Smash Bros. Pro leaves mid-match due to audience coaching

The professional Smash Bros. crowd has always had a bit of a problem with sportsmanship, so much so that it’s become something of a meme. From tournament organizers needing to create rules allowing them to disqualify contenders if they don’t shower, to the infamous EVO 2018 Grand Finals where both players sat there, charged attacks with Bayonetta, and goofed off rather than fighting, you know, the most important Smash match of the year. Smash has always been simultaneously a respected but often lampooned corner of the fighting game community.

Unfortunately, we have seen this issue rear its ugly head once more during Collision 2019, a Smash tournament that went down this past weekend. The match in question was between Tyler “Marss” Martins and Justin “Wishes” Magnetti in the winners’ side of the top 32. Marss was agitated during their set, frequently turning behind himself to shout at the audience. During the final game of their set, Marss got up from his chair, leaving Wishes to take him out and leaving many of the spectators confused.

It turns out that someone in the audience was calling out Marss’ moves, giving his opponent an unfair advantage. Wishes denies he was receiving any help. In general, coaching is discouraged or forbidden in professional gaming contexts. However, there were a few elements of this situation that made everything a little sticky.

  1. Coaching usually pertains to teammates or people somehow professionally associated with one of the competitors. This audience member, however, appeared to just be an excited fan.
  2. Professional events usually supply headphones to drown out the calls of the crowd to avoid situations like this. Collision 2019, however, did not do so.
  3. There was nothing explicitly forbidding the behavior of this audience member in the Collision 2019 guidelines, even though it is generally accepted that coaching is not permitted anywhere while an official match is in progress.

So what did Collision do? First, they asked the disruptive attendee to leave the venue. Next, they proposed restarting the match at 2-2 stocks, but this gave Marss, who had been knocked down to one stock, an advantage. After some complaints from his opponent and an hour and a half of deliberation, it was decided that the match would restart at 2-1 stocks with Wishes at over 100 percent damage. In the end Marss won.

This eventually caused some fallout on social media after the match. While Collision organizer Riddge “RJ” Mussington tweeted about how the eventual solution worked best for both players. Wishes did not share RJ’s sentiments however, saying that he was robbed and that walking away from a match in progress was petty.

While the FGC loves to joke around about the Smash community’s sportsmanship (and hygiene) problems, this is hardly a situation that has been isolated to Smash. It’s actually quite common practice to restart matches when the crowd is being too distracting. This is exactly why major events like EVO go to great lengths to isolate their competitors from outside noise and distractions. Unfortunately, smaller venues like Collision might not have the budget for such things, even if they are elevated to regional status on the tournament circuit.

There is a deeper question that needs to be answered here: what counts as coaching? Does coaching have to come from someone related to the player in question or can it be anything that gives any player an unfair advantage regardless of where it comes from? Where is the line drawn between excited fan reaction and disruptive behavior? Unfortunately, the FGC hasn’t quite settled on a blanket ruling for such things, and it behooves them to do so before something like this happens again.

What do you think? What counts as coaching and what is grounds to put a professional Smash match on hold? Let us know in the comments.