Kyle Athayde is a true anomaly in competitive Melee. By most standards, he is a dinosaur; the 29 year old NorCal native discovered smashboards and the competitive scene before Mew2King was even a blip on most player’s radars. He incorporated Ice Climbers desyncs and wavedashes in matches with his friends without ever having stepped foot inside a tournament venue. Since he started taking competitive Melee seriously, he has become one of the most iconic players of our time...so iconic, in fact, that it seems every region has a player jokingly nicknamed “the dizzkidboogie of ________”. He is a pioneer and one of the most successful players to begin around Evo 2013, with 4-stock game wins over S2J and Chillin among a dozen others. He has major wins under his belt, but perhaps the most striking thing about dizzkidboogie is this: Despite being known for his mastery of wobbling, a tactic reviled by the majority of Melee’s player base, he is one of the most positive, excited, and genuinely good personalities in the entire scene.
When I originally sought out Dizz to write an article about him, it was with the intention of including him in my ongoing series “Doc Kids”, about the players who discovered competitive Melee with the rise of Evo 2013 and the documentary and are now top players. I originally thought he fit the bill; I couldn’t find a record of him entering anything prior to that year, and he seemed to have improved at an impossible rate in the short years since. I missed a huge part of the story though; dizzkid is not a doc kid. He came up with Melee in the middle of the 2000s, and only stumbled upon the existence of a competitive scene by accident. At the time, he was simply trying to find a way to beat his high school rival, a Samus player. The metagame of 2005 was not nearly as pronounced and developed as it is now, and for a casual player it was even less so. Dizz gleefully recalls that his ability to defeat a local Fox player depended entirely upon the strength of his character’s down-smash. He could destroy him with Sheik, Peach, the ICs...but playing with a character like Marth, he was hopelessly outclassed.
In his quest to figure out how to beat his local Samus rival, he discovered wavedashing, and from there his gameplan pushed him into the direction of the Ice Climbers. Sheik and Peach, while having terrific down-smashes...did not have the full range of movement the ICs did, and a wavedashing, down-smashing ICs player was born. He discovered Chudat shortly thereafter, and from there began experimenting with low-level desyncs such as down-throw, down-air, regrab. This, however, was as competitive as Dizz would get until 2013. For eight years, this strange hybrid of casual and competitive player went around trashing his friends, living the college life, and focusing on his music.
It is music, not Melee, which forms the cornerstone of Dizzkid’s identity. His tag was given to him in two separate parts by his family: the first, “dizzkid”, was given by his father at a young age. Athayde’s favorite trumpet player was the legendary Dizzy Gilespie, and in a family full of musicians it became a running joke to call him dizzkid. His older sister gave him the second part of his tag, when she used to tickle him and call him a ‘boogie boy’. Put them together and you have dizzkidboogie, all lower case (which Athayde makes a point of mentioning, even though he wouldn’t say why). His connection with music continues to this day, and he is the founding member of the Kyle Athayde Dance Party, a big-band ensemble whose influences range from the trumpet player he idolized as a kid to the chiptune songs on the games he grew up with.
It is the discipline he learned from being a practicing musician that led him to fall in love with Melee. After Evo 2013, his friends convinced him to attend a local tournament. Inspired by the performance of Wobbles, he did surprisingly well, eliminating Norcal TO Boback Villi and winning 4 matches in the loser’s side of his pool before finally being eliminated by the Crimson Blur. Emboldened by his success, Athayde picked up Melee as his second passion and never looked back. He soon became acquainted with SFAT, Norcal’s top player, and became something of an understudy of his. After all his tournament wins and losses, SFAT was there to congratulate or console him; the two remain close today.
Norcal in general proved to be a great environment for Dizzkid to come up in; he was able to find constant practice with players like Laudandus, Darrell, SFAT, and a dozen others who all have comfy spots on the year-end top 100 lists. He was going to college at Julliard in New York City as well, so he effectively had two of the strongest regions in the world to practice in. He was never at a shortage for good practice, his curiosity always had a knowledgeable outlet, and he routinely played some of the world’s best IC slayers in bracket. His environment was as optimal as one could hope for, but that alone isn’t always enough to bring success.
