Smash Bros. is a game that has broken down barriers for years. At any given Smash tournament, it’s not uncommon to see people of all ages, races, and backgrounds competing together. As Chillin once said at the end of The Smash Brothers documentary, “it brings people together that otherwise would not have been brought together.”
But the final part of his thought, “except girls,” is becoming less and less true.
While gender representation is far from equal in competitive Smash, there have been more and more females have been stepping out into the scene. This weekend was host to the first fully female crew battle, known as Smash Sisters. Organized by Emily “EmilyWaves” Sun and Lil “Milktea” Chen, it was the largest gathering of female Smash players in history - but after the strong reception it recieved from women and men in the community, it may not stay that way for long.
The idea for this event started with one that EmilyWaves is involved in running: Nebulous. Hosted in New York, she had hosted two ladies-only side events, with modest results. “We were getting about five entrants for each one,” she said.
When Genesis was announced, a few people had tossed around the idea of ladies crew battles on Twitter, and nothing much really came of it. Earlier in January, the idea was floated again in the Genesis 3 Facebook group - but this time, to massive response. “It just kind of blew up from there,” said EmilyWaves. Ladies from across the country started asking about how to get involved with the event.
However, despite EmilyWave’s experience in organizing tournaments, there was one thing that she didn’t know how to do - organize over social media. Milktea helped Emily to get her bearings, but it took a little bit of time. “She asked me, ‘Lil, what does DM stand for?’ said Milktea.
Milktea quickly took over the social media management of the event, creating graphics and spreading the word with the hashtag #SmashSisters. When everything was all said and done, the event had gotten so large that it needed to be split in two - one casual event on Friday night, and one competitive event Saturday afternoon.
It’s been well-documented for many years that gaming is not always an easy community for women to be involved in. Gaming has long been a male-dominated space, and while strides are being made over time it’s not hard to understand why attending big gaming competitions as a woman might leave some with reservations. To the general esports public, an all-women event may not seem like a huge deal - but to those involved, it was an incredibly exciting prospect. "It's also inspired new women," said Milktea. "I recieved a tweet from a guy saying, 'hey, my lady roommate is training really hard because of these crew battles,' which is great. That's the whole point of this."
Smash Sisters brought together a huge group of women who are excited to play and talk games - and even for someone such as Milktea, who has been around the Smash scene for over a decade, it was a first. “I’ve never sat down with a group of girls and talked Smash strategy. Never in my life. I’ve been in Smash for so many years, and I’ve never experienced this feeling before. So events like this also give women a chance to taste what the spotlight is, and what that competitive edge is like.”
But it’s not just the women who are happy about this event - several others from around the Smash community reached out to lend a helping hand. “First, Sheridan (one of the head TOs) messaged me and said ‘oh, this is cool, let me know what you guys need,’” said Emily. Big Blue eSports’ Shi, who helped record the event locally, also made a point to do whatever he could to make the event run smoothly. “I didn’t message Shi - he actually messaged me. He told me, ‘don’t worry about it - you don’t need to promote my company or get me back.’ He just wanted to help out.”
Over 50 women showed up to compete in today's event. The East Coast crew narrowly took out NorCal to win the title of Smash Sisters champions, but at the end of the day, results were secondary to the main goal: bringing women together as Smashers. Holly Hua, who competed in the event, couldn't have been happier with the result. "It was great to see the community and camaraderie between the women who came together because they love a game," she said.
Emily hopes that it inspires more women's events in the future. "One of the things we didn't want to do is let it become a spectacle. We don't want it to be the kind of thing where people are just looking in ... Overall, I'd be thrilled if I heard another tournament was doing this [in the future.]"
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