According to Smash Sisters founders Emily Sun and Lilian Chen, the burgeoning women-oriented series of Smash Bros. events is facing a developing situation.
The Smash Sisters side events have established a reliable presence at pretty much every single major since Genesis 3, almost exactly a year ago. Especially with the big events, they’re drawing in 20 to 30 competitors at a time. That seems manageable on its face, but the majors are just the surface level. This is, after all, the Super Smash Bros. community we’re talking about, and right behind the majors is a sea of local and hyperlocal events: the weeklies, the regionals, and so on. It’s a bit much for just two people to manage, especially given the organizers’ obligations and jobs outside of it.
In other words: it’s growing too damn fast.
Pushback and Acceptance
As Lilian described it, early on, even the community’s leaders were hesitant to support the cause. The cultural shift it asked of a markedly male competitive community was met with skepticism and even hostility at times. Close friends were hesitant to fully embrace the idea.
Some of this was covered by Lilian in her blog last year. It’s probably important to note that the early pushback also came from some of the women competitors too, who were concerned with the stigma traditionally attached to such events, and the tendency towards insularity.
But as Emily noted, that didn’t take too long to change. She described how things have gone from “why does this exist?” to “why isn’t this advertised better?” Offline, former skeptics now embrace their side events, even help push it. The big difference? Actually being able to witness the events and see for themselves the enthusiasm it engenders in newcomers.
“Smash Sisters isn’t supposed to be some kind of cult,” emphasized Lilian. Part of the challenges in developing a broader community of competitors – really, of developing any kind of large-scale community – is in unifying even with the voices that disagree with you, or you disagree with. The difference, basically, between insular and inclusive. Which is, frankly, something that the overall Smash community sometimes struggled with.
Smash Sisters found success in providing necessary structure not as a walled garden, but as a bridge. That first event at Genesis 3 was the first time that Lilian was able to stand with “a bunch of chicks,” as she put it, and talk shop about the game – what matchups they sucked at, what characters they played, and who’s been kicking ass. It was helpful for many of her friends too, who told her that the event encouraged them to stick around. The welcome it provided and the peers it helped introduce to them directly gave them a reason to stay, and gave them a home among the greater community.
New Years Resolutions
The interactions and outreach have been great this year, but there’s still that pressing need here and now for more hands on deck. A great many number of women have stepped up to the plate to help organize events across the country – BlueRisu, Theresa, and much more have pushed for the cause – but much of the brand’s foundation is still in the hands of its two founders.
Lilian rattled off the things they need to do from Genesis 4 onward: “making it open sourced – make it easier for folks to run their own events, delegating, creating a sustainable ecosystem…” She’d like to find analytical talent too, to go over their numbers and give statistical insight on their development.
Plus, there’s inspiring the next generation of competitors. That’s also on the list. Emily recounted the attendance of nine-year-old competitor Zeccet, a Bowser main who attends New York’s Smash scenes with her older brother. Her family cheered her on when she made it on-stream during Super Nebulous 4’s Smash Sisters program. When she made it to the big stage at Boston’s Shine, they were there in person to cheer on her competitive aspirations.
In the end, the Smash Sisters are just another facet of the Smash Bros community’s grassroots ethos. Said Emily, in context of Smash, “if you want to do something, you can just do it.” Be it compete, cast, or run an event, any woman with the aspirations to involve themselves will find that a bridge’s been built to connect them.