How Good do you have to be at Super Smash Brothers to Deserve Love?

Super Smash Brothers (SSB) is a series of video games released by Nintendo that revolves around various video game characters fighting each other. Playing this video game is a career to some people, where winning competitions can earn tens of thousands of dollars and an incalculable amount of love.

We aren’t really here to look at the best players of all time, because we already know they deserve love. What we are trying to figure out is if you deserve love or not, based on how good you are at this game. But, I guess, it is worth for one moment looking at the absolute champion of Aphrodite himself, Juan Manuel Debiedma (HungryBox).

There is an approximately 90 minute video that covers the entirety of HungryBox’s rise to number one. It’s a moving piece that looks at personal struggle and self improvement in the same way we view either athletes or heroes. Interestingly, Hungrybox is a controversial figure (villain) within SSB, so much so he became one of the few people in history to have a crab thrown at him after winning a tournament. While holding the crab up with anger, he challenged the person who threw it to come forward. He got emotional and shouted to the crowd about what it took for him to get there. The 90 minute video showcases much of that struggle and features a segment from him after winning his first major tournament.

“I’ve wanted this for so long…you know my, my dad just passed away, you know…it’s my biological dad and we…I know it’s personal stuff, but he told me, “You’ll never be the best, you’ll be good, but you’ll never be the best.”

One thing that is clear throughout Hungrybox’s history is that he has something to prove. We can look at this journey and see that he deserves love, but the question again remains, do you? And how do you earn it? The answer is you fight other players, to the death, and the one who emerges the winner is the one who deserves love.

You have a lot of characters to pick from and a lot of stages to look at and this is all very important. If you don’t know anything about this game, you should know not all characters are equal. Some characters are considered better than others and therefor more deserving of love. The list we see below makes it very clear Little Mac from Punch Out™ deserves no love.

We actually can immediately see that 14 characters are ranked S-tier, which means people who play them deserve physical and emotional affection routinely. The A-tier characters deserve a nice long hug once and a while. B-Tier characters deserve maybe like a firm handshake and a small, but generic message of encouragement. Little Mac, at C-tier, probably earns a Facebook Happy Birthday message once a year.

You are welcome to pick what character you like, but understand this will impact a great deal of the game and ultimately have far reaching consequences. And while we can with absolute and objective certainty rank these characters ability, by using strict measurable scientific methods, even bad characters can find victory through effort and mastery. Not Little Mac, but Luigi could possibly claw his way into your heart. Maybe he’d have to change a bit first, dress in purple, flip the L, and go by a different name, but he could do it.

At this point, you may be wondering why SSB is so important for this metric. You may not have even considered how your performance at SSB was so integral to a basic human need. Your heart may even be beating slightly faster, realizing with anxiety that you’ve been doing it all wrong this entire time. You may not even own the game, you may suck, and what then? The first thing to understand is the basic hierarchy of needs.

I’ll be honest, while we’re talking about SSB, that question we’re really asking is “What do you NEED TO DO/HAVE to DESERVE love”. In terms of the hierarchy needs we see the base typically representing immediate physiological needs; shelter, food, water, etc. We need to do what we must to survive until tomorrow. Once we know we’re going to survive until tomorrow, we have to know that we’re going to survive the week or longer. Is every day a struggle or are we building the infrastructure to be secure in our lives. Once we are approximately secure there we look for a sense of belonging and love.

For HungryBox and many people who play video games, these games become a community. It is a community that values the video games and the performance within these games. I’ve talked about speedrunning in many of my essays, but these are often communities built around beating a single game as quickly as possible. These are games built around community, belonging, and love and you can see that in nearly every video of achievement. Players gather together to raise money for charity several times a year, especially with Games Done Quick. And outside of just world record progress and these bigger events, folks can follow a lot of big profile gamers on Twitch. In some ways these gaming communities can start to feel larger than life, because they start to fill the roll of that hierarchy of need for belonging.

What can end up happening is that instead of having a more organic community development, one could develop a parasocial attachment to the heroes of these communities. The ones who are performing the best within them or the best personalities within them. We can take a look at SmallAnt, a twitch streamer known for doing various challenge runs on Minecraft, Mario Odyssey, and Pokemon. At time of writing, he gets approximately 5,000 viewers who he interacts with. The way interaction goes is typically through the chat feature of Twitch. This creates this interesting situation where those five thousand people feel connected to that streamer, feel like part of the community, in a one-sided relationship. SmallAnt talks to the people watching, but it’s very difficult to say more than a sentence to him and even harder to communicate directly with him in a real way. Individuals are drawn to these relationships, because they’re safe and easy and fulfill these needs, but not fully. You give love, you give appreciation, you participate and create community, but you typically don’t receive these things back directly. If you don’t show up to the next stream, the show will go on.

So, how does one fulfill those missing needs? How does one replicate what the Twitch Streamer is doing? What values do we associate with how to earn love? Well, make good content and people will love you. Be very good at a video game and people may love you. Be the best SSB player in the world and prove something to the memory of your biological father.

Twitch Steamers or the culture around it or even parasocial relationships are not by themselves bad. They can actually be really good tools for individuals who are isolated to feel belonging and even try out socialization in environments that feel safe. The problem comes when we don’t have the emotional intelligence to understand the mechanisms of what dictates love and how we achieve love.

