James Liu a.k.a. “Swedish Delight”
A Holmdel Smasher Goes Pro
When James Liu of Holmdel was in 8th grade, his older brother Frank hooked up his Nintendo GameCube to the family’s massive Sony television and forced his kid brother to play the Super Smash Bros. Melee video game with him. The end result continues to surprise everyone: James was a natural. He quickly became a superior opponent to his elder brother, who was already competing in Smash tournaments. “The fact that I was very good at it made me not mind being forced to play the game and even enjoy it,” James notes. Now, at age 23, he is ranked as the #1 Tri-State Area Super Smash Bros. Melee player and in 2016 #11 in the world.
Super Smash Bros. is a console video game that was released in 2001. The game features characters like Mario, Donkey Kong, Pikachu, Princess Zelda, and her alter ego Sheik, who James picked as the character he battles with. “Super Smash Bros. Melee is considered one of the oldest competitive multiplayer fighting games currently played in eSports,” says James.
James recently quit his job as a hospital administrative assistant to pursue a new career as a professional Super Smash Bros. player. His new job duties entail worldwide travel to tournaments. These tournaments usually have fans and professionals alike competing in events. “There are 2,000 people at the largest Smash tournaments, all entered as competitors. Every participant is on the same playing fi eld and has a chance to advance and make it big.”
James recalls his first national tournament in a game store in New York City. Frank convinced their mother to drive them, declaring it a was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As she waited in the car, her sons played among a dedicated group of college graduates. The experience led James to be taken under the wing of his then mentor, known by his gamer tag Eggm, who at the time was one of the best players in the country. James points out that while some of his free time during high school was dedicated to gaming, he still did well in school and sports like cross country and swimming. By senior year he was pretty set on joining his mother, a Matawan internist, his father, a pathologist, and brother Frank who is now in his medical residency, in the “family business” – medicine.
At Rutgers University he studied chemistry. As graduation neared, James went along with his plans to head straight to medical school, acing the old MCAT, scoring in the top 99th percentile yet not getting an acceptance. So he changed direction and took a position as a hospital administrative assistant in Brooklyn, attending Smash events when he could and rising to the top of the national rankings.
After the summer of 2016, James began to fi eld offers from national eSports offering salaries and other perks. He conducted negotiations through Twitter and after-work 10 p.m. conference calls. He explains that “joining a team meant more than just getting paid for playing games – it was to become more involved in the Smash community, develop as a player and represent the game I love.”
In October 2016, James signed with the Detroit Renegades, an eSports organization owned by Utah Jazz basketball player Jonas Jerebko. “My player manager wanted me to get to as many events as I could, so from work I’d run to the airport to a tournament and be back to work the next day,” James says.
His idea of quitting his job to advance himself as a professional gamer is in a way his idea of Carpe diem. He’s seizing the moment and dedicating one year of his life to professional gaming. Events are already lined up for him. Tournaments he’s looking forward to the most are the GameTyrant Expo 2017 at Utah Jazz Arena and Dreamhack Winter in Sweden. He still desires to work directly with patients one day but quips, “I don’t want to look back when I’m 30 and think, what if I’d given Smash my 100% attention.” Looking forward to sightseeing while on tour, James is also sure of one thing: his mother will be grateful she is no longer responsible for driving him to tournaments.
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