and there's a really strong sense of community among a lot of the players. We're also really.... unabashed when it comes to making noise for our own players. With that atmosphere, though, I might even say that AZ's scene at large borders on being kind of casual, which can be good and bad. Whenever I go to other regions, I generally feel like there's a much stronger emphasis on the game, how to get good, people are a lot more competitive with each other, and there's a greater awareness of the metagame at large. That might be a little unfair to say, though, since my most-visited regions are probably the two strongest regions in the country overall (Socal and Norcal).However, I really do appreciate how friendly our scene is, and the problem is already fixing itself due to the recent resurgence of Melee talent in AZ that I mentioned earlier. I really want to see my state become stronger, but I don't want to see the sense of camaraderie go out the window, and I know it doesn't have to. Norcal is a great example of this. Norcal is easily my favorite region outside of my own. I think they really do a lot of things right. Whenever I go there, I can tell that their scene is extremely inclusive and tight-knit, but they're still extremely competitive and talented. That's what I want for AZ.
Axe: The atmosphere you get here in the AZ smash scene is just so different from any other region. We're all willing to help each other improve and encourage friendly competition. The tournaments and smashfests here are just so different from others. Everyone's so much more willing to help each other improve. However, everyone still wants to win. This creates healthy rivalries in the AZ smash scene and ties us together in unique ways that most other scenes don't have.
What aspect makes you so proud to represent AZ?
Wobbles: See my answer from the question above. I think one of the coolest things about gaming competitively is that--in its current state--anybody can play with anybody. Particularly in Smash, where you may play one of the best in the world for your very first match. It’s a way for people to share skills and experiences. Because my newfound friends in AZ were so accepting of me, I instantly made friends through this interest, even though most of them were much better than me at the time. The acceptance and welcoming in that community was huge, and I like representing that.
Tai: While I definitely enjoy representing AZ, I need to throw out a disclaimer. It's more about hype and friendship than about playstyle and in-game actions. I want to be the best player I can be. Period. I've learned a lot from AZ players like Forward, Wobbles, Taj, Axe, and I do definitely want to represent them and make them proud. I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am now without those guys. My region has definitely molded who I am as a person and a player. However, it's very important, in my opinion, not to get HUNG UP ON regional loyalty. Rather you should just be a student of the game (shoutouts to The Moon for using that phrase). Learn from everything and everyone. Not just those from your region or those whose playstyles you want to emulate. There's so many ways to approach improvement in Melee, and there is so much depth in this game, that frankly, I think it's small-minded and even insulting to the game (I might be being a little dramatic) to limit yourself to a smaller subset of the game for no reason. To be honest, when it comes to ideas and game theory, the most influential person (BY A LARGE, UNCONTESTABLE MARGIN) in my improvement in the past couple of years is Clowsui, an old school Brawl player from Ohio/NC. He's been my go-to guy to bounce ideas off of and has helped shape my perspective on the game to really strongly emphasize fundamentals and macrosituational play. Behind that, PPMD and Umbreon have also been invaluable in my Melee quest in the last three years or so. Point is, never pass up an opportunity to learn. I like representing Arizona for a few reasons. One reason is that the Axe, Forward, Taj, and Wobbles have done a lot, and I really enjoy the struggle of trying to bump the number from four AZ legends to five. I've got really big shoes to fill, and that's not just because Taj has gigantic feet. On top of that, though, the top players in the Phoenix area (Axe, Forward, MEDZ, myself) are all pretty driven right now, and we're pretty supportive of each other. I want to see Axe, Forward, and MEDZ do well, and I know that if I improve, they'll improve, and vice-versa, so we've been doing a good job of pushing each other. I certainly want to see the rest of the AZ scene do well, also, but right now, there's that specific dynamic between us because we're the main representatives of our region, plus we're in relatively close competition with each other, so we push each other harder than the rest. I guess the other reason is frankly... it's really fun. Does my reasoning need to be more sophisticated than that? The AZ scene has my back. They want me to do well, and they're my friends. It's really fun to get excited about the same thing with your friends. I know a lot of people find our cheering and our inside jokes to be obnoxious, so I'd almost say that our hype is like a giant inside joke. Inside jokes serve the people inside, and it doesn't really matter if those on the outside don't get it. In fact, it's oftentimes funnier that way. In the end, though, aren't fun and hype the reasons we're still playing Melee 13 years after its inception?
Axe: The entire AZ Melee scene is like a family. The support that I get from the scene whenever I travel is unbelievable. They always cheer me on and give me the encouragement I need to improve. Not only that, but I've meet all of my best friends through the AZ Melee scene. Everyone here is just so cool and friendly. I have a lot of pride with how closely bonded our state as a whole is, and I'm happy to call a lot of the players here not only my training partners, but also my friends. That's why I love this state so much.
Be sure to follow all of them on Twitter!
Tai - @TeeAyEye
Wobbles - @EskimauxRob
Axe - @Mortality_Axe
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Follow me on Twitter @Mor_HepatitisB