Ken Hoang: The Old School King of Smash

ESPORTSREPORTER.COM / FRANK FILIPPAZZO – STAFF WRITER / JULY 10TH, 2021 /

Back since the dawn of Super Smash Bros, countless gamers have come together to compete competitively. With everyone thinking that they are the best, gamers around the world have been asking the age-old question; Who is the best Smash gamer of all time?

Of course, everyone would always answer with “I’m the best”, but for Ken Hoang, it may have actually been true. 

Super Smash Bros Melee was never intended to be a competitive tournament game; from its conception, it was designed as a noncompetitive “party game” for friends and family like Mario Party or Mario Kart, however, the creators could not have foreseen what the future held. 

Today it has come out of the caves and into the light. Now it has become from a friendly family pastime to serious competitive competition between strangers and rivals. Now it has become less fun and more stressful for many of its regulars. Those who love it, hate it. 

The root of Smash’s competitiveness comes from money matches. Back when Smash was becoming more competitive they held tournaments called money matches where each player agreed to put down a specific amount of money as a bet wager for playing in these small smash tournaments which were just 1V1’s. 

The Old School Gamer

Ken is the original Old School gamer, like so many others he started playing the earliest version of Smash, Super Smash Bros (1999) on the Nintendo 64 until Super Smash Bros Melee came out on the GameCube two years later. Ken’s translation from Smash Bros to Smash Melee was effortless. Before there were even tournaments he was dominating at Melee as soon as it came out. 

Early tournaments were a bit different from today; no big stadiums were broadcasting to millions of fans around the world. It was like local Gamestop events. Through online Smash chat servers, he found underground tournaments.  

These underground tournaments were nothing official, just a bunch of competitive games held by other smash enthusiasts. The underground tournaments had people coming from all over the states to some guy’s house. They were generously housed there for the weekend of Smash. Smashers would find a place to sleep on the floor, lawn, or wherever. There were no commentators and everyone gathered around the family TV set for a little fun-competitive party. 

Through these conditions, Ken would rise above the top. Being intimidated by his gaming skills was not uncommon. Time and time again gamers would drop out after watching him play. 

He won some of the biggest eSports tournaments, Major League Gaming (MLG) in 2004 and 2005 and the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) in 2007. Other early tournament wins include; Tournament Go 4 2003, Tournament Go 5 2003, Game Over 2004, MELEE-FC1 2004, Gettin’ Schooled 2 2005, MELEE-FC3 2005. 

Ally 

Ken was fortunate enough to go to many places and meet many types of people. One of the more interesting ones was Isai. Like Ken, Isai started on the Nintendo 64, unlike Ken he did not transition into Melee, at least not instantly. In 2003 Ken convinced Isai to play Melee competitively so that they can compete in doubles. They would win many 2v2 competitions around the country including; Tournament Go 5 2003, Game Over 2004, Tournament Go 6 2004, and MLG New York 2004.

Ken’s Downfall

Ken retired in 2008 but rejoined the competitive scene in 2012. During his hiatus, gamers such as Korean DJ, PC Chris, and Mew2King have taken his spot as being the best of the best. Before his retirement, the worst he would place was 7th or 9th in a tournament, however, once he came back placing 13th at EVO 2015v was his best. After his retirement, he would place as low as 25th, 33rd, or even 81st at Apex 2015. 

Down but not out!

After his retirement, other gamers have climbed up the ranks. For a moment he was as low as 100 best in the world. Still today Ken plays competitively beating some of the best although he is not ranked as high as he once was in the Panda Global Ranking charts. He is still a force to be reckoned with, charting in at 16th in the world. 

Legacy

If there is anyone that deserves credit for making Smash as popular as it is, then that honor goes to Ken. He is the number one reason for the Smash tournaments you see today. If there’s one person who has done beyond and over for the Smash community it’s Ken. Back when he started nobody was playing. He brought competitive Smash into the mainstream 

Although he was looked at as the bad guy for hoarding the number one spot, it was not always so simple. It’s a lot of pressure to hold a position at the top of something for so long without getting mentally and physically exhausted. To do it for as long as he did is not only impressive but a life achievement worth being proud of. 

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