By Adrian Bueno
It’s not every day you get to meet somebody considered to be in the top 50 globally at what they do. But if you pull up to the basement of the Ryerson Student Campus Centre, you might catch Ryan Ford.
At the age of 29, Ford is considered one of the greatest Super Smash Bros. Melee players to ever come out of Canada.
For almost half of his life, he’s been ranked amongst the best in the world, becoming one of the most recognizable fixtures within the Canadian Smash Bros. scene.
Although Ford is not a Ryerson student, he has been an active member of the Ryerson Smash Bros. club for the past four years. Ford has regularly attended Ryerson’s Super Smash Bros. weekly tournaments, where he regularly dominates.
“Honestly, I only come for the cash,” Ford jokes. “On the reals, they have a great community here. I really like the organizers and it’s fun to watch the players who have progressed.”
Every Friday, anywhere from 20-60 entrants at a time enter a bracket where they are seeded and matched up against one another tournament style. Entrants buy-in for $10 and the prize money is split up among the top three finishers.
If he’s free, Ford will play casual friendlies with other players allowing them to test themselves against a high-level opponent. On top of it all, Ford usually streams it all on his Twitch channel.
“I think a lot of players like to see someone like Ryan come to the weekly tournaments,” Lewis Richards, a retired Ryerson competitive Smash player, said. “They can get really good practice and ask him for advice. He’s really friendly and really helpful to have around here.”
Back when Richards was an active player, he recalls how it was impossible to even beat Ford.
“[My matches] against him have been really bad. His mastery over so [many] different characters is insane,” Richards said.
Super Smash Bros. Melee was released in 2001. After winning a community-led fundraiser, the game earned its way onto the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) in 2013—the biggest fighting gaming tournament in the world.
Melee stayed on the EVO games rotation until 2018, ultimately being replaced by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Before joining Ryerson’s Smash community, Ford ran monthly Melee tournaments in the GTA when the Canadian melee scene was almost non-existent. The scene has since gone through a revival and continues to be a steady part of the fighting game community.
As he enters his 14th year playing Smash competitively, Ford says he has no idea when he’ll drop the game.
Ford has won over $12,000 in tournament money and even beat a player by the name of Mew2King, who is considered a ‘god’ within the Melee community.
In comparison to Ford, Mew2King has won over $200,000 in competitive Smash Bros. and notably won almost every event he entered in 2013.
“Definitely one of the highlights of my career. My phone was blowing up like crazy after that one,” Ford said.
“There are very few players he can’t beat,” Richards added. “Maybe when you factor in everything, [longevity, experience and consistency] he might be the best [player to come out of Canada].”
Ford still has aspirations of being the best he can be but realizes time could be running out.
“It’s getting more difficult to continue [playing competitively]. Adult life kicks in and I feel like, at the moment, I’m not putting enough effort as I should be,” Ford said. “The payoff financially is also not worth it. I think the only way I’ll stop playing is if I get a good job.”
According to Ryerson’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate team manager David Nguyen, everyone in the Smash community knows that if you play the game to win money, you’re playing the wrong game.
Nguyen says Nintendo puts no money into the competitive scene, and it’s even more difficult to make the return on investment within bigger Smash Bros. tournaments.
“[It] can cost anywhere from $60 to $120 to enter, not including travel costs, living expenses and food costs for those travelling to compete. Considering how many high-level players enter these events, it is extremely difficult to place in the top 8,” Ngyuen said.
“For the amount of time you spend practicing, and with how competitive large tournaments are, it’s unrealistic to think there is a financial benefit to playing Melee or any Smash Bros. game in general.”
Ford, on the other hand, has been hard on himself when looking back on what he’s accomplished. He was unable to get the big sponsorship he hoped for and didn’t become the best in the world as he wanted.
But despite that, Ford says he is thankful for the opportunities competitive Smash Bros. has given him.
“I’ve travelled to California, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Chicago, Seattle, the west and east coasts of Canada. Playing Smash has granted me opportunities I would’ve never had. I’m glad I’ve been able to go through it all,” Ford said.
“I would say the journey has been worth it.”