Generally, disrespect is not a good thing. In sports specifically, disrespecting an opponent has been known to start physical altercations. eSports, however, are a little different. Disrespect has thus become an art and a vital part of the competitive scene, as well as the most entertaining part of many matches.
The best game to explain this concept of disrespect with might be “Super Smash Bros.” If you are unfamiliar with the series, “Smash” is a platform fighter, similar to “Street Fighter” and “Mortal Kombat,” but with a larger focus on mobility and dynamic stages. “Smash” features characters from all facets of the video game community, including Nintendo characters like Mario and Link, and new additions from other franchises like Steve from “Minecraft” and Cloud from “Final Fantasy VII.” The “Smash” community is wide and diverse, yet it is brought together by disrespect.
Primarily, there are two different kinds of disrespect: taunts and styling. Each character has three unique taunts, a sort of unskippable action built in solely for show. Essentially, taunts provoke, annoy and mock your opponents. Alternatively, you can style on someone by beating them completely or KO’ing (knocking out) an opponent after they are already going to lose. These methods work to get into your opponent’s head and create some of the most entertaining matches, moments and memories.
The best example of styling on someone is the Wombo Combo. In this clip, one team completely destroys the other and then decides to style on the remaining player. In a two versus one, the two players lock the remaining opponent into an inescapable series of attacks, defeating the loner without taking a single point of damage. Instead of guaranteeing a win by playing defensively, they go all out and completely dominate their opponent. This has become one of the most popular video game-related clips of all time with over 18 million YouTube views, and it continues to be entertaining and hilarious as it approaches its 13th birthday.
The other way to disrespect your opponent is by killing them after they are already going to lose. In “Smash,” you can fall off the edge and lose a life; even worse, though, your opponent can jump off after you and send you to your demise even quicker. A prime example of this is between two of the top players in the world, Marss and Sparg0. Marss is able to get a disrespectful kill for the last stock in the first game and then proceeds to completely run over Sparg0 in the second game. This disrespect ultimately helped Marss win the set.
Nevertheless, disrespect is not always successful. Sometimes, the player gets what is coming to them. There is a phrase in the video game community known as “taunt to get bodied” — this usually entails one player taunting to disrespect their opponent and then immediately getting KO’d as a result.
In a last-life situation between Electrode and TIDAL, for example, TIDAL dominates Electrode and taunts right before a move that he expected would kill Electrode. Electrode manages to survive and ends up winning the game. In this regard, disrespect is a double-edged sword. Being able to disrespect your opponent may help you in future games, but if you’re not careful it can come back to bite you.
Respecting disrespect often feels like it truly brings the gaming community together. From announcer to player to fan, the successful disrespect of an opponent is fun for everyone, often even for the person being disrespected. The art of disrespect is about so much more than being mean: It’s about crushing your opponent to get into their head. It’s giving them a chance to bring it back. It’s a part of the show for everyone, and it’s exactly what makes the gaming community unique.
Daily Arts Writer Maxwell Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.