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Extensive Q&A with Nairo (Part II): Smash circuit, evolution of trash talk and popping off

Slingshot’s Colin Nimer had the chance to talk with Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada for an extensive, two-part interview. Nairo is one of the top Smash 4 players in the world and is coming off a win at Super Smash Con.

In Part II of the interview, they talk about if a circuit system would work in Smash, the evolution of trash talk and the art of the pop off. To read Part I, click here.

CN: Moving away from Smash and looking at the Fighting Game Community itself, you were picked up by NRG. What’s interesting about that is there was a podcast done with Andrew Miller, one of NRG’s cofounders, and he talked about why NRG picked up a smash player instead of a Street Fighter player. Some people assumed that with the Capcom Circuit a Street Fighter player would be picked up, but Andrew explained that it’s actually easier to make money back on the Smash player than the Street Fighter player, even with the circuit involved. That speaks to me as to how Smash has survived without having that developer assistance from Nintendo. Nintendo doesn’t have a circuit. It doesn’t do a whole lot to support the competitive scene. Where I want to go with that is: in the future, how do you think a Smash circuit would help the scene, or do we even need a Smash circuit?

NQ: I would say perhaps over time we might need one, but at the rate we are right now is really good. I’m happy for that. We don’t have to rely on any support, but obviously the support would be amazing. I think a circuit would be freaking amazing. It would be so different from what anybody in the Smash community has ever done. We think that EVO is a big thing, but if a Smash circuit happened with Nintendo supporting it that would be the craziest thing that would ever happen. Maybe the prizes would be really big. Smash has some big prizes, but not like Street Fighter with Capcom Cup, or like League of Legends or Dota 2. Overall it would just help Nintendo and Smash, so that would be really smart for them to do. Who knows, maybe down the line they will. People have been talking about it lately with rumors or something, we’ll see. I have no idea. But it would be new eyes for Nintendo, it would help a lot of the players that are a part of it, as well. Since it would be Nintendo it would be a huge event automatically. So any player there, like me, ZeRo, whoever gets in there, it would help them grow through Twitch, YouTube, Twitter. New eyes would be on those players and it would help Nintendo grow and those players grow as well. I can see the positives.

CN: Right, it’s just a shame we can’t get the other side to see it like that. Part of me thinks that Nintendo looks at a circuit and thinks it’s their money that they would have to put out, and they’ve been struggling, especially with Wii U sales. And they’ve always had this weird thing against competitive Smash. But that’s me, and that’s them.

NQ: Maybe down the line they’ll change their opinion, hopefully for both Smash 4 and Melee. Of course Melee has to get love. Melee is big as well, so it would be pretty good for them to get the shine that they deserve.

CN: Let’s go to another esports topic: trash talk. There’s been some conversations rotating through various communities about it. There’s one side that embraces that culture, saying it’s fun, it adds to the story, it creates these moments like the Leffen and Chillindude in the Salty Suite. That’s something the Smash community has embraced, but some of the other communities like League of Legends have this back and forth, and accusations of “toxicity” get mixed in. I want your perspective as a Smash player as to what trash talking contributes to not only Smash, but to esports.

NQ: Yeah, I can speak for the Smash 4 community. There’s a lot of nice people in the community, so you don’t get to see much trash talk. There are some players who do trash talk, but it’s not like actual trash talk. You can basically say that trash talk builds hype or drama-hype for events. Like say… ANTi and some other player like Void… actually Void is too nice.

CN: (Laughs) How about ANTI and Ally? ‘Cause they actually had a brief twitter feud before EVO and ANTi had said “I’m going to make your life hell at EVO.” Then day one they shake hands and they are chill.

NQ: Yeah, like stuff like that. It makes people hype for the upcoming big event and then something happens like that and people are like “aw, that’s lame.” It creates hype, especially if they are fated to fight in the bracket as well, and people are like “oh snap, they’re playing after all that trash talk, this is going to be good,” and they’re going to be excited to see the camera reaction after the set is over. “Are they gonna shake hands? Or is it going to be worse?” So yeah, it builds hype, but we don’t have enough of that. It’s a good thing that all of the people are nice, but it’s also like a bad thing because of bland storylines. Luckily for me and ZeRo it was great for the storyline to end his streak because of how big it was even though it wasn’t like me being a bad guy.

CN: Yeah, ZeRo was like the bad guy for winning everything back then.

NQ: Yeah, it was really an odd case, but is still worked out, but besides that there hasn’t been any storyline. It’s just been people winning left and right. Like in Brawl, there was East Coast vs West Coast a lot, and now there’s nothing of that. But Brawl, anytime East Coast vs West Coast were to happen, there would be like trash talk all over the place and it would build hype for that set. In the end nobody really hated each other like that, but sometimes they would take it to the next level. That has not happened in Smash 4. I guess there’s a lot of baby faces, maybe?

CN: That’s one way of putting it.

NQ: Like now there’s just Leffen, and then it all goes downhill (laughs).

CN: He’s like the demagogue of trash talk in Smash. Everything gets more interesting when Leffen speaks up, it’s really entertaining. I agree with most of that. So what about the pop-offs in Smash? There’s a lot of emotions that go into competing, but I don’t see other people in esports explode out of their seats and do something crazy. The GRSmash YouTube channel has a couple of videos about the top 10 pop offs and stuff like that. I want you to explain to me like I know nothing about the Smash competitive scene and I’m seeing someone just pop off for the first time. What possesses them to do that?

