It’s normal to be frustrated after a loss, but some fighting game competitors take things a step further by demolishing the controller they were using to play just moments earlier. The latest player to join this illustrious club alongside notables like Sanford Kelly and Runitblack is reigning Evo champion William “Leffen” Hjelte, who spiked his GameCube pad into the stage after being eliminated from a recent Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament.
The Big House, one of the most important tournaments on the Smash circuit, held its eighth installment in Detroit, Michigan last weekend. Visiting from Sweden, Leffen made his way to the finals bracket over several prominent American players, but then he lost his very first matchup in top 8 to Melee god Joseph “Mango” Marquez. His next fight against Justin “Plup” McGrath would be his first losers bracket match of the event.
Leffen and Plup are what the community considers “god killers.” While they aren’t thought to be in the same league as the supposed “gods” of Melee—Mango, Adam “Armada” Lindgren, Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma, Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, and Kevin “PPMD” Nanney, all of whom have at some point been considered the best Melee player in the world—these two players are the most accomplished challengers when it comes to defeating the scene’s most deified competitors.
Plup won a close first game using Princess Zelda’s alter-ego Sheik, but then in the second game, he switched to low-tier favorite Samus Aran, knowing that Sheik’s abilities would be a tough matchup against Fox McCloud on the Final Destination stage. Leffen, sticking with Fox, had a roaring start to this match that soon forced Plup to change back to Sheik after his Samus took a beating. Plup ended up winning yet another game with Sheik, pushing their match into what would be a decisive fifth game.
Leffen’s frustrated demeanor belied the fact that he had just won Evo in August. This emotion also appeared to be affecting his gameplay. Plup took advantage of his opponent’s faltering and landed multiple grabs, showing that he had a read on Leffen’s strategy. In spite of that, Leffen was still able to whittle Plup down to a single stock—a testament to the skill that had earned him a championship finish months earlier—while also defending a stock of his own.
As the final game came to an end, Plup pushed Leffen from the Pokemon Stadium stage and defended against his multiple attempts to return to safety. As Leffen clung to the edge of the stage, he attempted a maneuver known as a ledgedash to reach a better position, but fell from his precarious position and lost his final stock instead. Leffen made no secret of his dissatisfaction by throwing his GameCube pad down and walking off stage. Plup simply nodded.
Leffen jumped on Twitter afterwards to state “fuck that controller,” as well as to congratulate his fellow competitors. In follow-up posts, he said he wasn’t sure if the missed ledgedash happened because of an issue with his pad or with his own execution. “I don’t know for sure, and since I have been rusty it could be me, but I did feel like I missed more ledgedashes than normally,” Leffen added, speculating that his use of the Arduino controller mod to simulate the malfunctions present in some GameCube pads that make certain techniques easier to perform might have thrown off his muscle memory.
“Anyway, going to practice harder and smarter than ever in both [Dragon Ball FighterZ] and [Super Smash Bros. Melee] and live healthier and with as much discipline as I can muster,” Leffen concluded, with an attitude that made him seem more unfazed than the Leffen who had thrown his controller one day prior. “You’re all gonna get fucked up in time. That’s all.”
Ian Walker loves fighting games and writing about them. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.