Mind Over Meta #55 - PM Community

Hi, all! We are finally back with yet another Mind Over Meta. Today, I wanted to talk about a topic partly inspired by a thread on the /r/ssbpm subreddit (posted by Sheecaca3) that came up a day or two ago. With the recent announcement of the PMTV Project M Championship Circuit, and with discussion about community behavior on some of our minds, plus the recent Smashboards challenge to accrue more advertising of PM events, it seems appropriate to talk about people. Not just me, not you, not PMDT or GIMR or your local TOs or your top players. Everything together.


This week, let’s talk about the Project M community, and what we can do for it.



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Good Company


First, I want to make clear to you that the community I am referring to is not a large cohesive organization. It isn’t an oligarchy of a few prominent individuals either. I don’t mean the fervent competitive scene or the casual mass of weekend players. I’m also not referring to the DFW players, or NYC players, or American players. I am referring to all of it.


The community is pretty diverse. Granted, it is centralized in a number of hotspot areas in the United States, and is focused largely on competitive tournament play. However, Project M enjoys strong and active support among hardcore players, amiable casual smashers, and supportive members of the FGC and gaming communities at large, many of whom do not even play Project M. The community behind Project M is surprisingly strong.


This is all in the face of a lot of adversity. Almost anyone remotely attentive to PM’s drama understands its unfortunate current predicament. Without official support and funding from many large general Smash tournaments such as Apex and Paragon, Project M has been left to largely fend for itself. In a sense, it has to be this way. But it seems that the community is not bitter, and instead has repurposed its disappointment into action.


Our community manifests in lots of important ways -- primarily in smashfests, which can grow in size over successive gatherings into local tournaments, regionals, and even national majors. Right now, this growth is culminating in Project M’s most important event since the unveiling of Project M 3.6: the Project M Championship Circuit, which sparked a lot of hope, discussion, and excitement around several internet communities. This is one big way to show everyone that the Project M community is alive and better than ever, and to display to the world what our community is like. We have a chance to produce content and share it with everyone.


Then what kind of community should we give them?



Good Impressions


Despite Project M’s strong general positivity, the scene still has historically faced challenges in maintaining an image. It is impossible to appeal to all people, and the consequences of that fact have shown up in some of the perceptions that various other groups have about the PM scene.


For one thing, many people simply don’t like our game. The Project M Development Team often received flak in the past for both changes to characters (usually following character nerfs) and for the relative frequency of these change updates. It is common for competitive Melee players to criticize Project M for its physics (anything from mechanics like footstools to more abstract issues like specific techniques just “feeling different” from Melee counterparts) or for new Brawl characters’ allegedly unfair or improper tactics. On the other hand, some groups such as casual video-gamers and a few Smash 4 players have expressed distaste for Project M’s fast and technical side, preferring a slower paced and more thoughtful game and uninterested in Project M’s Melee-esque high-octane game.


These criticisms may well be valid ones. However, with the PMDT now disbanded, we are left with Project M 3.6 as it is, and hence we cannot change the game’s physics or characters any longer. All we can do is live with the wonderful game we have, so there is little practical utility in bemoaning others’ criticisms of the game itself, as long as you still enjoy playing PM.


But more importantly, a lot of criticism has been lodged at the community itself. When Project M’s future was uncertain during the initial waves of losing support, many looked down on us as incapable of managing ourselves without being propped up by other Smash communities. For a time, some thought of the PM community as a quivering and entitled mess demanding to be let back into semi-exclusive parties under difficult circumstances. To a degree, a lot of our responses to harsh scenarios has validated that opinion; the backlash against major Smash community figures who were unable to comment on Project M is just one example.


Further still, I learned a long time ago that some people in the Smash community at large have gathered an impression that the PM community is a snobby and exclusive clubhouse that is hostile to outsiders. According to those opinions, the Project M community is angry and defensive at Melee players that disrespect our game when they raise any kind of critique, and it is resentful toward Smash 4 players whose favorite game tried to terminate ours. To some we are seen as an elitist club which only cares for competitive play since our game is entirely designed in the competitive spirit of Super Smash Bros. Melee. Many people accuse the Smash community as a whole of immaturity and uncleanliness, including the PM scene. And to a worrying number of people, we really are not a community at all, as a mod of a game does not count as a game in any proper sense.


Luckily, these negative opinions are not common in my experience, and I hope they are not common in any of your experiences as well. In fact, over time I have seen a decrease in these types of comments and I hope that it eventually fades to have no effect on the Smash community at all.


A more insidious threat to our reputation, though, is one you might not expect: the Project M community itself. It isn’t a secret that any video game community faces divisiveness and is home to at least a few rude or disrespectful individuals, and Project M’s community is no exception. The thread that helped inspire this article is a testament to that; a wide array of purportedly “janky” characters is easy kindling for an inflamed and bitter argument in stream chats, forum posts, or real-life conversations. But people are impassioned about topics ranging from stage lists to the status of unreleased post-3.6 PM versions. And as Sheecaca3’s thread points out, vicious unproductive yelling in very public platforms like major stream chatrooms can leave lasting bad impressions about PM’s community to people watching on the sidelines.


