Discussing Hax’s “Charges” Against Leffen, From a Melee Player’s Perspective
Well… this is embarrassing. I’ve done my best to talk up the Melee community on Esports Talk, often using my experience in that group to give my perspectives on other games’ characters, strategies, players, community tendencies, and so on. I could not avoid my perspectives being shaped by playing competitive Smash for the better part of seven years now. But now, my community is in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.
High-level player and alternative controller pioneer Aziz “Hax$” Al-Yami has released a two-and-a-half-hour-long video accusing top player William “Leffen” Hjelte of a laundry list of charges, including a few semi-reasonable concerns over Leffen misinforming people about game mechanics and controllers… as well as several deranged and unwarranted comparisons to Adolf Hitler’s totalitarian Nazi regime. To be clear, this will not be a faux “fair and balanced” take, like what you see when the non-virtual media brings in an anti-vaccination conspiracy theorist or someone who thinks that snow outside their house disproves “global warming” to debate actual scientists. Hax is almost entirely in the wrong here. I will not pretend otherwise, though I will give a few concessions like the one above. His allegations that Leffen has a “Dark Triad” personality type and totalitarian intentions to manipulate the Smash community as a whole would be laughable if they weren’t so sad.
Watching the whole video, named “Evidence.zip 2,” was like a bad trip. It was released alongside a 130+ page PDF, which I’ll cite in borderline-APA format out of habit and in case you want to follow along. Both make numerous statements that “Leffen controls the press” (p. 135). Well, I’m probably not doing Hax’s ideas about that any favors, as someone writing an article here about the entire ridiculous situation, but I assure you all that I’ve never met either player and held very similar (relatively neutral) opinions about both of them until this video came out.
I’m not a top player; I’m merely a ranked member of a small city’s power rankings. I’m not chasing followers or clout; I don’t even have a Twitter account. I’m not going to say how you must think about this situation; I just want to talk about what I think about it. I think that this set of allegations, while having a few small nuggets of truth, is drowned out by wave after wave of utter nonsense. I don’t think Hax will do anything violent, but his accusatory video speaks for itself… to obsessive lengths.
Context for the Original Evidence.zip
Before we get into the absurd lengths of what Hax’s current allegations are, it bears mentioning what the original “Evidence.zip” was. It’s perhaps the most infamous non-cheating-related ban in all of esports, and certainly is just that for Smash. Back in the day, a group of Swedish and American players (of which Hax was one of the latter) came together to compile evidence that Leffen had done things worthy of being indefinitely banned from the Smash community, and he was barred from entering tournaments again for just about one year.
I won’t get too deep into the details there, but suffice it to say these compiled pieces of evidence included direct testimony from people affected (which remained unreleased until their inclusion in Hax’s most recent video) as well as general behaviors and forum posts by Leffen. These included ableist remarks, intense bullying, online trolling, rumor pushing, “doxxing,” and attempts to push people out of the community. This .zip file was distributed to various tournament organizers, and Leffen was rightfully banned.
It is also true that he subsequently released an “apology” to North America but went on a separate tirade against Swedish players, as Hax details in the “sequel” to Evidence.zip. This behavior, as well as those actions which got Leffen banned in the first place, do not paint a flattering picture of the Swede. However, it is clear to many that Leffen has changed for the better over the years, now often using his voice in the community for good, such as promoting justice for survivors of sexual abuse. He has, however, still retained some of his status as a “heel,” to borrow a term from pro wrestling. Leffen has overall been quite healthy for the scene, with a redemption arc and just the kind of ego that spectators love to see balloon up or be deflated, depending on how they feel about his Fox play or his Tweets.
It bears repeating that Leffen has undeniably changed for the better since his ban, and since his originally fake apology. He was young and immature back then. He retains some of the persona from that time, but to a much-diminished degree. The Swedish community unbanned him for a good reason, and he has shown himself to be a valuable member of the community time and time again. This is true despite making enemies like Hax, who cannot bring himself to acknowledge for a second that Leffen’s “character arc” may well have been legitimate.
Now, to address my few concerns with Hax’s recent video full of wild allegations…
Smash is not a Society
That is certainly redundant to most of you reading this. Well, duh, of course the Smash community is not a society. This is a hobby, something most people do for fun, something in which only the best of the best can make a living just by playing and/or creating content.
