Why “The Reads” is Awesome: an over-long critical analysis of how this show will change the face of Smash esports.

the reads

Smash content takes many forms. We have YouTube channels filled with tournament vods, player channels with vlogs and stream highlights, and endless hours of combo videos and highlight reels. Over the last three weeks we have been introduced to a brand new show, a piece of content that I believe will change the game for Smash content moving forward. Today I want to analyze the construction of this show, discuss why it works so well, and why I believe it is so important to the success of Smash in the future. That show, of course, is The Reads.

What is The Reads?

For those that have not seen it yet, first, I’m so sorry. Here’s a link to the first episode, go fix that before you continue to read. I’ll wait.

If you can’t watch it right now, let me give you a quick summary of the premise. Scar and Toph of Melee it on Me and Melee commentary fame bring on a guest to grind the ladder on Netplay. It’s an adaptation of another show on the Cross Counter channel, “The Excellent Adventures of Gootecks and Mike Ross”. The show is, in essence, a simple Let’s Play show a la Game Grumps or Super Couch Fighters. The hosts and their guest make jokes, cheer at great plays, and generally have fun playing a game they love.

Why This Show?

So, what makes The Reads so special? There are millions of Let’s Play shows on YouTube. Sure, this one is focused on Melee, which makes it relevant to readers of this blog, but why freak out about it? Well, simply put, The Reads is a better piece of content than any other YouTube video, highlight reel, or tournament VOD. It is the most perfect piece of evangelistic propaganda that any smasher could ever want.

To explain, let’s first examine what makes the show work so well. First, you have the two hosts. These are veterans in the Melee scene. They are well respected by every current Melee fan. Additionally, Scar and Toph are comfortable as entertainers. They have hosted the Scar and Toph show for years as well as being staples in Melee commentary. This also gives them a natural rapport with their guests. As evidenced by the first set of episodes, they are on a first name basis with many of the world’s best players.

This also means that guests will be more naturally comfortable with the relaxed nature of the show. The guest already knows Scar and Toph well, and likely has at least some level of respect for their status in the Melee community. This combined with the show’s relaxed atmosphere allows the guest to open up, and not be afraid of looking silly when they SD with Kirby’s backthrow live on camera. Like Summit, this gives us the chance to connect with these guests in a way we never can in a tournament setting. It humanizes the stars of the game, creating a unique connection between the player and the audience.

So Funny Because It’s True

Now, take a closer look at the structure of the show. Where most Let’s Play shows are simply about playing a game and making jokes, The Reads has a very clear goal. The show is about getting the Spenser account to the number one rank on the netplay ladder. They’ve given the show real stakes that connect with the audience.
 Every modern gamer has played a game at some point where they were committed to climbing a ranked ladder. We’ve all imagined what it would be like if we could just call up a top player to help us with that grind. The show combines a relate-able premise with a dash of wish-fulfillment . There are stakes, but the stakes are not so high that they prevent the cast from having fun along the way.

Top-Notch Entertainment

Lastly, the production quality is excellent. There’s well-mixed audio, high quality cameras, and subtle viewing enhancements in the overlays. The show is well-edited to make sure we get all the great player reactions while not missing a moment of in-game action. The Reads takes full advantage of being a recorded show.

So What?

So, again, why is this such a big deal? Sure it’s a good show, but why write an article all about praising it, other than to get free Reddit karma? First, I believe that this show finally puts to rest the most problematic fallacy in the Smash community.

Every time we talk about growing Smash as an esport, or wanting to bring in better structure, there is always a contingent that fears we will lose what makes Smash truly special. We started out grassroots, and it is because of our grassroots origin that Smash is so fun, welcoming, and such a passionate community. The Reads proves once and for all that this fear is dumb, stupid, pointless, dumb, wrong, and silly. Also that it’s dumb.

Let me explain. As we discussed this show has high quality production. That means that there is real money behind it. The show is also not on the Melee it on Me channel, meaning it is owned and paid for by an organization outside of the Smash community. We didn’t fund a compendium for this show, and it’s not being produced in someone’s bedroom like a grassroots show would be.

We Really Esports Now

This is for all intents and purposes a professionally produced YouTube series. And yet, it is so perfectly Smash. It features our stars, our sense of humor, and shows the things about this game that we love. Nothing about the show is attempting to cater to an audience outside of Smash. The Reads proves that there are people outside of our community who want Smash to succeed, and recognize the things that make it great. Obviously this particular organization was an easier entry point, but we now have a proof of concept to take to any other major organization.

To that point, as I said before this show is wonderful for evangelizing the Melee scene. Toph and Scar are genuinely charismatic and entertaining. Even a non-smash fan can instantly connect with this cast and be entertained by the show. Further, the show is a perfect entry point for new fans of competitive Smash. They can be entertained by a fun show, but also learn about and connect with stars of the competitive scene.

As most readers know, I’m primarily a Smash 4 fan. I love Melee, but simply don’t follow it as closely. I knew who SilentWolf was, but I did not care about him at all. After three episodes of The Reads, I am now a rabid SilentWolf fan. I want a “Who Bird Dis Is” T-shirt. I want to watch his matches in bracket. If I see a tournament announce Silent Wolf as a featured player, I now suddenly care about that event. Before this show, that would not have been a draw for me. I promise you this will happen with fans even more casual than me. If we can properly promote this show to new viewers outside the community, they will love it. They will want to watch commentary sets that feature Scar and Toph. They will want to cheer for Otto in bracket.

Lend Me Your Views

This is big. I have enough marketing and esports industry knowledge to promise you that this show’s success matters. No matter what Smash game you support, it is in your best interest to support this show. Watch every episode. Give the channel your subscription. Comment, tweet, upvote–make our voices heard. Let sponsors, teams, and content creators everywhere know the reward waiting for them if they provide us with good Smash content. Give it views. Share it on other gaming sites and media platforms. Watch the views grow, and see how those views convert into new Smash fans. Hopefully, like me, you’ll start to watch this show not just for the entertainment value, but for the hope it gives me for the future of Smash.
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