NQ: I think it’s less of popping off and more about being excited and showing it. It’s a weird case: I’ve popped off before but not like the other cases you’ll see in those videos. I can probably at worst like slightly get off my seat and say “yes!” or something, like when I beat ZeRo. But not like, running around the whole venue or going super saiyan or crazy. Pop offs are serious, like “yeah, I just beat you,” and it’s very tense. But these pop offs (in Smash 4) are very cheerful. Say for example like Marvel vs Capcom or the FGC in general has like some crazy pop offs compared to Smash. Like the player who lost will have a reaction to those pop offs like, “Oh calm down.” But in Smash a person will pop off, and that’s it. They’re just really happy, and that’s it.

CN: Yeah I see that, but sometimes we do get some crazy emotional ones, like Hungrybox at EVO when he finally took it. He got up out of his seat, put his hands on his head like “what the hell is going on?” Like he didn’t believe it himself. To me, that’s just a reflection of how big these moments are to these people. They’re literally pursuing their dreams when they do that, and sometimes it’s incredulous to realize it’s happening. It’s something we don’t see in some other esports communities.

NQ: In Smash it’s because they’re excited to beat that other player. They were probably the underdog and people were like “Oh yeah, it’s a free win for the other player,” and then like that other player gets upset. Or if that other person was like 99 percent to win, but that one percent wins, of course they’ll be excited and jump for joy. For other pop offs it’s like “yeah, take that!” You know, esports words.

CN: (Laughs) Esports words?

NQ: All that stuff. And there will be like beef after that too. They’ll be like “I don’t know why they’re popping off,” like they’ll just go off and it will be another story line very similar to trash talking. But that’s so different when comparing Smash to the FGC or other pop offs. It’s a more serious tones for other games, but for this one there’s nothing too serious. They won’t go onto Twitter and be like “Yeah I beat you, I knew I was going to, you suck,” they don’t say any of that, at least not this moment. That doesn’t really happen. They’ll be like “oh Pikachu top five,” or “Mario top five” or something like that. That’s the best it will get right now.

CN: It’s just cool to see the players get emotional like that. I think they feed off the crowd’s energy, and I think that’s something which will stay unique to the FGC. So my final question is about content creation. You stand out compared to others within the scene. Some like ZeRo and ESAM foster pretty successful YouTube channels, but Twitch streaming for Smash, outside of the big events, we don’t see a huge stream following. Then there’s you, who easily rakes in that 1,000 viewers whenever you stream. Why do you think some of those players went over to YouTube while you did Twitch, and what drew you to Twitch over YouTube?

NQ: What drew me to Twitch was I basically grew up with Twitch. I always tuned into streams. I enjoyed watching streams. I was like 14 or 15 at these times. I wasn’t a very outgoing person at those times. I just kept everything to myself and I didn’t really talk to people, especially people I don’t know at all. So the thoughts on me streaming — it wasn’t even a thought! But when Smash 4 came out, I thought that some people were fans of me so maybe I could try out streaming this time, since Smash 4 was getting big. As time went by, my stream just kept growing and growing. I was going to every big event, I was doing well, I had new eyes on me, and over time is just grew. The one thing I enjoy about Twitch over YouTube is that you get to interact. Before I didn’t really want to do that, but now I do. I enjoy looking at the chat, sharing some laughs, having good discussion; it can be about anything, it doesn’t have to be about Smash. Like maybe Pokemon or Final Fantasy and the chat is really cool to talk with. Obviously there will be some random trolls, but for the numbers I get, there are very few. I’m happy that anybody can type in my chat and feel welcome. A lot of Twitch streams, especially tournament streams, can be really crazy, so. I guess a lot of people that come into my stream and feel really welcome and know that maybe one person every stream or every other stream will come in like “oh, Melee’s better,” or just come in to say pointless things unrelated to the stream. I enjoy Twitch, and over time I became a partner with Twitch, and now I want to show them that they picked the right person to partner with. That was around February of last year, I think, when the big events were also starting too, so that was really good timing. CEO and Apex were coming up, I was winning every KTAR around that time, so it was all good timing for everything. Now I got my own community and they’re amazing, so shout outs to them! Now these days I’m starting to learn more new things, like some people are like “you should do YouTube as well,” so I’m slowly doing Youtube as well. I’m uploading multiple videos every week, so now I’m doing both, which is good. Like ZeRo, he streams, but like once in a blue moon. He’s mainly a YouTube person. ESAM has both but he rarely streams and he’ll only make a video when something happens or if there’s like a topic. I don’t know if he has a schedule, like I do. Some of my videos are highlights for my stream, so if people don’t know that I stream can find out and can join the community and have a good time as well.

CN: That’s one thing you’ve done very well, building that interactive fanbase. I think that’s one of the key things to becoming a popular Smash player on top of being successful. I’m excited to see you pick up on the YouTube stuff as well. So Nairo, thanks for sitting down with me to do this. I’d just like to give you the floor and let you do any shoutouts to the community, sponsors, anything like that, and then we’ll wrap this up.

NQ: Well first, a quick shoutout to Team Liquid. They were my past team. Thank you guys for picking me last year. It was really good, so thank you for supporting me. Shout outs to my Twitch community, my Naifus, my Naifu Nation is what I call them. They’re awesome, they support me regardless of whether I win or lose. They’re awesome to talk to. I like seeing many of them at tournaments and having them come up to me and say “Oh thank you for the stream. They help me out at times.” Hearing stuff like that is really nice. Of course, last shout out to my current team NRG for picking me up. They believe I will do big things for them, and I will definitely do that.

Cover photo: Major League Gaming/@OZenrique7