Hidden Boss (n.) – A player who is strong within their region but lacks national exposure
Out of the tens of thousands of players in any competitive fighting game, only a handful will ever find the limelight. For Super Smash Bros Melee, this is amplified because of the nature of the game. There is no official online play, and the massive amount of tournaments that exist are miles apart. Being an established competitor — even within a player’s region — takes a lot of dedication. Aside from putting in the extensive hours of practice at home to have the skills to compete in the first place, the time and money to travel eventually becomes necessary. In regions like Southern California, it’s possible for players to be traveling more than 100 miles just to attend tournaments with the best players in the area. The experience is multiplied when it comes to regional and national tournaments.
These players fly under the radar at times, which leads to surprising results, as players might lose to someone whose gamer tag they’ve never even heard. Those players are appropriately referred to as “Hidden Bosses.” There’s a large amount of players who could qualify, but we will today be looking at three players from a region who not only lack national exposure, but also have low activity.
Southern California is notorious for having not only one of the largest Melee communities in existence, but also for being one of the strongest regions. As of the most recent Power Rankings for the region, 15 out of the top 25 are also ranked in the Melee It On Me Top 100 list. That does not include recently inactive top 100 players such as Fly Amanita, Fiction and Matt.
With so many players competing at the top level, their skill trickles down to the massive amounts of lower-tiered players beneath them. But with that, these players don’t often catch stream time during prime viewership due to the sheer amount of great players ahead of them. In all honesty, I could go to most SoCal local tournaments, pick out a player who places well and they’d probably fit the description of a hidden boss: Diya, Yeti, Motoko. Beyond that, SoCal is also home to a lot of old school players who were incredible during their active days but put a hold on competitive play for their own personal regions: Lovage, KFC, Hyprid. There’s even been players like Larry Lurr, who left Melee to focus on Smash 4. But let’s dive into these three hidden bosses.
While not currently ranked in his hometown of Claremont, Sheridan “Sherigami” Babcock is widely considered the city’s second best player right behind Fly Amanita. Sheridan is one of SoCal’s more old school players, having been playing the game since 2008.
“When most people think of me, they think I’m someone who can sometimes get top five at a Mayhem Tournament,” he said. “Most of my reputation comes from my consistency. Typically, I do not lose to ranked players.”
Sherigami’s reputation does not extend much further from California. Currently he is ranked 21st on the SoCal Melee Power Rankings and currently plays with the University of Irvine. For those unaware, Irvine is home to a rather large amount of players such as Squid, KIra, CDK, Reno and Captain Faceroll. Despite all of that, and having played the game for more than seven years, Sherigami had never been to an out-of-state tournament.
“I’m too lazy to travel, plus there’s no real reason for me to leave SoCal,” he said. “I have some of the world’s best players just down the street. There’s always competition.”
This year’s EVO Championship Series was his first ever time competing out of state, making it out of his Round 1 pools in winners side. He went on to lose to Cactuar in winners side of Round 2, beating Dr. Z in losers before being eliminated by LK from Puerto Rico. Despite his early loss, Sherigami said he did not feel discouraged. His loss reminded him that he needed to put in more time into his training regime and that raw skill and talent will only take him so far.
This name might be a blast from the past for more of Melee’s older crowd. Jason “Little England” Eaglin has been a competitive Melee player since 2007 after his friend showed him an MTV Episode of True Life featuring the player KillaOR. Soon it led him to playing at his first tournament in Pomona, California. He entered under his own name rather than his Smashboards username, placing in the top eight and surprising his opponents. Jason’s activity within Melee was sporadic throughout the years due to high school and college. But that allowed him to play with a wider variety of players in his time with wins over Kage, CDK, Eddy Mexico, Kels, Swiftbass and ROFL.
Jason attended Cal Poly Pomona before he moved on to Purdue University and then Carnegie Mellon. He claims the peak of his play was during his time at Purdue, but while studying at Carnegie Mellon he traveled to an Indiana tournament with infamous Luigi player Abate and beat Kels, rank 50th player in the world, yet again.
“When I would play Melee, I would reach epiphanies that would give me a deeper understanding of the game and I would never lose them,” he said. “So overall, my skill was always there and the thing that was the hardest was keeping up with my tech skill. I needed to make sure my hands could do what I wanted them to do.”
Little England now works as an intern for the social media app Yik Yak in Atlanta, Georgia. He still enters tournaments occasionally and is a proud member of multiple Smash communities throughout America. For those who are interested in some of the insights of a player of this caliber, he has written an extensive piece on improvement titled 10,000 Words of Power.
Not all heroes wear capes and not all Melee players stay true to the game, as mentioned earlier, Larry Lurr, despite being one of SoCal’s finest Melee players back when he played under the tag DEHF (Does Everybody Hate Falco?), spent time playing Brawl and ultimately switched to Smash 4. In the case of Jake “Venom” Hefner, he switched to the modified version of Brawl, titled Project M.
Venom was a veteran Melee player who played competitively since 2010. He originally started playing Brawl casually until trying Melee, where he was quickly obliterated by his friends Ganondorf. He took to the Internet, where he discovered Smashboards and found local players to train with, including Sherigami and Little England. He picked up Captain Falcon as well as Falco, sticking to mostly Falco for his tournament sets. His training paid off quickly, as he took down SoCal ranked player Peligro at his very first tournament. His competitive time in Melee was cut short, however, once he discovered Project M. From his start he has always played Captain Falcon, despite taking a few breaks over his career.
Project M now runs on version 3.6 and will continue to for the foreseeable future. Venom made his first tournament appearance in 3.6 at Paragon LA, where he unhappily placed 25th. He set out to train harder and more consistently and jumped being ranked 11th in SoCal to ranked third and second at his peak. During that time, Venom managed to place second at Super Nova, one of the biggest Project M nationals of all time, defeating Zhime, DVD, Machiavelli, Malachi and also SoCal’s rank 1 player, Sosa, who had a nearly perfect career record against Venom.
Venom is still incredibly active in the SoCal Project M scene, but he said he wishes to make more of a resurgence in Melee. A few months back he played in the SoCal local “Mayhem,” his first serious Melee tournament in years. Despite being out of the game for quite some time, he placed 17th.
With the more recent development into the esports norm, players like Sherigami, Venom and Little England will always fly under the radar much more often than before. While those at home may not get to experience these hidden legends, their mere existence is what makes games like Melee and other fighting games thrive. At the end of the day, fighting games do not exist solely for the most elite of players. From players who hardly understand the concept of neutral, to complete mastery of the punish game, the ladder of skill is nearly infinite. The constant competition these players create and take a part are fuel to the competitive fire that is Melee. Despite more money being funneled into tournaments, it’s nearly impossible for these players to ever profit from their passion. It’s truly something to respect and honor for these players to contribute and be part of the community that continues to push the games to limits further than anyone ever expected.
That’s it for the the SoCal edition of Hidden Bosses. If you’d like to see your region or favorite hidden boss featured, reach out to CC on Twitter @itsamecc.