William "Leffen" Hjelte journey to become the greatest Melee player was smashed recently, calling into question the legitimacy of eSports.
Leffen is a professional Super Smash Bros. Melee player from Stockholm, Sweden. He started off using Falco, but later switched to Fox. He is now known as one of the most technical and powerful Fox mains in the world. Leffen won B.E.A.S.T 5 at the start of 2015, and started to hit his peak during the Summer of Smash in 2015.
However, Leffen's rise to power has seemingly come to an end. On his was to a major U.S. tournament, ”The Big House 5” in October 2015, Leffen was deported and had his Visa request denied.
Leffen currently has second place on the European Melee Power Rankings, and is considered to be one of the six best players in the world, alongside the five superstars of Smash Bros. Melee, “The Five Gods”: Armada, PPMD, Mango, Mew2King, and Hungrybox. The Five Gods dominated the Super Smash Bros. Melee scene for more than six years, winning every major tournament between 2008 and 2014. Starting in 2014 and continuing into 2015, Leffen took on and defeated each member of The Five Gods, each of whom were previously regarded as unbeatable by any professional Smash Bros. player.
Leffen was ranked third best by 2015’s SSBM Rank, and is the only player in competitive Melee history to have taken sets off of each of the Five Gods. Leffen says his number one goal is to end The Five Gods and become the "only god" of Super Smash Bros. Melee.
However, Leffen’s quest to become the “God Slayer” was cut short. He can no longer challenge the Five Gods of Melee, as four of them live in the U.S. Leffen is unable to enter any American tournaments, and so his ascent to Melee greatness was halted - for now.
For some time, Leffen was able to compete exclusively in European Melee tournaments. This has had a very negative impact on Leffen’s career, because most of the top Melee players live in the U.S. Since his deportation, he has had very few opportunities to exercise his skill and practice against the best of the best.
Leffen has been unable to compete in any major U.S. tournaments, as his visa request was denied due to Super Smash Bros. not being considered a real sport and insufficient evidence of his participation in a sport. Whether or not video games are considered sports may be up for debate, but it’s still contradictory. The problem being, Leffen was denied entry to the U.S. due to working on a tourist visa, but has been denied a work visa because Melee is not considered a legitimate sport, nor considered a valid form of work. These statements directly oppose each other, because the denial of a tourist visa says his career is actual work, while the denial of a working visa says it is not actual work.
The contradiction is the least of the controversy, however, as plenty of profession gamers are able to obtain a visa for larger-scale video games like League of Legends and Counter Strike, as well as many other competitive games. The fact is, either all competitive video games should be considered valid sports, or none should.
Because of the visa denial, Leffen’s career has suffered. The smasher notes that he has “gotten rusty” as a player, and the lack of practice has been a huge drawback for him.
“It’s honestly been really rough,” Leffen said in an interview. “I've had no high-level practice, I've missed out on a ton of big tournaments and gotten no prize money for over half a year now.”
This weekend, Leffen will get the chance to compete against three of The Five Gods at The Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo (EGLX): Adam "Armada" Lindgren, Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma, Joseph "Mango" Marquez, and Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman.
Leffen has had a serious lack of practice recently, especially against other professionals. While staying in Pickering, Ontario, Leffen tweeted out to fans asking if they would help him practice for the upcoming tournament.
Who wants to come over to practice today? (I staying in Ontario, Pickering)
— William Hjelte (@TSM_Leffen) April 26, 2016
Although Leffen lacks professional practice, he is still hopeful for EGLX. “I'll probably be seeded low as well, so it will definitely be hard for me to win,” Leffen said, “But I do honestly believe that I could beat everyone going if I play at my peak.”
Leffen knows in order to perform well against the gods, he will have to have a clear, focused mindset during his matches.
“It's just as people say, your worst enemy is yourself,” Leffen said. “If you let things get to you, whether it’s the crowd, being down, playing bad or sleeping badly, your play instantly suffers as a result.”
Leffen can often be seen wearing headphones during high-level professional matches, so as to block out the crowd cheering for the gods.
“The God Slayer” has several Canadian tournaments coming up to demonstrate his skill, which can be seen in the timeline below.
Many players in the Super Smash Bros. community have reacted to this controversy, and Leffen’s sponsor Redbull has started to spread Leffen’s story with the hashtag #FreeLeffen.
You can follow Leffen's journey to return to the U.S. and challenge The Five Gods on Redbull's website.