Hungrybox is Absurd

April 20 2021

Moving Past the One Tap

The career of Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma is absurd.

When I say “absurd” I mean it in two ways:

  1. The definitional: Ridiculous, incongruous, kinda out there.

  2. The philosophical: The idea that as a human being you’re always searching for meaning but you can’t find it in a universe which fundamentally doesn’t have it. Inside that conflict, comes the absurd.

To understand how Hungrybox embodies both, imagine getting so good at playing Jigglypuff in two different Nintendo party games that your mom becomes a star in a soup ad. Ridiculous and incongruous on the one hand. A plumbing for meaning in the weirdest depths possible on the other hand.

Ya gotta love it - or at least, I do and a lot of other people do too.

Hungrybox’s career encapsulates the absurdity of esports pretty well. This absurdity absolutely exists in sports as well and it’s a vital part of the whole experiment. You get this fast, sharp emotional meaning from watching two people compete but over something that’s just not meaningful on a universal scale. In short, the Sun and the Moon do not give a shit about the results of the ball game. Most of the Earth doesn’t either, even when it’s the World Cup.

In sports, you lose track of the absurdity because this is part of the design. They’re so draped in decoration and pride that people across the world will actively argue for bigger stadiums over bigger schools and better roads. All the decor in the sporting world makes it so sports can grow but the downside comes in that people get lost in the propaganda.

People forget that, sport or esport, the whole thing is a game.

It’s vital to remember it’s all just a game because this what, paradoxically, makes them so important. They become a way to voice emotion, competition, drive, in this space that’s fully absurd in that it’s full of emotional meaning but detached from any kind of true impact. It’s a meaning that is - and should be - easy to step into or away from when it helps to.

Every so often, you need this kind of thing in life.

If everything in life were rich in impact, you’d be crushed by it. (This was part of why 2020 was such an exhausting year, every waking moment was packed with impact). Sometimes you gotta watch your favorite players win or lose and unwind by feeling in a space where it is ultimately safe to feel. The absurdity is a beauty and a comfort.

It’s not a thing you’re supposed to overcome as much as it is a reason for the game to exist in the first place.

2020 Hbox

Over the course of 2020, you became one of, if not the biggest streamer in Smash. I remember you were really jazzed about how well commentary went with Ultimate and that felt much smaller scale. How does it feel to have this big community and stream?

It feels like a new chapter in terms of where I belong in Smash. I’ve already made a pretty big mark in Melee but I think with Ultimate - by no means am I a top player - it’s pretty cool to see that people still enjoy my content and still want me to play the game. I guess Puff is more a hero character in this case.

It’s pretty cool. I’m pretty hyped about making good content and pushing Puff in Ultimate as far as I can.”

2020 Hbox took on a wider meaning than ever before. That says something because for the three years prior to that, he was the rank 1 Melee player. In 2020, he became one of the biggest Smash streamers.

According to data from Twitch Tracker, Hungrybox had an average 1,717 viewers in 2020. This is up from 548 in 2019, which is up from 488 in 2018. According to Twitch Metrics, Hungrybox was the second most viewed Smash Ultimate streamer/channel right behind VGBootCamp in March 2021.

Hbox’s stream is popping off and as a player, he’s more popular than ever. Arguably, more popular than Mang0. In 2020, he had more average viewers (1717 to 1627) though Mang0 had higher peak viewers and more hours watched.

For those unfamiliar with Smash (Melee in particular), Mang0 is on another level when it comes to Melee streaming.

It’s a bit of an understatement to call him the most popular Melee player where really he’s to the level of a cultural symbol. Mang0 leads the meta for his character, makes bank by streaming his authentic self, and is one of the overall best to ever play Melee. Not bad as far as aspirational images go.

In 2018, it would have been hard to imagine Hungrybox reaching that level of cultural hold, but he’s increasingly getting to that point. He already led the meta for his character and was one of the overall best to play the game, so the “make bank by streaming his authentic self” was the only box left to check. It just seemed out of reach given Hbox’s longtime unpopularity in Melee.

