“We don’t consider Smash a fighting game,” admits Tablada, an independent filmmaker from Rhode Island who made Inside EVOlution, a documentary about the non-MLG affiliated EVOlution, the larger fighting-community’s biggest annual competition, which doesn’t feature Smash. “A lot of Smash players hate that.” He points at Tekken 5 Dark Resurrection. “These games take so much more skill. Smash has like two or three buttons or whatever. It’s kids’ play. These games take six.”
Tablada beckons a gangly New Bedforder with an Africa pendant around his neck. “Smooth? Do you think Smash Brothers is a fighting game?”
Smooth eyes us like we’re offering him rotted fish. “Smash sucks.”
When it’s finally time for Spic Tom’s competition to start, names of registered entrants — in this case, 10 kids, a relatively low turnout for these sorts of affairs — are scribbled on loose-leaf paper.
They’re an incredibly diverse crowd. There’s Hayato, a short Cambodian fellow from Fall River. Kevin, a smart-ass spectator from Mansfield who knows Spic Tom from their high-school anime club and decided to tag along. Black Jinjo, a/k/a Mark Brodeur, a 19-year-old from Epson, New Hampshire, who is wearing shorts in November and The Legend of Zelda’s Young Link on his shirt. There’s a quiet, bird-skinny guy with Peter Frampton hair and a Jimmy Eat World T-shirt. A dark-skinned teenager with buckle-happy raver pants and a black T-shirt that informs the world 333: I’M ONLY HALF EVIL. And there’s KoreanDJ, a/k/a Daniel Jung, the best Smasher in New England.
There are no official geographic Smash rankings. But in the most recent list of “Smash Power Rankings,” independent standings determined by member-judges of Smashboards.com, KoreanDJ is listed sixth. And none of the five players ranked higher than him are from this area. Plus, he always comes in first at Smash tournaments in New England. And in total, he’s won nearly $20,000 playing the Nintendo game.
Today, KoreanDJ emerges again as the victor. Hayato, one of the players who initially mentored KoreanDJ in Smash, is the runner-up. Spic Tom comes in third. (Earlier today, KoreanDJ also won a mini-tournament of Melty Blood, a game that he’d played for only two weeks.)
After the singles round concludes, KoreanDJ joins Spic Tom to defeat everyone else in doubles. Their team name? Rice and Spice.
KoreanDJ’S meteoric rise
It’s a Wednesday afternoon in early October and Jung is sitting in his first-floor apartment in Lowell, where he’s studying computer engineering at UMass. He’s been here only one month, so his priorities are laid bare: his living room is vacant except for a TV, a couple of gaming consoles, and a bramble of video-game controllers. A mop leans against a wall near an electric guitar and a small amp. He’s wearing baggy Girbaud jeans, an Ecko T-shirt, and an oversized black hoodie with KOREAN DJ printed on the back. He tells me that his mother, Bea, owns J City, an urban clothing store with locations in Watertown, Mattapan, and Dorchester.
“People sometimes misinterpret who I am because I look like one of the most ghetto-ist Asians out there.” In fact, he just moved here from Newton.
Race is a recurring joke among KoreanDJ and his friends. With Spic Tom, he’s part of an informal “crew” called M.W.A. (a/k/a Minorities With Attitude). For MLG’s doubles tournament, he competes under the handle Rush Hour, with Marcus Kennedy, a 25-year-old who’s Chris Tucker to Jung’s Jackie Chan.