Meet The Players Competing On The Exotic Fringes Of Their Favorite Games

It was the biggest match of Leaf’s Super Smash Bros. career, and her Lucas was one of the best in the game. All that stood in her way on the path to the tournament crown was a nasty Ridley player in a two-stock match. Leaf quickly dispatched Ridley’s first life by luring them to the map’s edge. But, immediately after respawning, Ridley knocked Lucas off the stage in a bold attempt to even the odds. Ridley then rushed forward to try and spike Lucas into oblivion, but whiffed the killing blow. Leaf quickly readjusted Lucas and gave Ridley a spike of their own, sealing the first-place finish.

Leaf, who prefers to go by her in-game tag, claimed victory in the Smash tournament, but she didn’t actually play in the match–her Amiibo did. Leaf is an Amiibo trainer: she “trains” an AI-controlled fighter, Lucas in this case, by playing against it in matches. But when Lucas competes in tournaments, it does so all on its own. Leaf can only watch and hope she’s prepared her Amiibo enough ahead of time whenever it goes to battle in the small, weird world of competitive Amiibo fighting.

Esports has become a booming industry with a huge number of players and spectators, but around the fringes of the games that get major attention, like League of Legends and Call of Duty, are the smaller, weirder competitions. Some well-known competitive games have smaller communities that focus on different aspects from the major competitors, such as with the Amiibo trainers or Rocket League hockey players. Other games that get little attention have thriving groups of competitors, like that of Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy dualists. These groups rely on their own organization and programming ability to create the competitions they want without support from the mainstream.

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