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ZeRo: “The issue with Evo is that we feel as a community that they don’t care about us as other titles.”

Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios is the most famous name in Smash 4, and he’s been a topic of conversation even more than usual in recent months.

ZeRo, the king of Smash 4, is best known for his winning streak of more than 50 tournaments. But 2016 has been a struggle at times for ZeRo, who has fought through health issues that kept him out for a couple months. His return was not met with the same dominance, as he failed to make the top eight at CEO.

But he’s back at EVO, hoping to recapture the dominance he managed for so long. Slingshot’s Colin Nimer caught up with ZeRo to talk about his return, the Smash 4 meta and the community’s angst with EVO.

Colin Nimer: So I am here with the man, the myth, the legend, Gonzalo Barrios “ZeRo,” how are you doing?

Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios: (Laughs) I’m doing good, I’m doing good. I feel good about this tournament, I took a nap after my pool, I had a banana..

CN: (Laughs)

GB: Reminiscent of Diddy Kong.

CN: Take a few needles for acupuncture for your Sheik?

GB: (Smiles) Yeah, why not?

CN: You said you’re feeling really good about Evo. That’s the thing with Smash 4 right now: most eyes have been on you. It’s like you’ve been the best of all time, but when are you going to win your next tournament? What do you think it would mean to the Evo community if you walked away with the championship?

GB: I think the storyline is at at the point where it’s like… alright: ZeRo lost a few times, it’s looking rough, he’s in the slumps, it’s looking rough for the kid. But if I win… oh damn, the underdog, the defending champion actually came back with a struggle and won. I feel like a lot of people actually want me to win. If you ask people if they think I will win, they’ll say “not necessarily,” but if you ask them if they want to see me win they’re like “Actually, yeah. I’m not used to seeing ZeRo lose, so I want him to win.” So I think the storyline is at a point where people want to see me win, finally.

CN: Here’s hoping people will flood the stage to cheer you and not the guy who just beat you. With regards to the Smash 4 meta, when you played Dabuz at What The Fox 2 you busted out Cloud against him and barely lost against him. Are you thinking about other characters you can expand to after, as the joke goes, Sakurai keeps nerfing all the characters you play? I guess Cloud is next on the hitlist.

GB: (Laughs) Well, I’m actually really good with a lot of characters in Smash 4, I’m actually really good at the Iron Man format. I played against ANTi, otherwise known as the counter pick guy in the scene. I actually managed to beat him in an Iron Man set featuring all of the characters. Maybe that wasn’t the most serious: I didn’t get a trophy from that. I am willing to say that I am capable with several different characters, and I can keep up with random different characters. I still think ANTi is the best with the counter picks as a whole, but I still think I’m capable with more characters. The thing is that most of the time when people go with another character I’m like “oh I should go with the safe option,” so now I’m more willing to take more risks.

CN: For my last question, there was a lot of noise made on Twitter recently when it came to Evo’s scheduling of Smash 4. You guys aren’t going to be at the Mandalay Bay Center. The finals are Saturday at Noon in the Las Vegas Convention Center at noon, and the semifinals are going to be taking place in the morning, which is like “who is going to be there to see that?” What are your thoughts on the fact that the Evo people have pushed Smash 4 despite the fact it’s one of the biggest entries at the event? What are your thoughts with how Evo doesn’t pay that respect to Smash 4, and how can the community start getting Evo to change that for next year?

GB: Last year it was like “Oh it’s Smash 4’s first year, so give it another and next year it will be better.” Pretty much, a big amount of the issues we had from last year weren’t fixed this year. The only issues being fixed are that they’re responding to the tournament organizers who run Smash 4. That’s good. They also responded to the space issues: there are no space issues, there’s plenty of AC.

The issue with Evo is that we feel as a community that they don’t care about us as other titles.

Now I can’t go out on a limb and say what Evo does and doesn’t care about. We only have what they are doing with the games. We know for a fact that Melee has less money involved than Smash 4, so it’s not about a topic of money. It’s a topic of… maybe the culture or whatever values Evo has. The things we can do are: yes, we can complain, but complaining will only make a community look whiney in that sense. But at the same time if we don’t voice our opinion, you know, we were already ignored for a lot of issues for one year. We told Evo we don’t want to be a two-day tournament, we want to have a better set-time schedule, we want to have certain things a certain way, we want to have rules a certain way: yeah, we complained, and a majority of the things we complained about were fixed but the things we didn’t complain about enough weren’t fixed. So in some ways, yeah, you don’t want to complain, but complaining works!

I don’t want to go out and encourage people to complain, but I can definitely say that encouraging and voicing out your opinions in a respectable way, because if you go out on Twitter and say “oh wow, boo-hoo us, screw Evo,” that’s not going to help anyone. But if you go out and say “hey, I don’t think we deserve this, here’s why and why, and here’s what we need,” that conveys a much more mature point that I think will help out the scene a whole lot better.

Do keep in mind that all of those, including me, who were trying behind the scenes as a whole to make it better as a whole for everyone, it is complicated because FGC and Smash 4 are two different communities, they’re two different sets of people. The people who run the Smash community are not the ones who run Evo in any capacity. We have to work with them, and go through them. I hope that everyone can understand that in some ways Evo is doing us a favor, because this is the biggest fighting game tournament of all time, and they can just perfectly run another game. Even though we do drive a lot of the attendance to them, we don’t necessarily… they can run other games is what I am saying. So we do have to be thankful, but I also think that we deserve to be treated better.

CN: Any message you’d like to give to your fans?

GB: Thank you all for your support in general, and for being there to support me in general. I’m hoping I play super well this weekend and that you can all enjoy it.

Cover photo: Colin Nimer