A four-year-old is sitting on the floor. He's completely focused on the flickering from the television, doing his best to evade every projectile that the game is tossing at him. Stuck on a bridge, fireballs and hammers force him to calculate every motion -- from the angle he should approach at to the best time to make his move. Finally, he sees it: a slight window of daylight.
Mario leaps over the final boss, clutches the axe and Bowser falls into lava at the end of world 8-4. The princess is safe, and the quest is over. It's a tale that resonates with most gamers. After all, many fell in love at first sight thanks to the Super Mario Bros. franchise.
The ending is where the tale diverges. For most people, it would be the start of a hobby: hours in front of a television, controllers in hand. For that four-year-old, a passion would be ignited, starting a journey that would take him all over the world, giving him something to strive toward. For Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman, the quest would just be the beginning.
"I've always had a huge passion for video games in general. To be completely honest, my goal was simple: to be the best," Zimmerman said. "That's by far what I cared about the most."
Twelve years later, he has embarked on his path to being the best and unknowingly educated thousands of Smashers, creating a database of information that might embarrass strategy guide writers. Twenty-three years later, he has left an indelible mark on gaming, especially in the realm of Super Smash Bros. And he has never stopped refining his play.
"I come up with good ideas all the time, so that's why my gameplay always changes," Zimmerman added. "There are times I forget old stuff, which makes me worse. But then, in the future, it randomly comes back to me and I start doing it again. So my style changes a lot, as I gain new information and accidentally forget the old."
The laurels attached to his name are seemingly innumerable; he has been at the forefront of the Smash scene for over a decade. His versatility in the series is what makes his name pop up first when discussing the greatest Smasher of all time.
"I think it's hard to play many games at once. It makes a very small impact. But often, that small impact is the difference between winning and losing," Zimmerman explained, noting the difficulty of swapping between game engines, let alone matchups and player bases. "Now, the goal is to be the best at both Melee and Smash 4, in both singles and teams."
That versatility may be preventing him from being No. 1. Follow Zimmerman at any major event -- or even better, listen to the loudspeaker at a major. Three years ago, it wasn't uncommon for him to be torn between six brackets at once, asking for time before switching games just so he can get acclimated to his next match and his next opponent. In more traditional fighters, we do see players like Justin Wong, Tokido, SonicFox and GO1 able to divide their focus between multiple games at the top level.
But presently, Zimmerman is the only one who is doing it at that level in Smash.
"It holds me back very slightly I think," he added. "As I said, that slight shift is often the difference with winning or losing sets. I still prefer to play both Melee and Smash 4, since I'm good at both."
He'll be preparing for a difficult bracket in both of those games this weekend at Get On My Level 2016.
While his placements in Super Smash Bros. for WiiU have been what many expect of him, he's certain that he has a lot more potential in the game; he's looking to unlock it soon, particularly as old foes, Nairo and Ally, look to prevent him from taking home that trophy.
"Nairo and Ally are definitely better than me, but it's not a goal I can't reach," Zimmerman explained. "It's mostly that they have much more Smash 4 experience than I do, since I only really started taking the game seriously after Cloud was released. I also always had a divided focus between Smash 4 and Melee, but there's a lot I can still learn, I believe. As for who else I run into, I don't really care. There are many people that can beat me, but at the same time, I also believe I can beat anybody too, if I play well."
For Melee, he has proven that he can beat anyone out there. He has taken sets from the rest of the top level. Yet, his most recent first-place finish at a substantial event was last August at PAX Prime. The level of competition at PAX Prime, however, is a far cry from what he'll be facing at GOML. Leffen, Mango, Armada and Hungrybox are all just as eager to compete for the prize.
"His versatility in the series is what makes his name pop up first when discussing the greatest Smasher of all time."
"My recent big wins are the 6-0 I did on Leffen at PAX -- which was when he 3-0'd Westballz and Hugs -- and my 3-0 on Armada," Zimmerman said. "I've 3-0'd Mango in many sets, but he's also won more than half our sets, too. Me and Mango have played so many times, so it's generally just who's playing better at the current moment. I believe my struggle versus Hbox is due to Fox being my third main, instead of one of my main two characters. I think there's nobody that I can't beat in Melee. I've proven this before, but I honestly think I also have played much better in friendlies than I have in a lot of the tournament sets."
While many look at players as Zimmerman's strongest test, others believe that the biggest battle he has to win is the one within. "My Fox, for example, can play incredibly good, but I feel that I usually play much worse in tournament sets," he said. "Consistency is a huge thing I lack, for various reasons, such as playing multiple games. And mental issues I have and have always had. I struggle with depression and I think this makes it easy to get into a sad mindset, based on how events in my real life are going."
We often see players take a break and clear their head between events, but Zimmerman has done everything he can to be an iron man. There are times during which he'll compete in a major event on Sunday and be across the country on Monday morning heading to a local. As the Smash scene has grown, many players have noted the difficulty of acclimating to the wear and tear of travel.
For Zimmerman, it's the only lifestyle he knows.
Many don't see the strides he's taking now after what essentially has been a decade on the road. His diet is improving and many hope that his recent signing to Echo Fox will lead to some additional services. Maybe in July, he'll be able to kick back and look at things from a different perspective.
"Soon after Evo, I'll move to Orlando with the Most Valuable Gaming team, and then I'll focus a bit more on streaming," Zimmerman said. "Any game that I feel like playing. When I'm not at tournaments, I plan on streaming a lot. My future will definitely involve MVG for the rest of my life; that part will never change. I want to play games for the rest of my life, and do gaming-related things. It's my passion, and it's what I've done for the past 23 years of my life, too."
That might be the first opportunity to see his pinnacle. Focused on both games but with a whole body and mind to go with it. Less travel wearing down on him and a team that is just as invested in Jason Zimmerman, the person, as they are in Mew2King, the player. Maybe in the second half of the year, we'll see him ascend again from legend to the best, reclaiming a title he clutched before.
Or maybe if you tune in, you'll see him playing Super Mario Maker. And maybe, somewhere in his eyes, you'll see the joy of that very same four-year-old burning bright after all these years.