But this is the single most important thing that seems to have slipped Hax’s mind as he makes these deranged allegations. Leffen is not “controlling the press,” nor is he “committing totalitarianism,” nor are he and Hax “political adversaries.” Perhaps the Swedish player addresses his Twitter following with ill intent sometimes – such as when he targets other members of the community in arguments or “beefs,” or to influence community opinions and rulesets. At 54:34, Hax says that “Dark Triads” are “able to severely disrupt society when given this much power, and Leffen has done exactly that.”
Leffen is a very opinionated guy, and always has been. But it’s not that real. Leffen is not severely disrupting society; he is making waves in a gaming sub-community. Leffen is not using an in-depth command of crowd psychology to manipulate people with ill intentions, to leave himself the “King of Smash.” First, that nickname has already been applied to someone else: Ken Hoang of Melee and Survivor fame. And the title never referred to a political monarchy, but rather stands as a testament to Ken’s skill. That’s the thing… Hax repeatedly uses terms like “political” in his release of Evidence.zip 2. Ctrl + F “polit” in the PDF and 18 results pop up.
No gaming sub-community is a self-sufficient political society, with elected representatives or divinely appointed rulers. We are out here trying to have fun getting good at, or just plain enjoying, our preferred video game(s). Yes, yes, there are sometimes “social movements” within communities, often over changes to rulesets or so on, and it makes perfect sense that the best players would be respected voices in these discussions.
However, it would take absolutely monstrous, exclusionary, beyond-problematic, sociopathic, even murderous behavior to warrant the Hitler comparison that Hax makes on just the third full page of the PDF, and just minutes into the video. And even then, it would be a weak comparison… you know, without… the genocide.
Making such comparisons to a genocidal dictator is almost never a good idea, especially in the context of a hobby. It’s frankly disgusting. Millions upon millions upon millions of people were exterminated by the Nazis due to being deemed undesirable or even subhuman. Not only two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population, but also queer people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma and Sinti people, disabled people, Polish people, Soviet POWs, and so many political oppositionists… all of these and more were victims of the Holocaust. To invoke the name of Adolf Hitler himself as a comparison with a rival in a video game just spits on the graves of all those who lost their lives to the Nazi regime. Being blocked on Twitter by a top Smash player is not in the same ballpark, league, or even solar system as being murdered en masse for being born into a certain group.
That horrific comparison alone would disqualify Hax’s allegations from being taken too seriously by most, especially when a Hitler quote which he thinks paints Leffen in a negative light appears so early in both the video and PDF. but he doubles down on the comparison again and again and again, with Hitler’s name appearing three times and his image cropping up many times besides. He even uses a DM conversation between him and a player named “C” as more fuel on this front – the so-called “evidence” is that Hax says he thinks Leffen might have studied Mein Kampf, and C agrees. If Hax wanted his allegations to be taken seriously to any degree, calling his rival a modern-day Hitler time after time was not the way to go about it, especially with such flimsy support.
Is it good that Leffen blocks people on Twitter or bans them from his Twitch chat for simply disagreeing with him? No, I don’t think so. Disagreement is how we know, grow, and refine our own points of view, and informed debate can be a great tool for both personal and community growth. Is it warranted for Hax to accuse Leffen of being a fascist for doing so? Absolutely not, especially when Hax himself says that a revised version of Samox’s “Metagame” documentary being released “should actually be illegal” (p. 3) and that blocking people in the way that Leffen does should be “forbidden” (2:26:28 in the video). To accuse someone of attempting to control people socially and then demanding that others conform to your viewpoint is not a good look.
Not that this makes Hax a fascist, either. It’s just hypocritical, in my view, to do the same thing that you’re accusing another of doing – trying to control others’ hearts and minds. Hax wants Leffen gone, out of the community. But having influence over others is not a crime. Of course, people should think for themselves and draw their own conclusions and blah, blah, blah. However, it’s undeniably absurd, problematic, offensive, tasteless, and disgusting to invoke Hitler’s name in trying to tear down a rival. That’s especially true in something as benign as the Smash community, which is, again, certainly not a society unto itself.
