Remember when, as a kid, your mother would order you to stop playing videogames because “they’ll get you nowhere in life”? Daniel Jung, a Super Smash Bros. national champion, is proving mothers wrong to the tune of $10,000 in prizes. His winnings range from the mundane (a big-screen TV) to the borderline ludicrous -- like a crystal Wii.
In 2008, Nintendo hosted a SSB tournament to celebrate the game's U.S. release and commissioned Swarovski to create the one-of-a-kind gaming system, the value of which ($4,000) makes the price of a new PS3 look like pocket change. Jung still owns the system, which features images of Nintendo’s most famous hero and villain duo: Mario and Bowser. He’s never played on it.
Jung has won other major titles, too. In 2005, he was named Melee champion in Massachusetts, then all of New England. He placed second in a 2006 Melee tournament and was crowned national champion a year later. Today, after a hiatus during which he taught English in Korea, he’s still winning tournaments -- and totally kicking my butt.
Jung, a 23-year-old Newton native, began playing intensely in 2005 when he “saw the potential in [the game’s Melee version].” So-called “glitches” in the game (such as “wavedashing”) that only the most skilled and dedicated players could master, along with a prodigious quantity of practice, allowed him to develop a substantial level of skill. SSB has since removed these glitches, “[leveling] the playing field” and making the game “more user-friendly,” Jung said – which is nice for players who are good but not “Daniel Jung good.”
“Melee still has a special place in my heart,” he said.
So how many hours does it take to craft yourself into a Super Smash Bros. champion? “In the past, during the 2006-2007 period, I practiced for many hours -- almost 15-20 hours a week -- because I was making a living off of it,” Jung said. For him, Super Smash Bros. was a part-time job, and a serious one.
“Nowadays, since I have to really focus on school, I play games a lot less frequently than I did in the past,” Jung said.
But in order to truly develop his skills, Jung sought out better players than himself. At first, it wasn’t difficult because, as with all skills, he wasn’t very good. Now, however, finding a nearby competitor with the skills to keep up is difficult. Certainly, none of his friends can defeat him, though “there is one guy in Maine,” Jung said.
Although Jung has taken a temporary hiatus from tournaments, the professional pursuit of Super Smash Bros. and the nationwide tournaments are gaining recognition. Major League Gaming, which offers competitions in, for example, the Halofranchise and Call of Duty, frequently hosts tournaments. One intrepid gamer is even seeking funding to a make a documentary following these professional battlers. Jung will be recognized in the final product for his reign as Melee andBrawl champion.
Photo by Nintendo
By Paul Driskill -- 21. Queer. Stress-able. Enjoys brains (studying them, that is). Enjoys writing. Goes to UMass Boston. Frisbee. Om-noms frequently. Utilizes the phrase "om-noms" occasionally in profiles.
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