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The Case Against Bayonetta and Why It's Urgent

Trobaire - January 22, 2018

When it comes to the topic of banning characters in competitive games, there are generally three schools of thought, which I'll call the Theorist, Pragmatist, and Purist viewpoints.

The Theorist school holds the belief that a character must be unambiguously dominant in the meta, such that the character (or possibly a direct counterpick to that character) is the only truly viable option. The Pragmatist says that a character should be banned if doing so would improve the health of the game and retain players and viewers who may have otherwise lost interest. The Purist believes that no character should ever be banned under any circumstance.

It is difficult to make the case to a Theorist (or, obviously, a Purist) that Bayonetta should be banned in Smash 4. Although matchup charts and general consensus point to Bayo having few or no losing matchups, tournament results do not paint the picture of a dominant character. The most you can do is point to the ascendancy and relative dominance of Bayo mains at the local level, which a Theorist is not necessarily concerned about.

The argument for banning Bayonetta at this time, then, is based mostly on Pragmatic concerns. Reading Twitter during Genesis 5 showed a stark contrast in the predominant mood of the fanbases for Smash 4 and Melee. Melee fans were incredibly hyped about Plup's run to 1st over Armada and Hungrybox. Meanwhile in Smash 4, a lower ranked player making a historic run through losers to 2nd place was met not with hype, but with pessimism and concern, with many rooting for Leo over Mistake in Grand Finals. Mistake was definitely the underdog through all of Top 6, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the reaction to his wins. I'm not saying this is entirely due to Bayo, but if you asked most viewers, she's probably what they would point to.

Smash 4 has a problem. There is an extreme level of negativity throughout the scene as a whole, and it threatens to cause a mass exodus of players and viewers. Sponsors are pulling out of the scene, top players are quitting, and opinions of the game at all levels are not conducive to growth. Smash 4 players have become some of the worst salespeople in the world: we don't take pride in our game, we apologize for it. Why would anyone want to invest their time or money in that?

Is this all Bayo's fault? Absolutely not. But you'd have to be blind to miss where the vast majority of this festering  pessimism is rooted. Unlike other "jank" characters like Cloud, Ryu, Meta Knight, and Zero Suit Samus, Bayonetta can initiate her unconscionably early kills simply by predicting that the opponent will press a button. There is a strong feeling among players that Bayonetta is immune to pressure and essentially has no disadvantage state whatsoever, because Witch Time and Witch Twist can kill you off of almost any of your options, from anywhere on the stage. Couple that with the fact that to escape her combos requires extremely particular SDI (and there's a TON of conflicting information on what that particular SDI is) and even the best SDI can still lead to fatal 50/50s in some instances, and you get a sense of hopelessness coming from even the most experienced top-level players, much less the local low-level players. This hopelessness turns into anger, resulting in Bayo players receiving (unwarranted) hatred and insults--which in turn fosters a general atmosphere of negativity in many local scenes, leading players to quit.

Banning a character is not a decision that can be made lightly. Banning Meta Knight in Brawl was an extremely controversial decision that some will argue irrevocably tarnished the game's reputation. However, others will say that Brawl's reputation was tarnished not by banning MK, but by leaving him unbanned for years while players fled the scene in droves. This is why I am making this argument now, when the warning signs are present but the consequences are not yet at catastrophic levels. Players that adopt a "wait-and-see" approach to these concerns risk the scene's death by inaction.

There's another factor in the exigency of the Bayonetta issue: Dragon Ball FighterZ.

DBFZ is an uber-hyped FG competitor with mass appeal and a major draw for the anime-loving Smash community. Unlike most fighting games, there is a high potential for DBFZ to be able to support local scenes on the level of Smash. If the game is reasonably well-balanced and "jank" free (and compared to Smash, most FGs are), we can expect a large migration of the Smash 4 player base to DBFZ. Banning Bayonetta does not guarantee that this won't happen, but it might improve the image the game has at the moment, which could help retain players who would now have other options.

I understand that this argument is controversial and may not be popular. The Pragmatist arguments for character bans are rarely brought up in these types of discussions, as most players tend to hold Theorist beliefs by default. I actually did too, up until recently. I realized that if I had to travel 2 hours for 8-man locals and our University's Smash Club died out and I lost contact with my Smash friends because half of them quit, it wouldn't matter if I was theoretically justified in my positions. I want to make the scene the best it can be, and I now believe that this is how we can do it. Let me know on Twitter if you agree or want to continue the discussion.

This blog post was written by a SSB World community member. Share your Smash 4 knowledge by creating your own blog post now.

