Smash Sisters, a series of all-female crew battles for Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, is approaching its second year and has been at nearly every major Smash tournament since Genesis 3. Founded by Lil “Milktea” Chen and Emily “emilywaves” Sun, Smash Sisters’ mission is to nurture the growth of and inclusivity within the Smash community at large by encouraging women, a small but slowly increasing demographic in the scene, to compete and share their love of the games. The series reflects Smash’s overarching grassroots essence and welcomes both new and veteran players. Most of the participants don’t care about making some sort of statement and just want to play Smash, to normalize women’s presence within the community and debunk the myth that girls don’t play video games.
The first Smash Sisters Melee crew battle at Genesis 3, photo courtesy of Robert Paul
As is the case for pretty much all esports, the Smash scene is predominantly male, which can sometimes be intimidating for women who are interested in getting involved in competitive play. The Smash Sisters series has been heavily criticized by some members of the community for coddling women and has been accused of actually being sexist. The thought is that it’s demeaning for events to be gender exclusive, as if women just aren’t good enough to compete with “the boys.” However, Smash Sisters events are not meant to be women-only tournaments per se, as there are no brackets or even prizes. They are just side events at larger tournies and make sure not to interfere with the main events. Their mission is to make female newcomers feel more welcome and at ease within a competitive setting and spread love for the games rather than segregate them because of their gender.
The crew battles encourage teamwork and camaraderie while also stoking the competitive fire within the players, avoiding the all too common toxic rivalry that can manifest amongst women to be the “cool girl.” A good summary of the Smash Sisters’ mission is as Chen says in one of her blog posts, “Every participant hopefully understands that the end goal of being a competitive Smasher isn’t just to be the best woman, it’s to be the best. Period.” No one wants to be good “for a girl.” They just want to be good, period.
A Smash Sisters Melee crew battle at Shine 2017, photo courtesy of Smash Sisters’ Facebook page
The latest event was held at Super FamiCon 2017 in Greensboro, NC on November 19th. There was a 3v3 crew battle for both Melee and Wii U, with skill levels ranging from “never played” to “competitive” and a variety of mains, including Pikachu, Falco, Marth and Fox. It was most players’ first Smash Sisters event, myself included. While the crowd at this particular event was small, Smash Sisters events at majors often see up to 40 participants. Despite the crowd’s size, you could still feel the energy and hype as the players cheered for their teams and shared useful tech and feedback for match-ups. Several participants also entered bracket for Super Smash Bros., Melee, Smash Wii U, and Project M.
Participants fist bump and cheer after a close game at Genesis 4, photo courtesy of Thomas Tischio
While there are women who are already involved with competitive Smash, the demographic’s organic growth is slow. Smash Sisters wants to attract more women, both cis and trans and especially those who would be hesitant to attend tournaments otherwise, and encourage them to compete beyond just the crew battles. Chen muses over the possibilities in an earlier blog post regarding all-women tournaments: “Would the prospect of readily available female role models entice more women to engage in competitive gaming? As the gender ratio evens out and more women play, will we begin to finally pinpoint more top female competitors? I may not have all the answers right now, but I recognize that an increased amount of women, and thus people in esports, would inevitably bolster the industry as a whole.”
To learn more about Smash Sisters and see if there will be any events in your area, follow it on Twitter and Facebook. What do you think of Smash Sisters? Will it lead to seeing women join the top 100, or do you think it’s actually harmful towards women who want to be taken seriously? Let us know in the comments, and please keep it civil!