Gamecube controller
Gamecube controller

The Word: Control

I’m a human being with a heart and two working thumbs, so I’ve been playing Smash since I was six or so.
By Ben G. Cort

I have a foolproof method for making new friends. One flaw: it costs 206 bucks by today’s eBay prices. But I promise it works. Here’s some evidence:

Second semester sophomore year, our suite got a new roommate. I’ll make a token effort at anonymity and call him Charlie. He seemed like a good enough guy, but it’s hard to find your place among nine friends who’ve lived together since freshman year: Our relationship didn’t really extend past the requisite amount of small talk in the bathroom.

When Charlie moved in, he brought with him a TV and a Wii U. These sat unused until spring break when I, alone in the suite, switched them on in a fit of boredom. The icon for Super Smash Bros. 4 blinked at me from the Wii menu. I hit play on that bad boy so quickly I may have dented the controller.

I’m a human being with a heart and two working thumbs, so I’ve been playing Smash since I was six or so. At first, I didn’t have a console of my own, but I had a bunch of friends with GameCubes whose houses I spent more time at than my own. I say “friends,” but in hindsight, I don’t think I particularly cared for most of them. What was really important to me was that sweet, sweet Super Smash Bros. Melee action.

When I was 13, I got a Wii for Christmas. I immediately started saving the $60 necessary for Super Smash Bros. Brawl. That’s one of the things I miss as an “adult” with a job—how the months spent scraping cash together to get that glitzy little thing you want made you enjoy it so much more. When I finally got it, I played through the campaign in record time, sneaking down after my bedtime to finish the game in the dark on a muted TV.

That spring break, picking up a controller and slipping into Smash for the first time in two years just felt right. There’s something about how your hands mold over the control, pointer fingers fluttering over the dodge bumpers. One by one my roommates came back, and one by one they caught the controller I tossed them and joined me on the couch.

Your first game is always tense. There’s a lot of “wow, it’s been a while,” “I was really only good at Melee,” and “huh, Smash? Yeah, I played a little, I guess.” These are all varying degrees of dishonesty. Everyone just wants to save face in case they get crushed. There’s nothing worse than talking shit and then getting it shoved back down your throat.

When Charlie got back, we sheepishly paused our game. I explained that I had been bored and had booted up his system—without asking.

Charlie smiled, shrugged, and asked to jump into the next game. And he crushed us. I’m talking three-stocking three other people on Final Destination. We all laughed, and he admitted that his friends at home were pretty competitive, so he had practiced a lot. So we booted up another. And then another. And then some more until it got late and we got tired, but the next night we were back at it. And then Charlie was our friend.

This year we found ourselves with another new roommate, but this time without a Wii U. When I met our new roommate, it was in passing. “Hey, I’ve got an important question,” I said before leaving.

“Yeah?” he replied, apprehensive.

“Do you have a Wii U? We lost ours and we’re going through Smash withdrawal.”

He smiled. He didn’t, but he said he was in the same Smash-wanting boat that we were. We swapped mains, funny stories, and favorite titles in the series. (Unpopular opinion: Smash 4 is just the most fun for casual play. You need to let Melee go.)

Of course, we’re not friends yet. As I said, we didn’t actually have any Smash, so the conversation ended there. We’ve had one other chat since, about whether the Patriots were the worst or the best team in the NFL. (They’re the best.) I’d love to talk more, it’s just hard to think of excuses to spend time with a complete stranger who has their own social life completely outside your own.

I hope that by now I’ve convinced you that my method works, and that it could work for us again. So hit me up if you’ve got a spare $206 lying around. Don’t worry—I’m pretty sure that donating to friendship counts as charity. Your generosity is bound to get you a tax deduction.

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