Between May 2011 and January 2013, Sweden’s Adam “Armada” Lindgren won every major Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament he entered, 13 in all. Seven days after his 13th straight victory, Lindgren logged onto the community forum Smashboards and announced his retirement. He was just 19 years old. Though Melee‘s competitive scene had grown steadily since the game’s 2001 release, 2012 had been discouraging, with total prize money dipping below $30,000 for the first time in four years. How do you tell when an esport is doomed? A pretty reliable sign is when a precipitous drop in prize money is followed by the best player in the world hanging up his gloves at age 19.
“I do not feel any motivation to become a better player,” Lindgren wrote in his farewell post. “I don’t expect everyone to be happy with me [sic] decision but I hope everyone can at least accept and respect this.”
It’s hard to overstate the blow that this news dealt to the Melee scene. Imagine Michael Jordan calling it quits after one championship. The initial response from the community was to argue that the post was a prank. “2/10,” read the first reply. “Wasn’t very believable.” Once the post’s veracity was confirmed, fans and players alike were heartbroken. Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, another Smash legend and Lindgren’s frequent doubles partner, wrote that “with you gone, I honestly feel my fire to become better is pretty much gone too.”
Replies continued to trickle in over the days that followed. Southern California’s Joseph “Mango” Marquez, Lindgren’s chief rival for the title of “all time greatest,” weighed in with characteristic impudence, calling the Swedish retiree a “vagina” and later saying “I know for a fact he’s not better then [sic] me, so it doesn’t bother me much.”
His taunts fell on deaf ears. Europe’s top player traded “Armada” for a new moniker – Mr. Lindgren – as he started a new career as a substitute teacher.
Lindgren made the pragmatic choice. Most Melee tournaments were located in America, and even taking first place barely offset the cost of transatlantic travel. He was done with high school. He wasn’t enrolled at a university, and it was time to start thinking about a long-term way to pay the bills. For a Swede in January 2013, Melee wasn’t that.