There’s a lot to be said about Hbox hate but every writer, myself included, has already said it. Still, all that buzz means that a lot of people talk about the ascent of Hbox’s stream with a hazy disbelief.

“This guy? The Puff we all loved to hate?” But it’s really very easy to understand if you watch Hbox’s stream with an entirely open mind, unburdened by the long stretch of rocky past. (It’s even easier to understand if you roll with the absurdity).

How much do you stay involved in the metrics and the nitty gritty of your channels?

I actually stay pretty involved with that - a lot more than people might think. I’m always checking on analytics, I’m always checking on proper viewership, what streams did well, what streams did less-than-well. I feel like you have to be on top of that to know what works and what doesn’t.

Especially on YouTube also. On Twitch streams I know what works for me. I know people love watching tournaments so I do tournament runs every single day and that’s pretty much it. But on YouTube there’s things like keywords and metadata and what time to upload and what trends and things are important and those are a lot of things you have to stay on top of.

At face, the reason for Hbox’s success is simple: he gives a shit. The entire stream experience is clean, sleek, and high-effort and it shows in a lot of little things.

Hbox has pretty much all the main information you’d want loaded on stream: sub count, chat feed, giveaway targets, sub reward targets, the current sub train, and of course the sponsors - tucked nicely in the corner as a slideshow. It’s all spaced out well enough that it doesn’t interfere with anything either.

This is on top of what’s generally a pretty strong presentation. He’s got a great tournament header worked out and updates it with the set score, the tourney he’s in, and all that jazz. The backdrop is always clean, comfy, and littered with Jigglypuffs. And he has this nice 1-second slide of the Hbox logo for when he switches from stream to camera.

It’s a lot of little stuff that’s not unheard of but that adds up to a lot - especially in Smash. In the world of Smash, the clean presentation sets Hbox apart because Smash is so grassroots. Nintendo basically baked a plucky, casual nature into the Smash scene by regularly picking pointless, damaging fights with competitive Smash over the last two decades.

Nintendo may have the cleanest presentation of any gaming company but Smash players know viscerally that the presentation masks a harmful idiocy. So you see a lot of Smash streamers have more barebones, more deliberately (and incidentally) casual set ups, and a more DIY vibe. Hungrybox comes in with a more readable and put-together stream and it is nice.

It’s not necessarily that the clean style is outright better than the DIY gamer cave style but that there are probably more DIY gamer caves than the clean setups in the Smash world. Not to mention, Hungrybox doesn’t run a generically clean stream either.

There are a lot of little things he does to create rituals and build a sense of community in the stream. The rituals are similarly simple things that get a lot of mileage - stuff like “press 1 for the run” or the longrunning obsession with the DOOM Eternal OST (DMCA-free btw) or giveaway battles that get decided by the game’s wonky CPU’s.

As some cross between a reaction and a rule, I’m deeply wary of parasocial relationships and spending any more time on Twitch than I already do. But Hungrybox’s stream often hooks me because it is so easy to watch and engage with on a spectator level. It also helps the communal vibe that you’ll likely get gifted a sub if you hang out for over an hour. Hungrybox does a lot to encourage those subs with raw gratitude. It’s a pretty sincere gratitude coming from a player who’s struggled to build a fanbase.

Watching the growth of Hbox’s stream and the odd way that the Slippi era played out for him as a competitor, Hbox’s stream reputation took on a lot of interesting angles. A quiet, sort of implicit one was that Hbox’s rise was an inexplicable, weird accident mostly resultant of Ultimate kids that didn’t really know him.

But this is mostly because we rarely talk about content in earnest ways - maybe because it would border on cynical. Maybe no one wants the curtain pulled back on all that. All the same, when I talked with Hbox about content, I found that he simply gave a shit. In going full-time in esports at the end of 2019, he genuinely made it his job and put a professional level of effort in.

