When you ask Jonah Greenberg the kind of competition he experiences playing “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” at Pacific University, he laughs and struggles to find an answer.
That’s because, according to himself and teammates, he’s one of the top 25 players of the fighting video game for Nintendo Switch in the state of Oregon.
Greenberg, known as “Alfredo” in the competitive “Smash Bros.” scene, has the results to back that claim up. Alfredo participated Sep. 5 in Port Priority 5 — one of the largest tournaments for players in the Pacific Northwest. He placed 129 of 421 players in one-on-one competition, and ranked 13 of 101 teams in two-on two-competition.
“I didn’t place that well, because I was just so out of my element,” he said. “There were players there who were top 50 in the world; it was just surreal seeing them in real life.”
Alfredo said he started playing “Smash Bros.” in middle school — specifically during a Halloween party in around the sixth grade.
“I didn’t really acknowledge it as a game, but everyone was playing, so I figured sure, why not,” Alfredo said. “Instantly, I was hooked.”
He began playing competitively in 2014, shortly after the launch of “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.” Alfredo then began entering tournaments during the last year of the game’s lifetime as an eSport, 2018.
“When I first entered a tournament, I thought I was going to completely destroy everybody,” Alfredo said. “It ended up being the exact opposite case.”
His very first life lost in a tournament was at zero damage in one hit to renowned hard-hitter Ganondorf, he said. But, those early losses only made Alfredo want to improve. So, in addition to practicing daily, he responded to a Facebook post asking if any players wanted to join a team — a group of players who practice against each other.
“I actually entered as a joke,” Alfredo said. “I figured there was no way in hell I would be chosen to represent this actual serious team.” But, he was.
“Alfredo’s been there since the beginning,” said Niraj Mali better known as Everest, founder of Team Unity. “At first, I wasn’t really sure what to think. He was a goofy kid, but he seemed pretty interested in the game.”
As Team Unity began playing, most players would lose two sets and be forced to drop out of “Smash Bros.” double elimination tournaments, Everest said. In the summer of 2019, two of the team’s players, Mangoman and Adam Jabr, ranked sixth and ninth in Oregon respectively. “Looking at each player and their progress is just amazing,” said Everest.
Alfredo’s progress was similar; throughout the end of “Smash Bros. for Wii U”’s lifetime, he consistently lost tournaments early. Then, in the first tournament for “Smash Bros. Ultimate” in Oregon — a breakthrough.
“I got fifth out of, like, 56, which was my best placing ever,” Alfredo said confidently. “That was a super amazing moment,” echoed teammate Everest. “Before, he had gone 0-2, 1-2, barely able to take the set. Now, here he was in this new game, already starting at the top.”
Alfredo partially attributes his switch in placement with his switch in characters. Throughout his time in “Wii U,” Alfredo played as Mario and Bayonetta; two consistent but predictable characters. When he switched to King Dedede, the antagonist of the Kirby series, and began taking more risks, things turned around.
“When there’s a Dedede on screen, people flock towards the Dedede, and they want the Dedede to win,” Alfredo said. “Compared to when I was playing two of the most boring characters in “Wii U,” it was a nice change of pace.”
That sense of community — the flock of players, the excitement from certain plays, the closeness to other “Smash Bros.” players — is what keeps Alfredo playing.
“My personality when I’m at tournaments is pretty different from when I’m at school. It’s a lot more outgoing, a lot less afraid and a lot less restricted,” Alfredo said. “You don’t know everyone who plays “Smash Bros.” competitively, but you’ve connected based on these tournaments you’ve gone to. It’s such a meaningful thing to have.”
Despite all his competitiveness, though, Alfredo hasn’t lost sight of what he loves most about “Smash Bros.”
“There’s a lot of people who practice constantly, go into training mode and lab combos, and lab everything — I’m not that kind of person,” Alfredo said. “In reality, this game’s all about fun. If you’re not having fun, then there’s really no point to playing.”