Swiss Smash in the COVID-Era #1: mYi Kepler

“Swiss Smash in the COVID-Era” is a series of interviews with some of the best players in Switzerland, figuring out how they are dealing with the “COVID-Era” (from March 2020 until the present days of 2021) and its absence of offline tournaments and how they are preparing for the return of offline events in the foreseeable future.

mYi Kepler

Kepler (@KeplerSsb) is a Snake player from Zug, playing for mYinsanity. He was ranked 7th on the 2019 Swiss Smash PR. In 2020 he participated in 10 Swiss tournaments, where his worst result was getting 5th place. Once. Talk about consistency! He is also known for being the most traveling Swiss player, representing Switzerland in international events.

How did COVID affect your private life since 2020 in regard to studying, your free time and such?
COVID interfered with my original plan of studying abroad in Japan for half a year, which was definitely the biggest impact it had for me personally. Other than that, not much changed; I was able to continue studying even though I don’t enjoy it as much during the pandemic. Social aspects are important to me and especially for studying Japanese it’s helpful if you can talk to people in person. I’m also not that big on going out partying, so COVID didn’t affect me much in that regard.

With switching to online university and studying from home, I assume you also gained a little extra free time, is there anything you picked up during this period?
I started playing chess. Nothing super serious but I did read a book on chess and I’m currently reading a second one. But that’s about it. In general, I didn’t really gain much extra free time. I had to write a very time-consuming seminar paper and this summer I’ll start working on my bachelor thesis, so I’ll be busy again. There’s always some work to do. To be honest, when I think about it, it’s not like I gained free time and used it to play chess, rather, I made time for it by spending less time on other activities.

You’re saying that you don’t really have much free time, but I saw on Twitter that you’re about to start working part-time in a ramen shop in Zurich. How does that work out?
Well, it is a part-time job, and I was planning to work there during summer, when we have no classes. My plan is to save some money for when I’m traveling to Japan. Because I missed out on my semester abroad, I’m thinking about doing my master’s degree in Japan and for that I obviously need some money. And if I’m able to study in Japan this job could also help me find a part-time job in Japan later.

Let’s talk about Smash. In which ways did COVID affect how and when you’re playing Smash?
It did kind of ruin it for me. Well, “ruining” is maybe a bit too strong of a word. I definitely could’ve forced myself to practice a lot, but my main motivation for Smash is coming from going to tournaments and… well… lose, to which I then respond with practicing to not lose to that person anymore or perform better in general. The social aspects of tournaments are also really important to me. Regarding the game, there’s a lot of other games that are also fun, so I feel like it would be kind of a waste for me to sit in training mode for a year. That’s just not how I enjoy playing. This is also why I would say that I probably haven’t really improved much since the start of COVID. So, this summer, there’s some catching up for me to do. As soon as tournaments are back, my motivation is also coming back and then I’ll just have to practice hard.

In 2020 offline tournaments came back for a bit and you were doing well in those. Did the first lockdown not affect you as much?
I barely played during the lockdown period, but when tournaments came back, I started playing again. You also have to consider that the first lockdown was only a period of about three months, whereas our current lockdown has been going on for half a year. Honestly, I did not expect us to have such a long break and so I was happy to be able to participate in the Numerik Games tournament on April 24 thanks to Smuff (you can check the bracket here and watch the VoD here). Back in November, I was expecting tournaments to return around February.

This brings us to elephant in the room: Do you play online?
Yes, I’m a filthy casual (laughs). Sometimes I really enjoy playing Quickplay/Elite Smash. Originally, I didn’t really like playing Elite Smash, because of internet connection issues, but then I figured out that for me it’s a lot better in the morning and early afternoon, so that’s when I’m playing. But I didn’t play much since university started again, because I just don’t really have time for it.

And what about grinding sessions?
I don’t really play online grinding sessions, if I play online, I usually play Elite Smash. For grinding sessions, I invite people to my place. At the moment I have somebody coming over around twice a month. But I’ve already planned a number of grinding sessions in the first few weeks after I’m done with my exams, so my practice time is going to increase considerably. That’s just the way it is for me in general.

Yuzu* gained a lot of popularity in the last few months; did you try it?
*Yuzu is a PC-emulated version of the game that, together with Parsec allows you to play online with less of the known issues, like lag. You can learn more here.
I haven’t tried it yet. If it had rollback netcode I would’ve maybe given it a shot. Maybe I’ll install it this summer, but then again, I’m hoping for the lockdown to end soon and considering I’m not that much of an online grinder… I just prefer playing with people offline, talking to them and just having fun. That’s the main reason I play the game. If I don’t have fun, there’s not much of a point for me. That might have been different in the past, but that’s how I feel nowadays.

So you’re focusing mainly on offline grinding?
Yes. I will also try to travel around Europe again. In case there are no tournaments, I plan to travel to other players in Europe so we can play together for a while, as long as it’s financially viable. International practice is still the best practice in my opinion. And with the support of mYinsanity, why not.

I remember you were one of the people visiting Mr. R in the Netherlands, when he was looking for some offline grinding sessions. Are you thinking of something similar?
Yeah, Mr. R’s offer included sharing traveling expenses as there’s also a benefit for the player you’re traveling to. And I’d like to do something similar for players that come from a bit further away, I’d pay some of their traveling fees, and they get housing at my place with food etc. I think it’s a very good trade off, one is traveling, the other is housing, both are getting practice. It’s a good deal for both.