To be clear, I do find that critical examination of the game is worthwhile as part of a larger discussion of the game. But when we resort to contextless blasts against certain aspects in a fit of frustration, viewers might take that as a sign of Project M being a “bad game,” or worse, Project M’s community, being inherently negativistic or arrogant.


Since the PM Championship Circuit is just around the corner and will continue all year as a string of high-profile tournaments with influxes of new and curious potential PM players, it seems like a good time to think about how we can show these viewers that joining our community is worthwhile.



Good Vibes


Here’s the thing about Project M representatives: PMTV is the only thing close to a central “governing” body of Project M, and that is just an alliance of content producers and quality streams. In days long past, the Project M Development Team was responsible for a lot of the game’s PR and reputation. However, now that responsibility has fallen to not just the PMTV, but to the community. That means it falls to you as a player or supporter or fanatic or content producer or streamer. You carry a piece of our community reputation as long as others associate you with our community.


The most general advice I can give toward building positive impressions is to be polite. Politeness does not mean hiding opinions in discussions or just staying quiet in public conversations, but it does mean showing a general respect and mindfulness of others even in disagreements or tense moments.


First and foremost, being respectful to your fellow Project M players is a good start to continuing the trend of building a positive PM community. If you want our scene to be a positive and welcoming place to new players, we need to start by being positive and welcoming to the people already here. Lambasting, even abhorring characters or stages or even playstyles is fine; individuals are entitled to have opinions. But vocalizing these distastes in ways that seem overly opinionated or uneducated risks giving negative impressions to others. Instead of, say, bemoaning that “Sonic players are stupid,” you can elaborate a little more by saying something like “I think that Sonic players don’t work as hard as other characters.” Just giving a snippet of reasoning turns a statement from just being a pointless whine into something might be negative, but at least is constructive. It makes you look more like a thoughtful person, instead of just one with strong opinions, and by extension, it makes the PM community look thoughtful as well. Granted, chat rooms move quickly, and when hundreds of stream-watchers are clamoring together, reasonable discussions are not realistic. But if you do voice your opinions, then packaging that opinion in a receptive and at least partly-reasoned way might at least lessen the grounds for hostility in general.


We should also take great care to respect other scenes. I already noted that we receive a sizeable amount of negativity from various groups of people for varying reasons. I can tell you, though, that responding to negativity with counter-negativity or heavily defensive responses will not cause others to rescind their opinions. It is more likely to solidify any beliefs that Project M players and fans are not mature enough to take criticisms.


Often, simply acknowledging that perhaps different gamers just prefer different experiences is enough to put away an issue if you don’t feel like diving into an argument. Even walking away from instigators would probably help avoid conflicts. If you feel the need to actively disagree, go ahead, but remembering respect for the parties involved will amplify your persuasive abilities. It’s usually fruitful to try and see if your disagreement has a more basic clash of ideas. For example, if a Smash 4 player tells you that they find Project M stupid because it is too technical, then an open and honest question about why a Smash game ought to not be technically-focused could lead to the real issue bothering them: maybe they don’t find a game enjoyable if it is cursed with too much freedom at the expense of complicated inputs. While this is just an example, discussing things this way will hopefully lead to a productive and fair conversation instead of a divisive and agitated one.


Even if talking in calmer terms doesn’t placate others’ anger, it is unwise to lose your own composure in response. This is how internet trolls claim victims, goading unsuspecting arguers into becoming more and more emotionally involved in an argument until rage erupts. Even if most of the people “blasting” Project M won’t be simple trolls, getting flustered sinks you to their level of communication. If members of another community wish to be hostile toward other games, let that be on them. Indirectly, Project M players are accountable for our community’s reputation, so it does no good to be prodded into anger, even if other people are risking their game communities’ reputation to take jabs at your favorite games.


To take this idea further, it also means that if we lash out at other games, provoked or otherwise, it reflects a kind of elitism on us. My vision of the Project M community is not one that is closed off to new kinds of players, even if new players may not see eye to eye with my vision of what a Smash game should be like. I have genuine complaints about Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. for WiiU. However, if I express these complaints the way much of the Smash community complained about Super Smash Bros. Brawl from about 2009 to 2012 (flinging slurs like “brawlfag” and mantras like “Brawl Sux”), it would not promote Project M well. Instead, it would just make the PM community look petty in the views of other major game communities, causing even worse divisions among Smash players than already exist. If Mario Kart players continually derided Super Smash Bros. with name-calling, would you want to associate your Nintendo game with theirs?


Essentially, this all boils down to acting as a positive role model for video game communities. I’m not asking to turn PM’s scene into a paragon of a community, and I don’t believe that Project M’s reputation issues have ever been lasting or serious. But I think it is possible for us to still keep holding ourselves accountable for the impressions we give to onlookers. Without official tournament support on the scale of officially licensed video games, our community is not in a position to build bad blood with other communities; indeed, the vast majority of us are part of multiple video game scenes, be it through Melee, Smash 4, Skullgirls, Hearthstone, League of Legends, or what have you. If we respect other games, they will respect us.


