Kevin "PPMD" Nanney is one of the most resilient players Melee has ever seen. But can he rebound off his one year hiatus? I think yes, and I even think that his hiatus has made him stronger.
My suspicion is so bold that the reader may very well have already scoffed at my prediction and accordingly exited out of this tab without much forethought. For those who have struggled on past the first sentence, I can assure you that my claim is not one unfounded and that you, whether wishing to continue out of curiosity or boredom, may even find yourself persuaded at this article's conclusion.
We all want PPMD to make a spectacular return. We want to see him take another major and we want him to remind the community that he is most definitely still a god. The prospect of someone as good as the current top 5 stirring up the mix is an exciting one no doubt. Perhaps it is from this strong anticipation that a few interesting questions and concerns seem to emerge.
One question so many of us seem to have is this: How can PPMD climb back to the top after such a long break from competitive Melee? Can he?
This sentiment is understandable. It is natural for us to reason that the longer the break, the less sharp your skills are. There is some obvious truth to that. But the problem arises when this is the only perspective that one takes while looking a hiatus; all other potential good to come from one are then made unclear. I think that, despite the many supposed negatives of such a break, there are some untalked about benefits to them. In addition to acting as a sort ‘mental refresher’, they can allow the player to redefine their goals as well give them a new perspective on the game itself, all of which were felt in the case of PPMD.
Okay, but won’t he be starting off at a disadvantage since the meta has changed since he last played?
Well, yes, the meta has changed; but no, that doesn’t put PPMD at an automatic disadvantage. Sometimes we forget that PPMD is indeed a wizard. In his own words; “I've been following along with the meta through streams and YouTube videos, so I don't feel behind in my understanding of the game.”
In fact, the only meta related problems PPMD says he has are things he struggled with before his hiatus such as shield dropping and SDI. “Again, I was able to win Apex 2015 despite not being great at either of those”, Nanney stated. “I don't want to pointlessly handicap myself like that this time since I REALLY want to modernize so I'll be adding those things into my game.”
He concluded saying that although it will hurt him at first as he tests new tech skill against top players, he will eventually develop a strategy and “those problems will quickly diminish”.
That last sentence got me thinking. How long exactly will it take for Kevin to get back into the groove of things, to become a champion again? Will it be more of a gradual process or will he come out of the gate swinging? That, he says, depends on how much he practices. But if he had to guess, he told me he “would start out kind of slow and then gather lots of steam after a few weeks.”
When he comes back full-fledged though, expect a PPMD you have never seen before. The reason why brings us to my next and most important point: mentality. You see, the special, often times overlooked thing about a troubling situation is how it can transform a person psychologically. To quote my favorite philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche:
“You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame; how could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?”
And that’s exactly what PPMD is doing: rising anew. He has endured countless blows both mentally and physically, but instead of letting the despair get to him, he has decided to fight and overcome it. Not only has he refused to give into it, but he has in fact gleaned a new sense of motivation from the experience, saying: “I will want the wins very badly for the first time in my competitive career since I found out how to motivate myself to do it in my time off.”
It was from these great, threatening depths that Kevin emerged with new perspectives towards both life and Melee. And that is exactly what makes him such a huge threat to his competitors when he returns. His determination and self-actualization will prove unbreakable.
“I know what really failing and real suffering is like after all this time, so a bad tournament performance or some online trolls will not be too difficult to handle like it used to be”
In that regard, we could all learn a thing or two from Kevin. Having the ability to keep strength even in the most harrowing scenarios; that’s not easy. But he shows us that it’s definitely possible and that we can learn something about ourselves along the way. This hunger, this unconquerable drive that PPMD now possesses will allow him to rise above all sorts of previous problems, and that could translate very well in tournament play.
“My reasons for playing and goals are finally defined for the first time since almost the beginning of my competitive career. It's very exciting to look forward to being fulfilled in the exact ways I want through melee, and the opportunity to do so can't get here fast enough.”
A healthy PPMD is a scary one. After all this time it is sometimes easy to forget just how big of a threat he is, but don’t let the hiatus fool you. Take an already amazing player and pump him full of renewed vigor and suddenly you have a whole different beast. Determination, good health, bravery and humbleness; these are things the opponent can’t outplay with all the tech-skill in the world.
PPMD told me that in within a couple months he will be ready to play competitively again.
In the meantime, fans will anticipate his return, and his competition will fear it.