Dakota Lasky is a competitive Smash Bros. player. Known as “The Rapture” in competitive circles, Lasky competes mainly on the Wii U version of Smash, but also in Melee and on the Wii version as well. In 2014, Lasky was one of the 16 competitors that competed in the Super Smash Bros. Invitational in Los Angeles. He instantly became an audience favorite thanks to his full head of hair and choice of “Little Mac” as his character.
For Lasky, however, it was never just about the competition, but about the community as well.
“One of the things about the Smash community is that no matter where I went, I would see the same people and I could build bonds with them and create lasting friendships,” said Lasky. “Not everyone is going to win, and a lot of people will lose. Not everyone will walk away with money, but at least everyone can walk away having a good time and sharing good memories with other people.”
Lasky has a passion for another Nintendo title, however. After heading to E3 2014 for invitational, the competitive gamer fell in love with Splatoon.
“When I tried out Splatoon at E3 2014, that was the most fun I had with a videogame in a long time,” Lasky said. “I loved it so much I wanted it to have the same sort of feeling I had when I first joined the Smash community. I wanted to give that same experience to other players who were looking to play competitive Splatoon or just wanted to be part of a community. That was the goal of starting Squidboards.”
Lasky was the co-founder of Squidboards, an online community of competitive Splatoon gamers. The forum allows Splatoon fans to gather and discuss the game, as well as host tournaments, create groups, and “to get hype.” Although it started from humble beginnings, Squidboards now boasts more than 15,000 members, albeit not all of them are active all the time.
Though many comparisons are drawn to the competitive fighting scene, Splatoon’s community is mostly online. This runs in contrast to other competitive communities, which often run large-scale local tournaments. Unfortunately, Nintendo’s lack of local-multiplayer Splatoon support has made real-life meetups far more scarce and has made online competition more challenging as well.
The biggest benefit of playing games locally is the low latency. Wired connections are simply superior to a wireless one when it comes to connecting online for multiplayer matches. Unfortunately, Splatoon’s reliance on an online connection makes gaming competitively more difficult, and far less reliable.
“Latency is such a huge issue,” said Lasky. “You have teams playing each other from North America to Europe to Asia, and that creates a ton of issues! So much so, that a lot of problems in tournaments have to do with speed tests – if someone’s connection is even fast enough to play. You might even need to swap out a player if they fail the connection test. A lot of tournaments hinge on their speed-test and latency rules. Some tournaments allow you to replay if someone disconnects, others don’t. It becomes quite the point of contention – which rules are suitable and how they play out in a tournament. It’s a staggering amount of importance.”
Despite these issues, Splatoon’s competitive community continues to hold tournaments both large and small. Some are single elimination, others double elimination, and some are even in a round-robin format. There’s no set standard for tournament play.
The same goes for prizes. Most tournaments are free to enter and lack a cash prize, but there are others that do offer a reward. Overall, however, Lasky said that people play for pride – to be the best – and for the sense of community. Lasky pointed to a recent tournament, the Splatoon Anniversary Invitational, as an example.
The Splatoon Anniversary Invitational did not have any sort of cash prize, but was the largest event of its kind in the West. The tournament featured several qualifying events and featured some of the best players to play Splatoon competitively. Lasky said he hopes to hold more events like this in the future.
Despite the challenges, the Squidboards co-founder sees his website as a resounding success, and he hopes those that love Splatoon will take the jump into the competitive scene.
“The coolest thing is that Squidboards became exactly what I hoped it would be. Competitive Splatoon really did flesh out from being a hype game at E3, to becoming a game with a ton of cool moments and awesome events. Splatoon has been a fun ride, and I hope it continues.”