One of my earliest memories of Jason 'M2K' Zimmerman took place several years ago at an East Coast fighting game tournament. My knowledge of the Smash community was limited, at best. But I quickly learned that this one particular competitor had talents equivalent to what Daigo was to Street Fighter.
Smart. Methodical. Ambitious.
That weekend, M2K went on to win Melee and Brawl singles uncontested. Throughout his career, M2K has won over 70 tournaments where his unique, methodical approach earned him the name: The Robot.
M2K is still considered to be one of the prolific Melee players, and he's quickly making a mark in Smash 4. Although he stepped away from the competitive scene for awhile due to a lack of confidence and hand injuries, M2K's resolve seems stronger than ever. In our one-on-one interview, M2K reflects on his tournament experiences, the challenges he's faced throughout his career, and he shares his overall aspirations operating under his newest sponsor — Echo Fox.
You’ve been recognized as an incredible tactician throughout your tournament career. What steps have you taken to ensure you maintain your competitive edge?
Well, I enjoy Smash a lot, and I attend many tournaments per year (most weekends I will be in some type of tournament whether it be a Smash Conference Friday MVG weekly, or traveling to a large event somewhere in the world), so this keeps me in decent shape all the time. I also get random bursts of motivation here and there.
For example, I wanted to prove to myself and the world, at Summit 2, that I could defeat Armada. So I prepared for him the night before and studied for a few hours of both videos and especially my own ideas and theories to make myself better in the matchup.
It worked, and I got a 3-0 victory.
This was a random burst of motivation where I wanted to show the world that I could overcome an obstacle that people didn’t think I could overcome.
The same type of motivation happened for me at Get On My Level (GOML), where I had both Leffen and Zero in quarters at the same time. But my mindset and motivation were that I had beaten Leffen a few times before, so if I won again, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but if I beat Zero, it would be a very big deal. So on that tournament I focused really hard on just playing against Diddy/Sheiks to try to take down Zero, and that worked extremely well for me.
These random bursts of motivation I get a few times a year, randomly, are in my opinion, what allow me to play at my best. Also, I try to buy good controllers off of people from time to time, because I run out of good Melee controllers a lot.
We’ve observed there’s a growing debate among pro players who desire the ability to skip competing in pools in order to prevent burnout. What’s your take on this?
To be completely honest with you, I could care less either way. I do not get burned out, and the practice is fine for me. I will stand neutral on this, as I see both sides of the argument, and have no strong opinion nor bias one way or the other.
There was a point in your career that you expressed a lack of confidence and decided to withdraw from tournaments last year. What helped you to turn things around?
I don’t want to let Echo Fox or MVG down is honestly a big part. I don’t want to let fans down either. So even if I know I am playing extremely bad or am in a very bad mood, I play through it anyway.
However, I should note that, even though I do play through it, that does not mean I perform well. I have not actually won a single set in losers’ bracket in Melee nor Smash 4, for months, if I remember correctly. I think my mentality and motivation weaknesses must be affecting me greatly, or otherwise, this is just some huge onslaught of coincidences.
Out of all the tournaments you’ve attended, are there any events you considered to be your crowning achievement?
Well, not really.
There are so many different tournaments, and none of them stuck out too greatly. If I had to choose one, it would probably be Big House 3 since I defeated both Hungrybox and PPMD that event, who are both players who are normally favored against me in the past in a head-to-head match. I won 3 consecutive sets against them, and they were all solid victories also.
This was also after I had focused on Brawl from the majority of early 2008-early 2013. Most players don’t know that Brawl was actually my main focus for the majority of those 5 years. Brawl was also bigger than Melee throughout of the entire 5-year time span also. I played Melee anyway, but it wasn't my focus for that entire time range.
I took Melee seriously again in 2013, after I helped get Melee into EVO (one of my Australian friends that I contacted donated over 20,000 dollars, and we ended up winning as a result of it), so I doubt it’s too big of a coincidence that by late 2013 into early 2014 — I was doing very well in the game I focused on once again. If I had known — during the 5 years I focused on Brawl — that Melee would be bigger in the future, then I wouldn’t have made these decisions.
