Today, as part of an ongoing series of Smash interviews leading up to Evo 2015, we're going to be talking to one of Smash's most renowned community leaders. To the competitive Smash Bros community, Wynton "Prog" Smith is a commentator, spokesman, representative, activist, MeleeItOnMe panelist, and apparent Rock Papper Scissors enthusiast, and we're here to find out more.
TechRaptor: First off, can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you've been up to?
Wynton Smith: Hey there, I’m known as prog in the Smash Brothers Community and FGC, I’ll be celebrating 10 years in the Smash scene this summer. Semi-active commentator, active community leader, contributor to smashboards.com andmeleeitonme.com and really working on becoming another story teller in the Smash scene, with a new video based project called Last Stock Legends: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/62805052/last-stock-legends
TR: The Smash Documentary by East Point Pictures led to a huge growth in the scene. Can you tell us a bit about your role in that, and if we can look forward to seeing you in MetaGame, the upcoming video featuring Armada?
WS: In the winter of 2013, I was going to sit down for an interview with Samox, but of course, it was at APEX 2013, it was packed, and…he caught the APEX plague. We ended up taping my interview in June, shortly before EVO 2013 and even before Nintendo’s possible shutdown of the event, and well, it kind of was meant to be. Who knew that the 5 months between APEX and June would have been some of the most important in Smash’s history? As for if I’ll be in MetaGame, Samox and I had a chat early this year, and if I make the cut, sure, I’ll show up.
TR: While attempting to find footage from your first tournament commentary failed (record keeping wasn't great back in 2008), I did find some rare footage of you actually playing at Apex 2013, and it made me wonder: What made you decide to put your effort into commentary rather than playing?
WS: I was a player for a few years, but I purposely avoided recording setups; my style was based on a lot of setups and traps, and the less out there that folks could study, the better. However, after graduating from college and getting a full time position, I couldn’t go to tournaments, my hours prevented me from going to sessions to train, and as someone who likes putting everything they can into something, I knew I couldn’t give my all as a player anymore, but I still wanted to contribute. I started out doing uploads of tournament matches from locals, regionals and a couple of majors, one day we added a cheap USB microphone from Radio Shack, and…we know how that went, haha. I wasn’t a spectacular player by any means, but I was able to contribute far more with a microphone than with a controller.
TR: EVO 2015 is already set to be the biggest Melee tournament ever with over 1500 registrations for that game alone, over twice as many as Evo 2013 which occurred around the beginning of the current "platinum age" of Smash. How much further do you see it going?
WS: You know, I don’t know, but in order for us to acclimate to that change, there has to be a switch of sorts. Majors have been operating with a mindset that is archaic with today’s numbers, and we have to adapt. Hearing upwards of 1000 entrants for a single tournament, let alone per bracket is still amazing to me, and I can see us reliably doing that kind of event a couple of times a year. My biggest fears are over saturation and being unable to deal with the numbers we get. To me, the scene has been open, if you pay your entry fee and such, you’re in. Caps may become a necessity, and that’s something I’m both proud of and fearful about.
TR: Part of the platinum age is the inclusion of traditional esports ideas like sponsors and teams, replacing Smash's old crews in a way. Some believe that being more like regular esports is good, while others believe Smash should retain its grassroots nature. What do you believe?
WS: I believe that Smash is best when it operates in between both realms. Each world has its own experiences that the community can learn from, and Smash so far has done a great job of melding the two. Smash has a lot to learn from every other community, but I also hope that they take a thing or two from us here and there.
TR: Who are you rooting for at EVO, forgetting commentator neutrality? Do you think Mango is still the safe pick, or do you think someone else is likely to take first place?
WS: Haha, I don’t know. Part of me wants to see the Mango three-peat, another part of me wants Armada to show a lot of the new fans what they missed they weren’t around for his reign, PPMD to cement his legacy with an EVO win, Hungrybox to silence his doubters, Leffen to come through on his promises and even M2K to have one day and just plow through everyone. Results are a toss up, who they run into in bracket makes a big impact on their chances at the trophy.
TR: It seems like for a long time any time we heard you on the mic it would be guaranteed that D1 was right there with you. How is it that you two came to create such a good commentary team?
WS: Honestly, no idea. We knew each other as players mostly, but one day we ended up on the mic together, it became a recurring thing. We didn’t practice together, we rarely would trade notes and talk about our performances, it all came natural and we knew each other well enough to adjust and bring the balance that people were looking for.
TR: After EVO 2014 you stepped down from commentary due to health issues, though you seem to be making a comeback with the big nationals like Apex and EVO. Has your health improved since then?
WS: It comes and goes, which is good and infuriating at the same time. Some days I’m 100%, other days not so much. It has definitely been a reminder to enjoy these events and get to experience them from a perspective that I haven’t had in a while: as a fan or a competitor, rather than on the microphone.
TR: What's a story you can tell about the Smash community that you think summarizes its people and its own unique culture?
WS: I think the biggest story is the case of two years: EVO 2013, being a blip on the radar of competitive gaming and now, well…need I say more?
TR: Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you would like to say?
WS: Just a big thanks to everyone that has supported Smash. We’re still growing, and we’re growing up with the scene. Hopefully, we’re still capable of handling it all!
TechRaptor once again thanks Prog for taking the time to answer our questions. We all wish him the best on the mic at EVO 2015 and with Last Shock Legends.
Who are you rooting for at EVO? Is there anyone else in the Smash community that you would like to see here on TechRaptor? Let us know in the comments below.