Effort is the operative word here.

How much work goes into maintaining and improving the stream for you?

When you’re streaming the quality should be really really good. You don’t want to give people a crappy product so I stream every single day, put at least 4 hours into it.

How do you find ideas [like the CPU giveaway battles] and what does it look like to work them into your stream?

I’ve always been doing computer fights since I was first streaming, it felt like. I would use the giveaway tool and select someone randomly but then I realized we can add another level of randomness but also strategy to this. [...]

People just love watching it and with the new bet prediction tool it just makes it all the more fun. It makes everyone involved in the stream, everyone can interact, everyone can bet, everyone can be part of it. And anyone can enter giveaways, even followers.

I know that you also work with Chia and Cozmos for the YouTube channel and of course Team Liquid and L4st for the Lunchbox. How many people do you have to coordinate with to keep your channel running?

Did you say how many do I rely on?

How many do you have to coordinate with, but rely on is also good.

I would say the entire team has to work well in order to make things happen. I’ll film the video or the content and send it over to Chia and she coordinates the editors and does all that for me. Otherwise I wouldn’t have nearly as much time to put in the content. Chia and Cozmos are very important. The YouTube’s growing a lot. [...]

In terms of Twitch, I have mods on Twitch who do it out of the goodness of their heart. [...] If I had no moderators clearly it would be a lot messier of a chat. But also, you know, little things like writing down names of the people who gift subs. Or people like isatis who has made chatbots and actual programs that have helped me in tournament runs and helped with the sub train countdowns.

Little things like that have actually gone such a far way. So I just consider them close friends at this point and it’s just good to have those kinds of people on my side. It’s really nice. [...]

“You can’t make good content on your own. It’s always a group effort, I feel.”

One must imagine the Puff main happy

“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy,” wrote Albert Camus, the father of Absurdism and the man whose philosophy I’m debasing right now.

Sisyphus was a king who was forced to push a giant boulder up a mountain for eternity by the Greek gods as punishment for cheating death. In Sisyphus, Camus found a fitting metaphor for the absurdity of life. Just as you find happiness or meaning or whatever it is you’re looking for, there you are again, looking for another thing and not so content anymore.

But Camus asked the important question: What if Sisyphus was just like, chill with it? Jokes on you Greek gods, he actually loves that boulder. This is fine for him. It’s great, actually.

The biggest draw of the Hbox stream is the pop-off, because in this moment you are at your closest to seeing Sisyphus happy. You see the painful struggle towards the height and how it fills a person’s heart. These pop-offs long predated the stream and were pretty central to Hbox as a competitor too. To the point that the pop-offs have been riffed on for years.

The thing is, as Hbox won a lot of tournaments the pop-offs could get grating for some - and you could see why. After all, the famous, “F*cking f*ck!” pop-off came right after beating a Zain who Hbox already routinely beat and it looked devastatingly awkward at the time. Nowadays, enough time has passed that it’s mostly a meme.

In 2016, during Hungrybox’s own come up, the pop-off felt more fitting because Hungrybox had gradually climbed what seemed to be a mountain of difficulty in order to win it all. He’d been floating around the top for a long time but always seemed just shy of it. In his big breakthroughs, the moment felt deserved.

Even more so because, against the very best players, it looked hard to win as Jigglypuff. The character could win a game in the blink of an eye, off of one opening. Yet, the character could just as quickly lose the game in the same way.

In Ultimate, it looks so god-damn hard to win as Jigglypuff. In one of my favorite recent content experiments, Dabuz has taken to playing low-tiers in tournaments to capture that good tournament viewership while also not losing his mind to Ultimate’s disastrously bad netcode. He did surprisingly well with Ganondorf - a character often argued to be the worst in the game.

He tried Jigglypuff and could not win more than one set.