The PM Championship Circuit is going to make Project M and its various scattered communities highly visible; eyes are on us this year. If you want to show that we have the capacity to be one of the most enthusiastic and welcoming communities in video gaming, then you need to start by exemplifying those very things to the best that you can in your interactions with our community and others.


Attitude is a huge factor in building a community. However, that is certainly not all that you can do for the Project M scene.



Good Work


Aside from supporting Project M in streams and tournaments and smashfests, there is plenty you can do to improve our community yourself through creating content. The range of content an individual can produce is immense, and almost all of it contributes to the life and breath of our scene is a whole.


GIFs/GFYcats are exceptionally common on the Project M subreddit, for good reason. They are simple and easy ways to share and advertise matches fought on tournament or casual streams using only a single interesting piece of the match. Low effort and quick production means we as a community can, and do, create them in droves. Although some have expressed disapproval for the floods of video-snippets we receive on /r/SSBPM, threads like Gfycaturday show that we do love to see these clips, and the subreddit will still provide a home for your GFYcat content in case the front pages of the subreddit are overrun. What’s more, thanks to the efforts of prolific posters, like Brewster the Pigeon, these short clips are shared and admired by thousands of people across the internet from all different particular communities. (We even have a fondness for still image content and renders, as evidenced by the Project M subreddit’s overwhelmingly delighted reaction to Large-Leader’s neo-”Art Tuesday” threads!)


Discussions are another great place to produce helpful content. Daily and weekly threads litter the Project M subreddit with typically good and lively discussion, but not nearly as much discussion there could be. Threads like Matchup Wednesday, Daily Discussion Threads, and Move Tier List Thursday are fantastic for learning more about different characters and spreading your own knowledge among others. And Smashboards, various Discord and Skype groups, and other communication hubs are incredible resources for discussion. I know I have learned more from Reddit threads, Smashboards posts, and Discord chats than I probably would have learned on my own. When you teach others about Project M, you are teaching the community.


We can even take this community education one step further by producing thorough written, visual, or video guides on specific ideas or tactics. Texzilla’s Instant Double-Jump guide is a great exposition on a highly nuanced technique that can be implemented in real gameplay. S0ftie’s detailed demos of technical and abusable sequences, such as this guide to using Wolf Flash, are packages of digestible and worthwhile information designed to help others improve. And as yet another example of a thorough and educational work by and for the Project M community, just check out DawnClutch’s almost finished comprehensive Meta Knight character guide. This is all just picking out a few pieces of dedicated work in a sea of amazing educational content. But a piece of community content does not need to start out with a lofty goal in mind.


I actually found myself in a position of producing community content through Mind Over Meta somewhat unexpectedly. When I signed on here as a writer alongside other MoM writers L_Pag and PlayOnSunday, it was largely in the interest of having fun and learning to develop writing skills -- an entirely personal and self-focused goal. Over time, as felt more integrated in the Project M community, I realized that serving as an analyst and theorizer about once every few weeks was actually doing a lot of good for a variety of players to improve, most of whom I will almost certainly never meet. And with the help of the other writers, all three of us have found ourselves on progressively broader platforms like Smashboards and PMTV, reaching and helping more and more people simply by doing the things we love to do.


And there are still dozens of ways to make content that I haven’t even mentioned. The only thing stopping you from producing community content for Project M, if you are not already doing so, is a little motivation and a little inspiration. And if you are able to produce good, constructive content by drawing from your passion for Project M, I guarantee that even a small effort can grow into something much larger than you would have ever imagined. And it goes without saying that the community will appreciate you for it.


Perhaps the most direct way to help Project M’s community is to expand it! New players are the necessary, continuous life force that keeps a game afloat as older players have to take time away or depart from video games entirely one-by-one for various life reasons. A bigger player base means bigger tournaments, which means bigger things ahead for our community. Competitor or Casual, Melee-head or Smash-4-ite, even people who never have picked up a video game, literally anyone who has an interest in trying out Project M ought to be a welcome and equal member of our community. I believe PM does have something for everyone. In the past, we have put out Mind Over Meta articles both on sharing and enjoying Project M with others and on the history and reasons we play PM, to emphasize exactly how important community growth is.


We constantly get a lot of fun and adrenaline from Project M and our community, but less often do we ask what we can do for Project M in return. And as it turns out, there is a lot we can do in the way of contributing toward an amazing and improving and enlarging community if we just put in a little effort.




Good Times Ahead


When you jump into Project M, it’s not clear right away what kind of interactions you will soon have with other PM fans. A new community of any kind is alien and bizarre, communicating in a foreign language and becoming inexplicably excited at things you don’t understand. But the process of adjusting to a community is always made easier with positive support and a good attitude ushering you in. I think each and every one of you reading this is perfectly able to play a part in making sure that the Project M Championship Circuit benefits the community in a thousand different ways. I would almost say you have a responsibility to contribute in some form or another. Attend events, watch streams, show Project M to your friends, make content, stay positive, or do whatever else you can to help improve the community we love.


Thanks for reading another Mind Over Meta. I hope that you continue to find fun in Project M and that you feel at home in our humble and outstanding community. Take care,


--The Mind Over Meta Writing Team.