When the hype cycle for the next Smash Bros. game for the 3DS was peaking sometime in late 2014, I recall obsessing over the prospective roster for the next installment. These were always the most exciting moments in-between Smash releases, and my participation in them goes back as far as 2008 when my brother showed me the E3 trailer for Brawl. Even then, young as I was, my mind was stuck on the possibility of Ridley, that big purple dragon from Metroid, finally making the cut. Six years later, another trailer served as the catalyst for yet another round of endless dreaming. Why did I want this dragon so badly? There’s no deeper meaning here; I thought he would be cool. Whatever the case, I spent my time after school scrolling through Reddit and GameFAQs threads and endless arguments over Ridley. Was he too big? Was he too niche a pick? Would he still be Ridley if they managed to squeeze his wingspan through the door? I had to know, and I was obsessed. I thought I had seen every viewpoint, every theorem, on the matter.
It would be in spring of 2014 that I stumbled upon the most compelling piece of evidence for Ridley yet. I found the video on YouTube, and my first takeaway was the sincere passion in the person’s voice. Etika, as I would soon discover was his name, was likewise obsessed over this particular debate as well, and he believed that he had cracked the case. Scrubbing his copy of VLC player frame-by-frame on the most recent teased footage of our beloved dragon, he concluded that Ridley would indeed be playable in the upcoming Smash. I immediately shared this video with all of my (annoyed) friends, for not only was I impressed by his logic, but I was sincerely touched by his energy -- his hype -- for what was ultimately meaningless for most of the world. To be understood by someone I had clicked on by chance alone was instrumental to my gravitation toward his channel for the next few years.
Months later, I found myself in Etika’s livestream one night. Back in these days, staying up until midnight was a crime -- but alas! Someone across the Pacific Ocean had found an early release copy of Smash for 3DS days before its release, and he was streaming, too! I had to stay up; I had to follow these developments, to watch rumors live and see the light of confirmation or die before my eyes all the same. Etika was streaming his reaction to this mystery player’s stream, and I couldn’t have asked for a better guide on my voyage into the dark of night. So many memories were made that night. I remember when Etika began to cry upon seeing a “leaked” Ridley screenshot that would soon turn out to be a hoax. I remember when he would grind his teeth at the pathetic performance of the Japanese streamer with each new challenger. I remember when he saw my tweet. For fourteen hours, Etika served as the guardian of truth and knowledge for his loyal following, a steadfast beacon of hype and wonder in the climax of this game’s development cycle. Smash was already important to me, but Etika made that game special. Of course, he was naturally funny and entertaining, but the energy that Etika carried was -- is -- unrivaled, unscripted, unimaginable. Even though Ridley didn’t make the cut that night, Etika was the only man who I’d want to break the news to me. The night ended with my return to reality, but life with Etika continued.
For the next few years, I’d continue to tune into his channel, even browsing his older videos from time-to-time. His reactions were still uniquely human; his commentary rang true for many. Many tried to copy his style, and none succeeded. His penchant for making the most mundane of stories hilarious and energetic captivated so many newcomers in his audience, and his messy room and low-budget equipment kept him both grounded and relatateable to people such as me. Sometimes I’d put the video of his fourteen-hour livestream on in the background to help me sleep at night. And when Ridley was finally announced for the next Smash Bros. game in the summer of 2018, Etika’s voice carried through the heavens.
As my life carried additional responsibilities, I stopped watching Etika as much, but I’d still poke my head in on occasion. Everyone knows that Etika fell into a dark chapter of his life around this point; I wasn’t around for most of it, so I won’t comment on it. All I will say is that Etika’s story is another reminder of the complexity of the human soul, a stark symbol to the cost of life in constant watch. No one knows the full story of Etika’s personal life, but the impact that his public life carried may have been weighing on him the entire time. Regardless, the fans found his last video at midnight, the police found his belongings several hours later, and the world lost a good man on June 25, 2019.
I do not know what pushed him over the edge. I do not know how long he had been fighting. I do know, however, that among the items found on Manhattan Bridge was his Nintendo Switch. And I like to think that, in his last moments, Etika was able to reflect on the joy he brought to the lives of others and the love we shared with him for one last time. Etika will never know the final two characters in this Smash game, and I will never see his face light up at these newcomers. I’ll always have my memories of the man I once dubbed a god of knowledge, but I am once again reminded of the struggles behind every smile. Etika was a good man, and I would like to be one as well.
"Focus on the days that come, don't worry about the future too much... people focus way too much on how a year will be, and way less on what today will be. Make today good."