In Melee, Jigglypuff is suffering but she is a mutual suffering. The opponent will think they are Zeus and will find out they’re actually in a contest to see who can roll this boulder farther up the hill before it tumbles down again. The opponent and the player both will know pain. And in top level Melee, this is sort of the norm anyways.

In Ultimate, Jigglypuff is just suffering. One-sided, unrequited suffering.

There are myriad reasons for this ranging from dying very early, lacking good rest confirms, lacking neutral tools, lacking zoning tools, lacking boxing tools, lacking spacing tools, being a good edgeguarder in a game where edgeguarding isn’t important, but still not being THAT good of an edgeguarder.

The list goes on.

What’s important is that Jigglypuff is a giant pink boulder of a burden, but one must imagine the Puff main happy.

This is the truth that powers all low-tier heroes and makes them beloved. They suffer for the craft but they wouldn’t have it any other way. They love this garbage character of theirs and they must be happy with the unique brand of suffering that comes with them. Otherwise they’d just pick a top tier.

Hungrybox briefly tried Ness, Wario, and Kirby (Diet Puff). None of them stuck because one must imagine the Puff main happy.

Here, Hungrybox’s pop-offs become even more beautiful because you really feel that he loves to push the immense pink boulder up the mountain of disjoints and projectiles. When Hungrybox beats Sparg0’s Cloud (one of the best in online Ultimate) and loses his mind, you feel it. You feel it even if you know that Hbox will run into a Snake or a Yoshi just one set later and the boulder will go careening back down to the base of the mountain.

This is a task where Hbox is uniquely suited (I’d argue “destined” but we’re talking absurdity here). A sincerely emotional person, Hbox struggles alongside Puff and feels the slim successes he earns with this character so viscerally that you feel them too. As a competitor, he is so used to playing this high-risk, high-reward character that he also takes the blows well because he has to.

Do you think [Ultimate] Puff fares better offline or online?

Offline she probably fares better. The player with better reaction times usually wins and she’s a character that relies on that. Online is just too variant and you can’t deal with characters that are spammy as well - or zoners.

Is the incredible light weight a part of that?

I mean at any point I can blink and I’m just dead. I died at like 20% from a Mario up-b the other day and I just sat at the screen stunned. I die from a Bowser back air or up-smash at like 50%. Hero critical I just die at 0.

You have to take everything with such a grain of salt that at this point I’m always numb to it.I think that’s the best way I’ve approached it. Just be prepared to be hurt [chuckles]. Roll with punches.

The people, they love absurdity. Even if they don’t know to name it absurdity. The people love it especially in a very self-serious scene embedded in a very self-serious world.

Smash is, and has long been, the kind of space where even the mid-level player often relates hard to an anime protagonist. In Ultimate, it’s a space where teenagers lose their minds on twitter over a bad matchup.

In Melee, it’s a space where every person who creates content around the game has also cried while watching Ping Pong: The Animation. Myself included.

(Tag yourself: I’m the guy who loses, gets sad, and goes to the beach. Or maybe Butterfly Joe.)

It is overall very good that Smash is a self-serious space. It’s a grassroots community which provides a rich sense of meaning and friendship to a lot of people who could use it. It’s also a community which must self-police and self-determine, a struggle that became so immense in 2020 as so many grooming and sexual assault allegations surfaced.

The space has to be self-serious to survive. In turn, the self-seriousness also helps to keep the voices with large platforms honest. So it went for Hungrybox when he faced backlash for a briefly lived sponsorship with the US Army and an equally briefly lived Pyra-Mythra video that leaned too far into the over-sexualization that often pushes women away from Smash and esports at large.

The backlash helped him to be more considerate in both cases. It also might help to avoid building up a cult of personality, which you want to avoid even if you’re a diehard Hbox fan.

I remember in the emotional video with iBDW that people look up to you. They tell you that you’re a help to them. What does taking on this kind of role in ultimately a younger audience feel like to you? Is that responsibility at all a stressor?