Earlier you mentioned mYinsanity. You started playing for them in July 2020, the biggest and best known Esports team in Switzerland. Looking at the second lockdown, how was the situation in the team? As a Smasher you weren’t able to compete and such.
I tried to stay in touch with everyone and we organised a few things. Just recently I got featured in my local newspaper. There are also other opportunities where mYinsanity is asking me whether I would like to participate in something. Of course, there is less of that right now because of COVID. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have a chance yet to get to know everybody personally, I’ve only met two or three people in person. Usually there would be some social events, but that just didn’t work out yet.

And what about the mYinsanity Smash team, Destany and you?
It’s pretty cool. We were friends before and it was nice to be able to form a team, because I feel that both of us have a very similar vibe regarding Smash and tournaments and I think both of us benefit from having a teammate that we can rely on when we’re at tournaments. I think it does make a difference. We can always talk to each other and give each other advice against certain opponents. Of course, you’re doing this with other players too, but I feel like we’re definitely developing a team spirit. As far as that is possible of course in Smash, at the end of the day, it still comes down to you yourself.

With the return of offline events in the foreseeable future, where do you see yourself?
That’s a difficult question I’m also asking myself a lot. As a player for mYinsanity I feel somewhat obliged to be up there in the Top3 of Switzerland, which I think is doable. Another question is how much I want to focus on international tournaments, as those are something I always loved doing. Fortunately for me mYinsanity is supporting me going to international events for which I’m really grateful. But if I’m going to an international event, while a big tournament in Switzerland is happening, I’m losing out on points for our PR.
It also comes down to how much time I can spend on Smash. I’m quite busy in the second half of 2021: I’ll be writing my bachelor thesis, I’m working part-time, possibly also working as a tutor at university and I also want to study for the JLPT N1 (Japanese Language Proficiency Test, N1 corresponding with native level). So… that’s a lot of stuff and I never really know if it all works out. Generally, I just set myself goals like these and if it doesn’t work out, I’m not too upset about it, but I want to at least try to make all it happen. In terms of priorities, Smash comes after my bachelor’s degree and also after the JLPT, which would allow me to do my master’s degree in Japan. Because of that it’s kind of difficult for me to judge what I’m able to do in Smash and what not. I’m simply trying my best and doing whatever my mental health allows me to do, I don’t want to force myself to practice more just to suffer from it afterwards.
Regarding next year, I might go for an internship abroad, so I have to ask myself whether I want to do it in a country where Smash is popular or not. There are a lot of unknown variables still and it’s hard for me to judge how everything will turn out. Another question I’ve been asking myself is whether I want to continue focusing on Snake or maybe switch to another character.

Do you have any specific characters in mind?
As of right now I’m playing around with Chrom, Wolf and Joker. Chrom would mostly be a counterpick character. I’m looking for a character I can pick consistently. My main issue with Snake is that, while he is a top tier character, he requires a lot of time, and therefore, you need to solo main him. He has a lot of even matchups that you need to know and if you do it’s worth playing him. But with my limited time in mind, I wonder whether I would have an easier time playing a different character.

From what you’ve told me you haven’t been involved too much in the Swiss Smash scene recently, but if you had to give me 3 names to look out for with the return of offline events, who would that be?
My most important pick would be Neo (@NeoSSB_) from Geneva. Even before the lockdown I’ve already considered him. It’s just obvious looking at his work ethic, his mentality and the fact that he plays Palutena. This last one is super important, because in Switzerland we just have too few people who are abusing top tier characters. That’s what’s allowing people like Jaka to play Isabelle and place really well, no offense to him though, he’s a great player. And that’s also what allowed Destany to play Little Mac in the past, for example, because these hard counterpick characters haven’t been played too frequently in Switzerland. But Neo is playing a character that allows him to consistently do well against all characters and on top of that, Palutena is a character that is doing well against basically all characters of the current Top10 in Switzerland. So I’m pretty confident that he will place Top3 or at worst Top5 on the next Swiss PR.
The other players from Geneva are also pretty interesting. Yannwatts (@yannwatts) has also placed really well and has a great combo game. Rohan_doge (@rohan_doge) has improved tremendously. I’ve played him once during an RTSeSports event last year and seen him play again in April and on both occasions he had improved. When playing people, you just notice if there’s a thought process behind their movement. I noticed it pretty early for Neo, who’s hard working, taking a lot of notes and other doing other things, and it reminded me of myself in Smash4 with Bayonetta and how I approached the game back then. He’s just doing everything right when it comes to improving as a player and that’s why he’s also one of my favourite players to watch. And I think the French community also noticed that. You don’t see it often that people put in a lot of effort and actually manage to climb the PR, because there’s a lot of things in Smash you have to teach yourself. Even though all 3 players are from the Romandie, they are still my top picks. I don’t particularly like it, and I would love to mention some Swiss-German players, as we’ve been better for a long period of time, but that’s just how it is right now.

For my final question: Do you have any hot takes, any banter regarding the Swiss Smash community?
Despite the just mentioned 3 players, I really want the Swiss Germans to stay ahead. So, I want us to push and I’m encouraging my friends to catch up again. I don’t want to see a Top3 with only players from the Romandie.

If you want to see more of Kepler, you can follow him on Twitter.
He’s also participating in Benooou’s “Swiss Series – Couch Edition” where he will be playing against Yannwatts, scheduled in early June (give @BenooouSSB a follow to keep up to date with the schedule). The entire series will be streamed live on Twitch, starting on May 28 with rohan_doge vs. SickBoy.

Updated at: 14.02.22 (16:46)
Created at: 24.05.21 (15:18)
Created by: Lyamarth