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CLG Smasher NAKAT: "I feel like our stories should be told on a [grander] stage."

Tyrell "NAKAT" Coleman Counter Logic Gaming

With a smile on his face and a Counter Logic Gaming hat on his head, the man in front of me introduces himself. "My name is Tyrell Coleman. I'm 21, I was born in Brooklyn, live in New Jersey, and I'm a professional Super Smash Bros. 4 player for Counter Logic Gaming."

Primarily known under his ID of "NAKAT," Coleman appears relaxed for his interview, excited to answer questions that can help expand the reach of the game he plays for a living.

His love for the Smash Bros. franchise began when the first iteration of the series was released, Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64, and commercials of the iconic Nintendo characters battling each other caught his adolescent eye. He got his hands on the game not long after and was immediately hooked, his love of the game growing as each new title of the series came out on the various Nintendo console platforms.

Coleman only found out about the competitive side of Smash with the third iteration of the game, Brawl, when he was finishing middle school. When I learned of competitive Brawl, I definitely wanted to get into the community. So I went to my first tournament in 2009, and it's changed my life ever since."

Super Smash Bros. Brawl, while a huge success in terms of sales, has always been looked at as the inferior older brother to predecessor Melee. The game took away some of the finer mechanical elements that made Melee one of the fastest-paced and most difficult fighting games to play competitively.

After a few failed attempts of trying to make Brawl as popular as Melee, a majority of the top-flight players continued with the high skill cap game of Melee. Brawl survived on the backs of a dedicated but much smaller fan base.

"It was honestly a preference," Coleman replied when asked why he focused on Brawl. Melee had fans since they were younger and knew about competitive Smash, while Brawl was a fresh start for us new guys."

Coleman enjoyed a successful five-year professional career playing Brawl. His first few years were filled with finishes outside the top 32, but he started to become a force in 2012. Everything changed, however, when the next game in the line was announced with Super Smash Bros. 4 for the Wii U and 3DS.

It was decision time again for the community. Would the new game make up for the slower-paced Brawl, usurping Melee as the centerpiece of the scene, or would 4 enjoy a few months of relevancy before becoming another game that wilted in the shadow of its older brother?

"The main difference between [Melee and 4] is definitely the mechanics," he said. "Where Melee is heavier, faster, tech-intensive . . . [4] feels a lot more smoother. The ledge mechanics are different and creates a new way to edge guard opponents, rather than 'Melee' with the standard 'hold on to the edge, [your opponent] can't grab it.'"

When looking at the Smash scene from the outside, it's best to look at the different titles like family members. Smash Bros., the first, is the oldest of the bunch. Although a minnow compared to the competitive scenes of the current behemoths of Melee and 4, it's still respected and has various tournaments pop up during the year.

Brawl wasn't able to find its footing after a disastrous first reaction from the competitive side. Instead, Project M was born from the ashes of Brawl, as the game play was modified by fans to become a faster, more Melee-like game. The mod enjoyed great success in tournaments the last few years before the development team announced it was ceasing all further development at the end of 2015.

Currently, the biggest sibling rivalry in the Smash family comes in the form of the tried and true Melee vs. the newer and insanely popular 4. In 2015, both titles were included at the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, the Evolution Championship Series, with each bringing in a large viewership following. When it was rumored that maybe only one of the games would find its way to EVO this year, that's when things became heated.

"I definitely sense a rivalry," Coleman said on the topic of the two games' so-close-but-yet-so-far fan bases. "Sometimes it's not for the best . . . [but] I think it's more of a healthy rivalry rather than hated for the two communities between each other. I mean, it was more present during the Brawl era where Melee really did not want to affiliate with Brawl at all. It was a really sad time. Especially [for] me, as a new player in the community. But with Smash 4, things have gotten a lot better, and time has made everyone more mature."

Two weeks ago the Evo title lineup was announced, and fans from both communities were able to take a long sigh of relief as their games were confirmed for the event. It was a little bittersweet, the CLG player thought, as Melee would be featured Sunday night in the 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Event Center for their finals. Smash Wii U, which will have its finals on Saturday, will be played in the same place it did last year: the Las Vegas Convention Center.

"But the fact that both Smash games made it again to Evo is already a statement enough for me that Smash 4, and Melee, are not only still growing, but we're still successful communities," he said.

Coleman continues comfortably, smiling in his CLG gear.

"There was a Reddit [Ask Me Anything] when [CLG's] new CEO, [Devin 'Mylixia' Nash], was announced," said Coleman about his unconventional way of getting signed to a pro team. "I was following CLG for quite some time, and I was really curious . . . 'Are you guys looking for any Smash 4 players?' "

Coleman had seen how other organizations from bigger esport titles like League of Legends were taking notice of his game. Team SoloMid went out and acquired one of the best Smash "4" players in the world in Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios. TSM's rival in the League Championship Series, Team Liquid, followed suit by signing ZeRo's biggest rival, Nairoby "Nairo" Quezada. For Coleman, the question was, "Why not me?"

"I contacted [CLG] on their Reddit thread because they were doing a Q&A, and I asked, 'Hey, I'm a top player, are you looking for any Smash 4 players?' And instantly, I got put into contact with [the team], and from there I went through the entire process [of getting signed]. They loved me. I loved them. And that's how it came to be."

For Coleman, along with being the best player he can be, the thing he wants the most is for the Smash scene to continue growing. He has been to the LCS Arena for League of Legends and has seen how big esports can be. He wants to be able to have weekly events just like the LCS, and he believes that other big esport organizations should join the likes of TSM, Cloud9, Liquid and CLG by investing in the fanatical Smash communities.

"[Eric 'ESAM' Lew] is a popular pick," he said about unsigned talents in the Smash 4. "I [also] think [James 'VoiD' Makekau-Tyson] is a great pick. I'm hoping any organization looks to pick him up as well."

Coleman is also proud that Smash "4" is the most played game in the house besides League. Out of all the players on the League roster, only the team's top laner, Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaha, has been able to take a game off the professional.

"Darshan is probably the best amongst all those guys," he said. "And then maybe [George 'HotshotGG' Georgallidis] is second."

At the end of the interview, the CLG pro gamer made a bold statement on where he wants his game to go.

"I want Smash 4 as an esport, to be as popular and as successful as League of Legends. I look at the [LCS Arena] setup and everything I see is beautiful. I think we can achieve that, especially with Nintendo Direct's support. I really want that for the community, because this game has changed our lives -- all of us. And so, I feel like our stories should be told on a [grander] stage."