I mean it’s always good to carry yourself in a way that you wanna be seen, to treat others in a way that you wanna be treated. I always feel that because social media and content is so wide-reaching, you take it for granted. You forget just how far-reaching one video or one tweet can be. [...]

It’s a learning process, you sort of stumble every once in a while but you go through it and I think that in the end it’s all just trial and error. Like anything else in life, it’s something you get better at it. It’s like a craft you can perfect over time.

The Smash community is a diverse and rich one with a lot of tough battles that it faces sincerely. That’s good, but it means there’s a certain joy to the absurdity that Hbox seems to attract, even when he himself is at his most self-serious.

At the peak of Hbox hatred, this man had a live crab thrown at him during a Maryland Smash tournament. At the peak of his stream, he popped off so hard that he passed out. He built up to both peaks by rolling that pink boulder up that mountain.

Now as Hbox is struggling in Melee, it feels as though most sides of the Smash community understand this. They understand the struggle of the Puff as they see Hbox pushed to the limit in both titles, popping off with enough sincerity to pass out in both titles, seeking meaning in the chaotic void in both titles.

The Dao of Puff

Oftentimes, Daoism gets conflated as a sort of “Chinese absurdism” because it can have similar conclusions and approaches about human life as Camus. The three core texts of Daoism (Loazi, Zhuangzi, and Liezi) all speak about the true meaning of things as something you can’t speak about, even if you were to understand them.

The pursuit of meaning is again slippery, chaotic, and occasionally absurd. But Daoism is a religion and as such sees a way to get towards a kind of religious truth by following a deeply individualized, ineffable path. This path cannot and so The true goal is to intuit the path. To find the things which fit you naturally and to follow them. In Daoism, there are a lot of examples of people finding this path through mastery of craft: a legendary woodcarver, a legendary butcher, a legendary swimmer, etc.

For a long time, this was Hbox’s dao. He was Melee’s legendary Puff.

Mang0, the only other person to rise to the top with Puff, noted in a talk with Scar and Toph that the principle challenge of Melee Puff is mentality.

“You’ve got to have massive, massive mental game to play that character. [...] Hbox’s whole thing when he was good was he had the mental game of like, 20 lions combined. [...] Cause that’s how you have to play Puff. Puff is all mental, you gotta be like ‘I’m not approaching, let’s do this. I’m down to play a 7-minute game, upthrow rest you, pop-off.’ He was just a stone-cold killer.”

Puff is a character that fits Hbox well precisely because Hungrybox is absurd. Hungrybox celebrates the successes in Smash so intensely because they just feel that intense to him. To put that much meaning into Smash is absurd by both definitions of the word, but it worked incredibly well for Hbox. It gave him the Dao of the Puff.

So, in 2020, when Hbox suddenly seemed to lose the way with Melee Puff it was a great curiosity.

There were and are still a lot of speculations about the why behind it. Was Hbox not playing well or had the field figured him out? Was Hbox simply not built for online, or struggling more due to personal events in his life? Hbox answers many of these concerns directly in the interview, showing there’s some truth in pretty much all these things.

Is part of that [Melee] difficulty just that drain? That drain of having streaming as this job?

That’s definitely a big part of it. The proper meta or strategy would be obviously to stream yourself practice Melee, to stream yourself dedicating it all to Melee - which I’ve been doing more often the past couple of weeks. I think it’s been going a little better for me.

[There are] a lot of other reasons why I’ve maybe not placed as well in Melee compared to the offline era is because of the amount of passion you put into and also out of game personal life circumstances. I think, you know, however your personal life is going is a direct reflection of your performance in Melee or the thing you are like your absolute best at.

You have to take full advantage now of everything the game has to offer. People are power shielding everything, people are perfectly shield dropping, sing perfect movement, and perfectly spacing away. You have to be that much quicker on your toes, especially when you’re up close to someone.

