Top Smash Ultimate Player Throws Controller At Tournament, Sparks ‘Privilege’ Discourse

Top Smash Ultimate Player Throws Controller At Tournament, Sparks ‘Privilege’ Discourse

Genesis 9, a major fighting game tournament, took place over the weekend. There were stellar combos and massive upsets as the supermajor event for Super Smash Bros. Melee and Ultimate concluded on January 22. Unfortunately, while the tournament was underway, one of Canada’s top Kazuya players, Michael “Riddles” Kim, sparked some heated discourse in Ultimate’s community around “top player privilege” and “ego problems” when he threw his controller after losing a match.

Considered one of the best Kazuya and Terry mains in Canada, Riddles is ranked ninth in all of North America. A member of the esports organisation Team Liquid, Riddles has placed in the top 10 at just about every tournament he’s competed in, with his last first-place win being at the November 2022 Path to Glory tournament in Saskatchewan where he took home approximately $US11,000 ($15,270) alongside the top spot. In short, the Super Smash Bros. community sees Riddles as goated. So, knowing he was entering Genesis 9, a California tournament stacked to the brim with top-tier talents such as Steve player acola and Marth main MKLeo, his ardent fans and interested onlookers were expecting him to perform. He did, but not to the level he, or the game’s community, might’ve hoped for.

Riddles found himself in the losers’ bracket after losing a close set against Palutena player Chase. Riddles would win the next two matches in that bracket, only to wind up facing off against France’s Lucina main, Nassim “Leon” Laib. The bout started heavily in Riddles’ favour. However, Leon had Riddles’ number on speed dial, as Leon switched to Chrom and gave Riddles little room to breathe.

It all came to a head when, in the last bout, Leon absolutely bodied Riddles in spectacular fashion. Riddles lost that match. After sitting in his chair for a while, the frustration clearly visible on his face and his opponent no longer on screen, Riddles threw his controller down hard before leaving the arena.

Folks were perplexed by the upset as Riddles was a top seed, meaning he was expected to place pretty high. Leon, however, is ranked 77th. The odds were ever in Riddles’ favour, as evidenced on the faces of those around the two players. Aside from congratulating Leon on his victory, most people were stunned by what happened. There were a few taking pictures of Riddles sulking in his chair, but most of everyone else in the immediate vicinity was shooketh.

It’s this brief moment that has ignited the Super Smash Bros. community into discoursing about popping off in a professional setting.

“You throw the controller,” one tweeter said to Riddles in all caps. “Do you know how much you make people suffer? You lost [and] got outplayed by a neutral character. You just cheese people at 0 so [fuck] off.”

“It’s called holding people accountable,” another tweeter said. “Something this community needs more of actually.”

“It doesn’t matter if he is humble, he still had that moment,” a third tweeter said. “If you give him a pass now, 9 times outta 10, it’ll happen again. Just stop fam lmao. Everyone has those moments, we get it, but shrugging it off like this just shows why top player privilege is a thing.”

The comments on the above YouTube video aren’t much better, with some agreeing Riddles “has no right to be salty or rage” and that he’s “a little baby” who needs to “man up.” Others laughed at the incident, while a few folks memed his name, calling him “Shittles” instead. One person even said Riddles has “insane ego problems” for reacting this way. Sheesh.

This is because Riddles mains Kazuya Mishima, one of Tekken’s protagonists, the 81st combatant part of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s Fighters Pass Vol. 2, and a notorious character in the game’s scene. Kazuya is a combo-heavy fighter in Ultimate, primarily relying on his electric wind god fist to stun his opponents and rack up some heavy damage. Kazuya, and this stun move especially, have been thorns in the community’s side, with Ultimate players regularly asking for Kazuya (as well as Steve from Minecraft) to get banned from tournament use. In short, Riddles receives a lot of hate because of the character he plays, and his loss to Leon and the resulting explosion on camera, was an excuse to pile on — to the point that Riddles ended up deactivating his Twitter account.

Kotaku reached out to Riddles for comment.

In Twitter DMs with Kotaku, Leon said he was both afraid of and motivated by Riddles, ready to face him in the Genesis 9 competition. Leon didn’t anticipate beating Riddles, though, saying he was “very surprised and shocked” to do so with his secondary character, Chrom. He also wasn’t totally surprised by Riddles’ reaction to the upset after the fact, although he didn’t completely agree with his opponent’s behaviour.

“[Riddles’ reaction was] completely [unwarranted] in any kind of big competition. It’s easy to see that,” Leon said. “Throwing your own controller to [release] frustration isn’t the best move, but it concerns only him and himself. As long as he respects his opponents (which was the case with me), there is nothing very disgusting [about what he did]. I would be sad and frustrated to get out of the tournament that early, too.”

Not everyone is dragging Riddles for the way he popped off at Genesis 9. Multiple top players, from former competitor Yonni to big-name player Justin Wong to Moist Esports’ Aaron Wilhite, defended Riddles’ actions. It’s kind of ironic when you think about it, as a few days before Genesis 9 kicked off, an Italian Smash player was banned from tournaments going forward after literally slapping his opponent during a livestream. Riddles, on the other hand, took his frustration out on an inanimate object and announced he would take a long break in his Discord. I’m not entirely sure what the community wants from Riddles, or top players in general, but asking that they be robots and show no emotion just ain’t it. I mean, I still occasionally throw my controllers because video games make me angry. It’s human nature, right? At least Riddles didn’t take it out on his competitor.


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