The June 2016 edition of the massively popular APEX tournament series was a stacked event, with a number of high ranked players in attendance and plenty of impressive performances. However, there was one Smash for Wii U (also called Smash 4) match that seemed to generate more excitement than any other: Kelsy "SuperGirlKels" Medeiros' victory over Smash Bros. legend Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman.
It was a close series, with Mew2King's Cloud taking the first game, but SuperGirlKels was able to clutch it out 2-1 thanks to some inventive Sonic play. She would ultimately get fifth at the tournament, her highest placing yet at a major US event. The wins are nice, but, for SuperGirlKels, Smash is a passion and she just wants to enjoy her time playing it.
SuperGirlKels' love of the game goes way back to playing Super Smash Bros. 64 with her dad, who introduced her to gaming at a young age "Growing up, my mom was the one working very hard from 9-5, six days a week, so I got to spend a lot of time with my dad," she says. She remembers playing a variety of Nintendo titles like Kirby and Pokémon together, but she admits that Sega's classic platformer Sonic the Hedgehog may have had the biggest impact on her. "When my mom and dad were dating, they bonded a lot over Sonic 1 for the Genesis. When I was born, they already had the cartridge along with Sonic 2," she recalls. "Sonic 2 was easier to handle at the age of four, and I just fell in love with it."
She loved the game so much that it inspired her to get serious about competing with the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which featured Sega's blue hedgehog as a playable character. "When I heard that Sonic was a playable character, my favorite character, I was so hyped," she says. "I knew right away that I had a goal to be one of the best Sonics." As she started competing, she says her dad didn't really get the point of traveling to play games, but he was always supportive. "He didn't exactly think it would become a passion," says SuperGirlKels. "It's funny because as a family trip back in 2012, I really wanted to go to APEX. He said, 'Let's go this one time for fun!' Little did he know what he was about to spark into my life!"
Seeing the strength of the Smash community at that event inspired SuperGirlKels even more, and she spent the next two years practicing with friends she met on All Is Brawl, an online Smash forum and ladder ranking site. Thanks to Brawl's online capabilities, SuperGirlKels was able to connect with Smash fans all over the world. "I trained there a lot with random people," she says. "It was super laggy, but I definitely did learn."
Once she felt confident in her play, SuperGirlKels started traveling to compete at larger events, and soon had her breakout performance in 2014 at a US national tournament called SKTAR 3. "I think I was just turning 18, and in my bracket I played the best player in France at the time," she says, referring to the Marth main Nassim "Leon" Laib. "Everyone watched intensely and it was super hype. He ended up winning 2-1, but I almost beat him, and that's when things pretty much started for me." Smash 4 would release just a few months later and SuperGirlKels, along with many of the other top Brawl players, would make the switch to the new title.
SuperGirlKels quickly found success in Smash 4, placing top 8 at Canadian majors like Montreal ComicCup and Canada Cup within the first year of release, becoming the first female Smasher to do so in Canada. Today she is considered a top professional in Smash 4, thanks in part to her unique approach to Sonic.
"I believe I'm probably one of the most different Sonic mains out there; that's just my style," she says, referring to her aggressive tactics, "I'm very up in your face and I like to make my opponent nervous. I like to pressure them and bait out mistakes." SuperGirlKels likes to think her playstyle is reflective of Sonic's actual personality. "I like to play Sonic for the character he is. He's supposed to be annoying but aggressive at the same time," she says, adding that most opponents aren't expecting to face that type of Sonic. "I definitely try to make him as fun as possible."
Nowhere is this style more evident than in her APEX 2016 winner's matches against Mew2King. She keeps the pressure on with constant approaches, which is a risky maneuver against Cloud and his many KO options. However, SuperGirlKels says she felt prepared, having studied his sets at EGLX and practiced with a friend in Montreal. "I realized he's the type of player who really likes to focus on reading and seeing the science of the game," says SuperGirlKels. "I figured throwing out some random stuff would throw him off, and that's what ended up working."
After winning the game, SuperGirlKels' brother Jayy rushed the stage to congratulate her, but she says she was already focused on the next match. "I kind of enjoy the moment when it happened, but at the same time I treat all players the same and I gotta stay focused on the next player coming up."
SuperGirlKels' win over M2K, and her overall performance at the event, created quite a buzz on Twitter, with many big names in the Smash community applauding her play. One tweet from Melee pro Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma said, "Honestly SuperGirlKels beating M2K is awesome. She's breaking the far-too-old stigma that a girl can't be a pro smasher. F**king amazing."
SuperGirlKels says it feels incredible to be one of the catalysts for changing outdated gender norms. In the past, she has always done her best not to let any negativity get to her. "It definitely is something that stands out to a woman in Smash, and it is kind of sad," she says, "but I just focused on me and what I can do, and never cared what people had to say about me." At the end of the day SuperGirlKels wants to have fun playing the game, but she doesn't mind if other players see her as an inspiration. "If I can trigger something that can motivate other people or other women to get into the Smash community, it's really awesome," she says. "We're all human and we all have the same potential; we just have to do it."
SuperGirlKels says her current goal is to move further up the Montreal Smash 4 power rankings, where she is currently ranked #3 behind the brothers Ally and Holy. However, she isn't solely focused on her own improvement; she wants to help advance the Smash community as a whole. She runs a website similar to All Is Brawl to help new players find their way into the scene, and is planning on hosting Smash 4 weeklies in Montreal.
Recently, while attending a friend's graduation party, she even got a chance to introduce a new generation of gamers to Smash, an experience she shared with a short video on her Twitter account. Noticing a group of bored kids at the party, she decided to teach them how to play. "The results were magic, and they all kept falling in love with the characters," she says. "They played for hours and it was hard to get them off the game. We have to realize that if we want esports to continue we have to keep inspiring. That's what I saw that night, so I had to capture it!"
Its awesome teaching kids how to play Smash and introduce them to Nintendo characters for the first time ❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/NYYlUNJe1G
— Circa | HoH_SGK (@SuperGirlKels) June 26, 2016
SuperGirlKels wants to keep competing for as long as she can, but she is also pursuing a number of interests outside of Smash as well. "I'm working towards maybe being on the radio someday, or some sort of entertainment media," she says. "Smash 4 is a passion to me; it's not a job. It should be a getaway." She says she currently has two albums for DJing and does YouTube videos to work on her broadcasting skills. "I'm always looking for the next step, and I have Smash on the side for fun. I just want to take it to the fullest potential that I can."