(iBDW innovates on the Fox-Puff matchup by punishing normally safe aerial drifts with hard callouts.)

Oh yeah it’s actually ludicrous. It’s ludicrous how much the skill gap has been squeezed and it’s because of Slippi - obviously. The entire meta changed as every single person has access to really good gameplay with really good rollback connection. Far better than Nintendo could have offered.

(Rising top 100 player Ben innovates on the Sheik-Puff matchup: 1. using needles to safely regain stage control and a shield-drop fair to land on center stage 2. a downthrow-nair conversion to combo a high percentage Puff 3. calling out normally safe high aerial drift with an up air.)

I was like, “Wow, this has actually changed a lot. I better get back to work.”

How viable do you think these reaction tech chase platform rests are and how much are you working that into your game plan?

They’re very viable and I’m trying to put them in every chance I get. So when I’m playing online, whenever I see an opening, I just go for it. Even if I miss I just gottas familiarize myself with it.

Playing nowadays does it feel like people know the Puff matchup a little bit better?

Yep, they definitely do and I can feel it with every single person that I play. Random opponents just understand the character a lot more and now if you’re gonna win the match and win the tournament you can’t just be the best at the character. You have to innovate on the spot and play Melee like the Jazz game that it is. So that’s kind of what the goal now is.

Now in March 2021, we see an Hbox that’s competing regularly and looks invested. Still he’s not quite playing like his old self and one wonders if it doesn’t have to do with his new, emerging “Ultimate” self.

The language of “paths” really excels in the case of Smash because it’s very rare that you can walk two different ones at the same time.

Melee is such a demanding game (yes, even for Puff) that very few players can pick up another Smash talent without it taking away from Melee. Mew2King was the best to do this, reaching insane heights in Melee and Brawl simultaneously, but this was in a very different world.

It was a dark age of Smash where all communities were fighting to survive and where players had to struggle to grow and learn. This current age of Smash is arguably a golden one, where new players are roaring into the top 100 and upsetting any of the old guard that aren’t actively practicing. This goes for both Melee and Ultimate (even before either game had netplay asterisks).

To make matters more difficult, players usually never tried this with the same character in each iteration. This is because there’s enough shared language between the games that it can screw you up. As different as Ultimate and Melee Puff are, they share enough that the habits which are good for one and bad for the other can easily bleed over.

Commentators, players, and fans all point out that Hungrybox’s Melee Puff seems to carry some Ultimate habits. Hungrybox knows it himself and admits that it does make Melee Puff harder to play. Both in my interview with him and in a heart-to-heart with iBDW where he says that for once his two passions really conflict.

I’m curious, do you feel like Ultimate influences your gameplay?

I think it definitely does because neutral is interesting and different in both games. You have to be kind of safe in both games but because Puff sucks in Ultimate I think you are sometimes forced to play aggro and just go in and go for high risk options and also my chat just loves the high risk options. That’s the thing too when you’re streaming.

(Hbox goes in, immediately dies, then mixes up between safe and aggressive drifts to get the next stock)

I realized that in Melee, “Huh, I’m being a lot more aggressive than I used to be. Maybe I should tone it down and stick to what I was good at and stick to what won me tournaments.”

When I’m switching games, I just give myself 30 minutes of warmup to get my brian back in the right function. If you go back and forth, one to the other, it will be completely sloppy but usually my regime is I stream like 2-3 hours of Ultimate then I stream 2 hours of Melee.

The fact that you’re playing Puff in both Ultimate and Melee, where sometime option select that’s good in one game or not as good in the other -

Oh yeah, sure that can happen. I’ve gone for dumb sings in Melee and I’ve gone for dumb rollouts in Ultimate. It’s usually very rarely that happens so it doesn’t effect it that much but some days you feel it in your fingers. Like, yeah today’s a Melee day, today’s an Ultimate day and there’s not much you can do about it.