However, back then, Brawl was the bigger game, and I had no way of predicting these future outcomes.
You’re often criticized for your taste in characters for tournament use in certain matchups. Has this ever played a factor in your decisions at any point in your career?
Technical Fox and Peach are the best characters versus Ice Climbers, so they're the ones that make the most sense to practice. I have had both success and failure vs ICs using Peach, Fox, Marth, Sheik, and Falcon. But I decided I should just learn the best matchup, which is Peach.
Technical Fox is also not the wisest decisions for the sake of keeping my hands healthy, so that is another factor in that decision.
Also, I get very little practice vs ICs or Puffs in general, and most of the past years, especially vs Puffs, have been using Fox, so unless Prince Abu wants to move in with me and grind other matchups, it makes the most sense for me to use Fox. I am Echo Fox, after all, so gotta represent him.
You achieved an impressive victory against Zero, whose proficiency with Cloud is unprecedented, during a set at GOML. Take us through what you were thinking during that match.
By looking at the brackets, I knew I had both Leffen and Zero in quarters, but since I had never beaten Zero before, but I had beaten Leffen before, I figured it would be a "bigger victory" if I could take down Zero. So I decided to focus on that.
I actually only watched my past set with him from PAX about two times. So only about 30 minutes of watching the video if I remember correctly. But then when I got to the venue, I sat down to play friendlies in Smash 4 for hours before the bracket started, and I made everybody use only Sheik and Diddy against me.
So I got a lot of warm up, and the matchup was fresh in my mind, and I believe this helped play a factor in my victory. Also, I feel that Zero doesn’t correctly play the Cloud matchup. Cloud counters the natural way he wants to play the game. If you camp Cloud too much, he can get a limit, and if you keep letting him recover to the stage, you aren’t taking advantage of his poor recovery, and you’re also allowing him to get more limits too.
He seems bad at the matchup.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he used Cloud to ditto me next time. I think Diddy and Sheik both beat Cloud, but he is not that great in the matchup. And, Cloud dittos — in my opinion — are inconsistent and anything can happen (since there is "rage" and whoever is beating the other person won’t get limit first often, allowing the opponent to make an easy comeback at any time). So I wouldn’t be surprised if I randomly lost (or won) a rematch. I can see myself beating his Diddy/Sheik/Cloud, and I can equally see myself losing to his Diddy/Sheik/Cloud.
However, I will admit, that at Get On My Level, I had the advantage of focusing on Smash 4 specifically. In future events, I probably won’t have this type of advantage, and I am unsure if I will be able to play at the same Smash 4 level as I did in my GOML set. And this is mostly because of my heavy focus on Melee at most events. I was motivated to prove that I had the peak skill and potential to defeat the best of Smash 4 though, and I am glad I did that at GOML in a serious 3 out of 5 set.
Surely you were approached by multiple sponsors due to your proficiency in Smash titles. What influenced your decision to go with Echo Fox?
The MVG owner, Greg Mondesir, told me that Echo Fox was a very good choice, and that also influenced my decision. Echo Fox seemed like a really awesome organization. It’s owner — Rick Fox is a 3-time NBA champion, so honestly you can’t get much more legit than that. Upon conducting research [on the org], I’ve only seen positives about joining, and that also ended up being the best decision. So I definitely think I made the right choice.
Where aspirations would you like to fulfill in the near future?
I want to grow MVG League as much as possible (consider supporting our tournaments), I want to be the best Smash 4 singles/teams player, and the best Melee singles/teams player, and grow my Twitch and YouTube a lot, and play video games comfortably for the rest of my life.
Consider following/subscribing to these, to help make my aspirations a reality:
Twitch.tv/mew2king (I’ll use this more after Evo when I move to Orlando)