Comments

Well written blog. While I don't agree that she should be banned (Theorist), I do agree that if we wait and she does become a character worth banning it will be too late.
FRauDFiSH - January 22, 2018
Off of what would you base that Dragonball could drain the smash playerbase? Although since many smashers are anime fans, smashers are also notorious for having no knowledge of traditional fighters. To me, it seems like that claim just kinda comes out of thin air, without much of a basis backing it.
Xuramaz - January 23, 2018
tbh I'm def a mix of Theorist/Purist- more so theorist to some extent but legitimately this made some sort of sense other than the DBZ Fighters point- which I don't see how that correlation makes any sort of sense when multiple fighting game, and other titles have popped up and they weren't enough to shift numbers in any significant fashion. So just curious where did that argument come from/where's the proof with it.
Firewater - January 23, 2018
DBZF is a traditional fighter but it's also, much like Smash, based on a brand with considerably larger reach than other FGs. Early impressions are that the game is very easy to pick up (unlike most FGs and especially anime fighters) and there has been a significant buzz in the Smash community about it as well.

But the biggest reason why DBZF could threaten Smash is its potential to grow local scenes. In most places in the US and presumably elsewhere, Smash is unique in that there are local communities dedicated to the game pretty much everywhere, created by necessity due to the grassroots nature of the early Smash scene. Meanwhile, FGC communities are rare outside of large cities, and are much more online-based (which is a culture Smashers due not share largely due to Nintendo's iffy history with Wifi). This is a huge advantage of Smash that both FGCers and Smashers rarely take notice of; I can't count how many times a local Smash player has quit the game, only to come back because they miss the local community.

I could easily see DBZF going beyond the FGC community and becoming a local scene game like Smash. Unlike the largely urban FGC, DBZ fans are everywhere, and the demand for tournaments and local competition will likely be high. It's not a sure thing, but I'd bet money on it.
Trobaire - January 23, 2018
the blog was nice cool and good until you started to compare the scenes to DB fighterz lmao. you could make the same argument for arms or pokken or whatever other fighting game, but still it doesnt change the fact that people will still play smash. other games have way more jank dumb broken things but smash players love to complain. banning bayo would only further ruin the rep that the game has to other communities' eyes of the game being a party game that we're banning a character that isnt even winning everything lul.
Captain Zack - January 28, 2018
I would argue rather biased, so I'll refrain myself from forming an argument for or against banning Bayonetta. I can see the point of the pragmatists though.
Being a pragmatist doesn't necessarily mean that one would want Bayo to be banned as of now. I think that's important to understand. Some people I know argue that she (in her current state) is a healthy (or at least not unhealthy) component of the competitive Smash 4 community.
This signalizes for me that not everyone in the community would want her banned (which is an important point because some like to argue that "everybody hates Bayo"). Not even all of the pragmatists would want her banned.
It is a fact (correct me if I'm wrong) that viewership has declined over the years (I do not know about a declining player base, I didn't take a look at the statistics). It is also a fact that *some* players that have stopped playing the game have a reason for quitting which is connected with Bayonetta's current state in the game. And it is also a fact that Bayonetta is regarded as a strong character by many (if not the strongest).
I think that some people (especially the pragmatists) would now connect both facts to create this conclusion: Bayonetta is responsible for a declining player and viewer base.
They would now pose the following solution: Banning Bayonetta would stop this decline of players and viewers and maybe even bring some back.
I don't think that the conclusion's valid. It's just a correlation of facts (I hope this sentence's correct). It doesn't seem to me like a logical connection of facts into a conclusion.
We also don't know if banning Bayonetta really solves these issues.

(at this point I'm getting tired of writing so yeah I'm sorry. please correct me if I'm wrong about the facts. also, I'm just a nineteen-year-old guy with no life drinking coffee at 6 am, I'm not here to start a fight. I didn't reread the text, there may be issues with its structure, I'm sorry.)
Thanks for reading
Kepler - January 31, 2018
Being a person who saw the results of MK making people quit in droves as a single region basically dictated MK staying legal despite a 70%+ players wanting him banned. Didn't happen thanks to NJ hosting APEX and everyone else outside of Texas basically following suit. He killed the game fast when PM also came in the lime light since no one wanted to deal with him anymore.

Bayo is not that nor close to that since she is not dominating results anywhere close to him.

The DBZ analog is super weak tbh. DBZ is arguably the largest and biggest anime franchise there is outside of maybe Pokemon and that is only due to that being a super popular video game series. DBZ fighters was going to sell gangbusters regardless if the game has something problematic discovered or not.

Is there a large hate brigade on her that Fox does not have? Yeah I'd agree there. Even if I am in a minority and think Melee Fox is far more unfun that Bayonetta for me on an enjoyment and frustration level I get that it is flipped for pretty much everyone else but that is me for that personally.

As for banning her? I'm still not for it. Viewership never hit melee levels most of the time and entrance to frostbite and hyrule sage don't point to me as a dying or problem. https://twitter.com/ComeToFrostbite/status/955590398650527744 Largest Smash 4 only tournament ever. https://twitter.com/2GGaming/status/958432967809839104 and then 300 in a single week. Bayo isn't result wise causing problems like that outside of viewership where people hate her, people hate Puff in melee really bad as well to be fair.

I'm not saying your argument overall can't be true at some point, but the game is fine right now.
Red Trainer Ryu - February 7, 2018

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