Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
David Liu, Class of 2018, has been playing competitive Super Smash Bros Melee since his first year of college. Known as “R2DLiu” by the Melee community, Liu has earned himself an impressive track record: he currently ranks second on the Philadelphia Power Rankings, first on the Delaware Power Rankings, and 112th nationally.
He is a part of a generation of players known affectionately as the “doc kids” who became interested in Melee after the release of The Smash Brother documentary in August 2013. The documentary details the competitive scene of the game and focuses on the careers of eight professional players who changed the Melee scene for years to come.
Liu finds himself particularly drawn to the esport because there is no random element of chance or luck that can help weaker players clinch a match. He compares Melee to tennis, a single player game based purely on skill.
“I like that it’s one versus one because it’s easier to improve when you know that whenever you lose, it’s all on you,” Liu explains. “There is no such thing as luck. You lose and you can easily break down why you lost. It’s fun for me to break down my own play and understand what I was doing.”
In addition to the game’s limited randomness, Liu appreciates its fast pace, explosiveness and many intricacies.
“Melee is of those games that has a lot of depth. You have a lot of options and they all interact with each other in meaningful ways,” Liu elaborates. “It’s different from other fighting games like Street Fighter where there is less movement and nuance. In Melee, there are a lot of big sweeping movement with a lot of complex physics going on. You understand it a lot more intuitively, it’s easy to pick up, understand and watch, but it’s extremely hard to master.”
On average, Liu competes bi-weekly, sponsored to go to tournaments by a company called EndGameTV. Since he finds that there are few strong players within a 100-mile radius of Philadelphia, he often participates in competitions in other states. His devotion to the game has motivated him to create Swarthmore Smash, which hosts tournaments here on campus. Despite having participated in over 70 competitions, he suspects that he will never burn out or lose the drive to improve because of how he approaches the game.
“I think it’s really unfeasible to set goals like ‘I want to be the best player in the world.’ You have to comprise your goals into distinct chunks. My goal in the beginning was just to get better and have fun playing the game and, for that reason, I still have fun playing that game,” Liu explains. “I keep playing Melee because the more time I put into it, the better I get, and the more satisfaction I get. When I do lose, it means that the other person is significantly better than me, which means there is so much to learn from so every time you play them you pick more out of it. It’s the kind of thing that keeps on giving.”
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