Other Absurdities and Missteps
“When I beat Leffen at Genesis 7, I was wearing a red pair of Adidas pants with white stripes on them. These pants would become synonymous with my run at that tournament. A few months after Genesis 7, someone sent me a picture of Leffen wearing a red Adidas t-shirt with white stripes on its sleeves while editing a digital controller’s button layout. Again, this wasn’t a coincidence. It was a psychopath’s way of showing that he wants revenge.”
That long quote from page 26 is far from a genuine accusation. It strikes me as Hax’s inflated ego drawing parallels where none exist. I mean… really? The generic pair of PANTS he was wearing became “synonymous” with a tournament run at the end of which he didn’t even win? Get real. It’s also worth noting that the Adidas shirt Leffen’s wearing in the screenshot that “someone” sent him is orange, not red. And either way, it’s just a SHIRT, dude.
To use this as an example of Leffen’s “psychopathy” is an example of why psychology should be left to the psychologists. And frankly, even psychologists themselves putting out scientific studies that list off traits of people that fit into categories like “Dark Triad,” which Hax repeatedly accuses Leffen of being, seems to me to be a recipe for disaster. People like Hax, impressionable and looking for a reason to hate their rival even more, will latch onto labels like this and assume that every behavior committed by said rival is a reason to categorize them as such. It lets armchair psychiatrists make diagnoses with wild stretches like this ludicrous Adidas example.
That’s why I won’t be “diagnosing” Hax here, though many in the Smash community have already done so. Again, we should leave that to the professionals. Is this video / document combo unhinged? Yes. Deranged? I’d say so. Wildly inappropriate in parts? For sure. Obsessive? Oh, absolutely. But is it our place to say that Hax needs help with his mental health? Certainly not. His mind has just been directed in what I think are unhealthy directions, stemming from numerous bad interactions with the player who he’s accusing of a laundry list of “political” “charges.” That said… if I were Hax’s friend, I’d probably direct him to at least see a therapist.
Another long-form quotation in the same vein as the Adidas example, this one on page 93 and doubling down on the tracksuit nonsense: “In December 2017, Leffen posted a video of himself stabbing a pancake that had a green Jigglypuff drawn on it. This video tells you that Leffen desperately wanted to get rid of [Hungrybox, another top Melee player, who plays green Jigglypuff.] It’s identical to when he bought a red Adidas shirt shortly after losing to me at Genesis. Stalking and smear campaigning represents the highest level of desperation on the psychopath’s end, and it’s exactly what Leffen did in both of these situations.”
First of all, even if you buy the nonsensical and outlandish claim that Leffen wearing an Adidas shirt on stream “was a psychopath’s way of showing that he wants revenge,” this is not an “identical” situation, nor is it even guaranteed that Leffen even bought the shirt after Genesis 7. The pancake incident was a cute little publicity stunt, a funny way to get Twitter engagement and to hype up the beef between the two players – a classic heel move.
However, Hax does have a point that Leffen has, at times, taken his beef with Hunbrybox too far, such as when he released a video with “Hbox” depicted as the devil on the thumbnail. But there’s a “However” to that “However” – taking a beef too far for drama clicks is not exactly banworthy, even if it does, unfortunately, result in undue hate being shoveled onto one of the involved parties. One last “However” there is that Leffen has largely backed off after the infamous crab throwing incident. Hungrybox has a lot of beef with other top Melee players, and while Leffen has taken it too far in the past, I don’t think this qualifies him as a sociopath, totalitarian, or any of the other labels Hax has pushed on him.
And since we’re venturing back to less reasonable territory, Hax seems under the impression that Leffen’s Twitter use is akin to Light Yagami’s use of the “Death Note” which is just… I… feel the need to tell him that… uh… anime is not real. He makes so many comparisons between Leffen and Light in the video and PDF, with no apparent knowledge that not everyone has seen or cares about Death Note. He also has seemingly no idea about how ridiculous he sounds in making these comparisons, which makes putting out my statement about anime feel warranted. Also, being blocked on Twitter is, again, not even remotely comparable to being killed. Hax, in making these accusatory comparisons, seems to assume that everyone will agree that being “canceled” is the same as being murdered via magic notebook, to the point that he doesn’t even make it an analogy. He just says that “Leffen is basically trying to turn his phone into the Death Note. Through the use of modern technology and a good understanding of crowd psychology, it is actually possible to create a Death Note nowadays, and people need to be wary of that” (p. 20). Yikes.