If you’re gonna be entering a huge Melee tournament, especially a couple days prior, you should dedicate fully to Melee and just have Melee on your mind and fingers.

(Hbox shows why Melee Puff cannot hold forward.)

You can see this conflict bear out the most in gameplan, where Hungrybox won’t default to safe patterns that work in Melee. Melee Puff’s active back air and great aerial mobility mean that Hbox can fluster even really good opponents by hovering just out of distance, throwing out bairs.

Instead, he fishes for the risky engages that he needs to win in Ultimate. In Ultimate, Puff can no longer hope to zone or force most opponents to engage. The game has too many better zoners, too many faster characters, too many swordies who out-space her. She needs to go in and gamble sometimes.

You can see it simply in the inputs too. At peak form, seeing a missed rest was a rarity for Hbox - so much so it had to be commented on. Now, it feels like it happens once per tournament run and half the time it isn’t worth talking about.

Last weekend, Hbox had one of his best-looking tournaments in recent memory at the Slippi Champions League. Despite missing rests and execution tests on Lucky, he beat the Fox main pretty handily. He went on to take iBDW, probably the best Fox players versus Puff, to the closest game 5 we’ve seen from the two in months.

This all came on a day where Hbox didn’t play Ultimate. The paths that we walk come at a cost. Mastery in one thing may hinder mastery in another. Hbox knows this well and he’s trying to prepare accordingly, making time to separate Ultimate and Melee brain and dedicate to Melee for the big tournaments.

To a degree, the preparation is paying off. Despite Hbox taking on this new hybrid-path in Smash, he’s still easily the best Puff in Melee (even with the 2Saint loss). The Twitch Chat may call him washed but unless a top 10 player is in there spamming copypastas, he’s still better than everyone in that gallery. In his worst stretch in years, he is still at Melee’s top echelon.

New path

The reasonable analyst doesn’t ask if Hbox is bad now. The reasonable analyst asks if Hbox can be the threat he once was - the force you had to be able to beat if you wanted to be number 1. The guy who was so good that you would see him in top 8 of any major - if not top 2.

The reasonable analyst knows that we have no answer here. I can tell you what Hbox told me - that he is working hard to be the best Puff in both titles. (Not an easy task even in Ultimate, where there is also Bassmage and .) That he is back to grinding Melee but also that Melee is now woven into a stream strategy where he plans to compete in both games.

I can tell you that the old rhythm he won with did get disrupted by the rise of online tournaments and that he - like so many competitors - is itching for the return to the CRT. But I can’t tell you if he’ll come back to going toe-to-toe with Zain and Mang0. I can’t tell you if this new path leads back up to the summit.

What I can say is that the new path is every bit as Hbox as the old one was. It’s every bit as rich in meaning, full of weirdness, speculation, and emotion. It’s every bit as “Puff” and it’s every bit as absurd.

For Melee fans, I think it can be a bit hard to get behind. You don’t always know what you got until it’s gone and it turns out the Hgod clutching it out makes for some insane narratives and even more insane tournaments. But if Hbox slips out of the top 5 (or perhaps top 10) in pursuit of streaming Ultimate then it’s still hard to blame him.

From watching his stream, it’s clear how much he not only loves Ultimate but loves the space and community that he’s cultivated there. Odd as it might sound, the low tier hero streamer Puff is every bit as Hbox as the top tier Thanos Puff. And then, there is always that chance, right?

There’s that chance he does it. There’s the chance he comes back to rest on every competitor in Melee while being a cultural force in Ultimate. It’s hard to imagine but again, did you ever imagine the guy getting a soup commercial?

Writer // Austin R. Ryan

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StarCraft 2   Catching up on StarCraft: Your TSL 7 article nexus Looking to catch up on StarCraft for TSL 7? This is your main base for the articles and features we're posting on both and as TSL 7 goes on. TSL 7 is a huge part of Liquid history and StarCraft history so be sure to read up and tune in.