No Evolution 2016 champion has had a more roller-coaster year than Super Smash Bros. Melee champion Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma. After winning throughout the summer, he had a major crisis on his hands regarding his esports career, which led to him quitting his engineering job to focus on Melee full-time. The community was torn on his decision, but it seems the move has paid off, as he managed to come just shy of winning a Canada Cup 2016 title, losing to Adam “Armada” Lindgren in a very close grand finals set.
Just after the event, I had a chance to talk to Team Liquid’s Hungrybox before he had to run to catch his flight out of Toronto.
Missing Person: You’ve had a lot of moving and shaking since winning Evolution. What has life been like for you since July?
Hungrybox: It’s been kind of hectic, since I was doing my last two weeks at work. Then after that, I had to put myself in the right mindset to play Melee again. But leaving my job made me look forward to playing Melee again. I have been looking forward to Melee more than I ever have. It was definitely a ton of fun coming to Canada Cup and playing. I wasn’t expecting to win, to be honest, but I expected to be in a good mindset and my prediction was correct. In the grand finals set with Armada, you can see that we were both getting into each other’s heads.
Missing Person: What else made this set with Armada so spectacular?
Hungrybox: He is so good at this game, but I think—not to be cocky—that I’m also very good. But what I’m saying is that we both understand what we’re both trying to do against each other. We’re not trying to give ourselves easy openings and our punish games were both immaculate. He and Leffen both have the finest punish games on the planet against Jigglypuff, and I’m the Puff that has to punish all these Foxes. But I’m learning a lot and it all comes down to a battle of stamina and who is going to budge first. He won the tournament because he earned it, but leading up to Summit, this is going to be interesting.
Missing Person: What adjustments did you see Armada making after the reset to take you out?
Hungrybox: The first game after the reset was a really good indicator of what he was doing. He was simply not giving me any opportunities to touch him. He was extremely careful with his positioning. He was less lazy about it after the second game, but was still a little lazy during the first game. I was doing really well on the ground approach throughout the set, but ultimately he was making me pay more for my approach.
Missing Person: So I know you said you were looking into getting into Super Smash Bros. for Wii U when concentrating on esports full time. How is the progress on that game going?
Hungrybox: I am absolute garbage at Smash 4. I’m trying to get into it, and I’m streaming it when I play, but it is just a huge adjustment from playing Melee full time and I’m not there yet.
Missing Person: I actually had a friend goad me to ask this question, and said it was half-serious. With your bait-and-switch style play in Melee, why are you not going Sonic in Smash 4?
Hungrybox: Because I’m a decent human being and not an asshole. You know, I talk a lot of garbage about Sonic players when I stream Smash 4, and feel like it’s a bad way to get a win, but a lot of people said that about Jigglypuff in Melee, and I dealt with all the flak that comes with my main for years. Overall it’s a choice in playstyle and personality to pick a main, so I can’t really hate too much on Sonic, but it’s just not the way I want to go.
Missing Person: So no regrets quitting your job now obviously?
Hungrybox: Absolutely not. I know it’s a cut in pay for now, and it’s a risk, but for me this is the way to go. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and really enjoying what I’m doing right now. I seriously fell back in love with playing Melee again, and that’s obviously going to trickle down to my play and how I approach each tournament. Like I said, I didn’t come here expecting to win, but to do well, and getting second proves that I’m doing exactly that.
Missing Person: So how do you feel with Smash Summit on the horizon and the prep time you have to get into that?
Hungrybox: I’m highly optimistic. See, at Evolution and all throughout the summer, I was winning all these tournaments, and that was great. But I was not at my prime. No one was. But I think we’re all working toward that peak, and I’m feeling closest to ‘Box Prime than I’ve felt in years. My punishes are getting better, my DIs are becoming pristine, and my understanding of the game is improving. And with everyone else nearing that same prime, I think Summit is going to be insane.
Missing Person: One thing that has been nagging me and I’d love your feedback. With the high skill cap, the large gap between entry level players and the pros, and the risk of injury, where do you feel like Melee is headed? Do you think the game will be healthy or will it eventually die?
Hungrybox: I don’t see Melee dying any time soon. We’ve had all this talk for years of the five gods of Melee, with me being in there, but the top ten and twenty players are starting to take games off of us. Yeah, there’s a skill gap, but players are constantly playing and improving, and I don’t see any reason why Melee is going to die. I seriously envision that come 2020, there won’t be talk about five gods and it will be more like ten gods who are just really good at this game.