The premise of “How good you have to be at Super Smash Brothers to deserve love” should be easily seen as absurd. We can all safely look at this statement as ridiculous. However, you may be a 10 year old boy who is punished when you cry and not be allowed to have emotions or express feelings without social consequences. It may be that within your friend group, you can’t give love, but you can get respect. You can earn that respect by being the best at this video game in your friend group. You could develop an association between HAVING/DOING SOMETHING and EARNING love.

We have some pretty hard data on the negative impact of social media on young girls.

In one study of teens in the U.S. and U.K., Facebook found that more than 40% of Instagram users who reported feeling “unattractive” said the feeling began on the app. About a quarter of the teens who reported feeling “not good enough” said the feeling started on Instagram. Many also said the app undermined their confidence in the strength of their friendships.

How Good do you have to be at Super Smash Brothers to Deserve Love?

  • Morphs into: How Attractive do you Need to be to Deserve Love?
  • Morphs into: How Much do you Need to Weigh to Deserve Love?
  • Morphs into: What do you Have to do to Deserve Love?

To skip to the end, the easy answer is you don’t need to earn love and any framework built around achieving love in this capacity is doomed to fail because it necessitates itself on a subscription fee. You can buy or earn love through your actions, but once you stop being able to act or afford this fee than you stop being able to be loved.

And while this is the answer, it denies that our culture has integrated this subscription fee directly into our need to belong. If you’re more conventionally attractive you will have an easier time getting relationships, being desirable, or being successful at what you do. To say otherwise, denies an easily observable reality. Facebook, TikTok, Twitch, Youtube, Instagram, and so forth have algorithms that prioritize content with a cascading impact of popular channels getting more popular and new channels having harder times reaching an audience. We live in an extremely imperfect world where the mechanisms of capitalisms create problems to sell you solutions. Can you afford to live?

But in these problems, we may also find answers. Maybe it’s time to boot up that Nintendo System and start playing Super Smash Brothers.

Let’s look back on HungryBox and something he said about his struggles towards becoming the best:

It’s my personal belief that human beings are naturally meant to persevere, no matter what happens so long as we simply make the decision not to give up, it simply gets better if you believe it will…if you’re going through it, focus on the fact you’re choosing to overcome it. You’re pushing through and that’s more than anyone can ask of you.

Let’s answer the question I originally asked: You only need to want to play the game to deserve love. You do not need to be good. You don’t need to be the best. You don’t need to be the most attractive or be within a certain weight, or come without baggage, or more specifically do anything to earn that love. You can be Little Mac and play with your friends, lose or win, so long as you’re having fun losing.

A fighting game is intrinsically a social game, something that has very little meaning outside of playing with your friends or against other people. You are both working to improve yourselves, help each other improve, and try to ultimately win the match.

We are taught we need to be a certain way or do a certain thing to deserve love, but the sense of belonging and love we can achieve comes from building community. That comes from seeking out other people with similar interests and building on those interests. When you organically engage with other people who share your hobby, you don’t need to earn belonging or love, it comes with the focus of participating in what fascinates or moves you. So long as the focus isn’t earning validation, but genuinely enjoying what you do, everything else falls into place.

This won’t be perfect, the world isn’t perfect, and most people suck at communication in general. The main lesson here is simply to reexamine how we contextualize the lens in which we look at ourselves. It is important to ask yourself why you are seeking the things you are. If you’re trying to be a perfect Instagram Model or get famous on TikTok, what are trying to actually get out of these things? When you go to the gym to sculpt those abs is that because you want to be more desirable to future sexual partners? Is that just for sexual reasons or is it also to get emotional and physical intimacy? Are those things absolutely required to deserve someone else? Conversely, what level of physical perfection do you think is healthy for your partner to demand of you and what does that kind of requirement say about the relationship you want to maintain?

You can love creating content on Instagram, you can really enjoy working out at the gym, you can love sex and all of these can be communities in their own right. The question is if you’re engaging in those activities because you love to do them or because you think you’ll get something out of them. And while I don’t have the truths of the world by any means and the subject is way more complicated than just what I’m saying in a few thousand words — what I want you to leave with is just that.

Most of this essay has been more around community building and belonging, but it’s also how we view and pursue relationships. In society we’re told if a person doesn’t live up to an ideal we see sold to us, they aren’t desirable. If they aren’t desirable than they don’t deserve any intimacy or further that they’re worthless. And this is a lot of bullshit. We’re sold lies by an overrepresentation of arbitrary perfection — for both mental and physical health and beauty. And the thing is we can look around and see most people are just people and that’s fine, but we don’t get that message. Be productive, be beautiful, contribute to the machine or be useless is the message.

The people who are important to you, the people you want to spend time with, what you appreciate about others, and they about you is more naturally the organic community and social belonging and intimacy we are used to. Which doesn’t hit home for folks struggling, like I have much of life, but reassessing what you want and where those feelings come from and developing emotional intelligence around them can really help reshape a lot of toxic perception. We can’t do much about the world, but if we try than we do a little about that nagging voice in our head that says bad things.

No matter what happens so long as we simply make the decision not to give up, it simply gets better if you believe it will…if you’re going through it, focus on the fact you’re choosing to overcome it. You’re pushing through and that’s more than anyone can ask of you.

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Faye Seidler

Faye Seidler

I write essays on literature, pop culture, and video games. I mostly deconstruct and do comparative analysis on many topics in both a serious and goofy way.