In “Chapter 5,” Hax admits that he lied to his tournament staff and the community at large as part of a paranoid stunt to try and catch Leffen in the act of trying to disrupt the tournament series “Hax’s Nightclub.” Leffen supposedly did so by hosting a sub-only tournament on the same day. Hax ignored that Leffen was, in all likelihood, just trying to host something fun for his Twitch subscribers on Saturdays. And either way, lying about it in this way to try and determine the truth is just obsessive, unhealthy behavior.
Chapter 10 is so disgusting I don’t even want to talk about it, but suffice it to say Hax somehow manages to twist Leffen’s support for sexual assault survivors into a bad thing in his mind. Earlier in the video, at 26:58, he tries to use Leffen’s announcement that the latter was going to do a charity stream for RAIN, the biggest anti-sexual violence charity in the U.S., as an example of “Machiavellianism,” because of the tone of voice Leffen uses. Talk about a stretch.
Hax even goes so far in Chapter 10 as to discourage people from believing “victims” because accusations can be made falsely. I have news for him and for anyone else who wants potential rapists to just be able to play: being falsely accused is nowhere near as bad as actually being raped. I’m disappointed that I even have to say this.
What makes all of these absurdities and missteps even worse is that, in Chapter 9, Hax discusses Salem’s “Years of Research.” You can look that up on your own if you’re interested, since it would take too long to get into here. Suffice it to say, Salem is a longtime Smash player who migrates from newest game to newest game. A while back, they released a long tirade against the Melee community which made a few valid points but got meme’d to death because of various problems within it. I bring this up because Hax knew about these problems and still included the Hitler comparisons, the paranoid tracksuit nonsense, the pancake example, and standing against the #MeToo movement in his accusations against Leffen. To me, this all points to a startling lack of self-awareness.
Game Mechanics and a Nugget of Truth
The one part of the video where I remember myself thinking “You know, that’s actually a halfway decent point” came in Chapter 6. This is where Hax discusses Melee’s L-cancelling mechanic in-depth to try and settle a debate between himself and Leffen, as a result of Leffen directing users of Hax’s “B0XX” Hitbox-style controller to use a different button layout.
Hax talks at length about the mechanics behind why his layout is the default for the controller, and it calls back to earlier content that appeared on his YouTube channel, in-depth examinations of Melee’s arcane and nauseatingly deep mechanics. That’s the kind of stuff he should have stuck to, not this rambling nonsense about “dystopian” or “totalitarian” “politics” within the Smash community.
However, I do not agree that Leffen did so with malicious intent. Is it possible that Leffen was predisposed to hating on the B0XX because of the past beef between him and Hax? Sure. But is it more likely that Leffen was merely misinformed about obscure hard-press L-cancel and “1.0 cardinal” mechanics rather than attempting to disinform the Melee community? Absolutely. And even then, the Swede’s method of L-cancelling has its merits sometimes.
Plus, Hax glosses over the fact that Leffen absolutely had a point about the B0XX’s relative strength compared to the traditional GameCube controller used by 90+ percent of Smash players. Hax had to “nerf” his own controller in subsequent versions so that it would be legal for tournament play.
No Turning Back
I don’t think Hax can go back to making pure Melee content now; he’s in too deep. Dropping another video about in-depth Melee mechanics would be a far cry from Evidence.zip 2, and no one can unsee or unread the nonsense he’s subjected us to.
Instead, we’re stuck in this weird nightmare, where he’s gone on Twitter tirades about Leffen and “the press” after releasing such a strange, rambling video that has hurt his own reputation as well as the reputation of our broader community. As a member of said “press” and the community that still plays the same game as Hax, I want to urge everyone to remember that we’re more than these awful allegations.
We’re the longest-running esport around, a community borne of continued player interest in a game that keeps churning out situations that we’ve never seen before, in every single tournament and often even in friendly matches. Melee is at its best when out-of-game drama is not the headline of the day, but rather the latest shakeup in its ever-shifting mountain of skill. This goes beyond drama, though. Hax’s allegations are simply too much, all over the place, and trample over any good point that might be buried in the video and document by far too many Nazi comparisons and absurd accusations.