At his very first smash fest, Dizzkid played against Norcal Samus player Darrell, who gave him career-changing advice--”You should wobble more.” The technique, which confers a guaranteed kill with zero counterplay on the opponent’s part no matter the percent, initially turned Dizzkid off. He was a fairly positive and people-oriented person, and didn’t want other players to hate him for his use of the technique. As he worked to implement wobbling, he indeed faced the worst challenges a wobbler can face; he was refused handshakes and fist bumps, his opponents would refuse to look him in the eyes, would insult him in person and online, wish terrible misfortunes on him and his family, and even tell him to kill himself. It would be a lot for anyone to handle, but it had a particularly strong effect on him. He never wanted to hurt another person or make them feel bad, he just wanted to play the game the way he thought was best and be respected for his skill. To that end, several top players have remarked that although his playstyle is wildly frustrating to play against, it’s difficult to hold it against him. Dizzkid is always wearing a smile, win or lose, and holds nothing but respect for the game and everyone who plays it. He is one of the most genuinely kind people playing this game, and yet arguably the recipient of more salt and undue anger than anyone else.
It eventually took its toll on him. After a performance he considered very poor--65th at The Big House 5--he fell into a deep slump about his play. He was haunted by the word ‘fraud’ in his sleep, he felt as if all his wins were discredited and his losses celebrated. He would eventually work his way out of this slump with the help of other top players who understood his struggle, but still remains very affected by the personal hate that gets directed by some of the angrier competitors.
It is perhaps worth exploring what it is about dizzkidboogie’s playstyle that triggers his opponent’s anger reflexes so strongly. Although he respects and idolizes Wobbles, Chudat, and Nintendude as the world’s best ICs, Dizzkid starting playing in an environment where wobbling was legal (this had not always been the case). He focused on it as the optimal punish in most scenarios, and it became the cornerstone of his play. Where Wobbles was pushing the ICs metagame in a direction favoring desyncs and precise desynchronized control, Dizzkid focused on the synchronicity of his ICs and desync’ing them only when necessary. Where Chudat worked on the strength of his SoPo and worked to be able to challenge any top player using an effectively low-tier character, Dizzkid focused on a defensive game so that his ICs would never be separated. He became a wall of ice, shield tricks, and clever ground movement, and opponents are forced to execute perfectly or get grabbed (and thus killed). He forces his opponents into execution tests with the highest possible stakes, and kills them off of a single mistake. It is a stone cold and ruthless strategy that is every bit as intelligent as it is effective.
This strategy, one which emphasizes a strong defensive game and the optimal punish, has propelled dizzkidboogie into the Melee stratosphere in 2016. He placed 33rd at Genesis 3 and Super Smash Con, 17th at The Big House 6 and Shine, and defeated notable ICs slayers from around the globe. This year alone, he has taken sets from Abate, Duck, Mew2King, Silent Wolf, N0ne, Zhu, and dozens of others. He has four-stocked S2J and was 8% away from a JV5 against Chillindude at Dreamhack Austin. The old saying in football is that ‘the best offense is a good defense’, and Dizzkid is living proof that the concept applies to Melee as well.
Yet even with his national placings for the year, the win he is most proud of is his 1st place finish at this year’s Olympus in New York. While far from the year’s most stacked tournament, he won it from winner’s side as the fourth seed, defeating Milkman, Professor Pro, Lucky, and double-eliminating The Moon. More than just taking the tournament, Dizzkid feels most attached to this victory because he feels like he came up against three of the strongest players in the ICs matchup (and a red-hot Lucky) and still emerged victorious. Milkman has beaten every top ICs player in the country in the last year, Professor Pro is well-known for his skill in the matchup, and The Moon was the one who gave him the theoretical foundation of the Marth/ICs matchup in the first place. He was able to walk into a lion’s den, full of players who thought they had his number, and emerge victorious.
Dizzkid’s improvement is made all the more impressive considering he is one of the oldest competitors in Melee. Reaction times are diminished with age and the tendons in our hands eventually fade, but when asked about whether he feels his age puts him at a disadvantage, he scoffed at the idea. He feels his reaction times are just fine for what he wants to do, and believes that his experience playing music professionally for panels, judges, and crowds was more beneficial to his success as a competitor. Any weaknesses he has, he attributes more to a lack of experience with the game rather that being older than his competition. He reminded me that the success of Nintendude and Chudat did not come from them being younger than him, but that they had ten more years of learning and recognizing all the tiny interactions that make up the neutral game. He intends to improve his understanding of the neutral game (and work on his SoPo game) in the coming year.
Whatever challenges face him in the future, Dizzkid is ready to take them head on. He has perhaps the most unique background of the newer generation of players, and most of his experience with competition and improvement came from his musical background. Even though music is his lifelong passion, he reflects that the thing he enjoys most about Melee is that success in it is not about who you know, but the results on the screen. He faced adversity at Julliard and in the music industry, as more skilled and passionate artists were overlooked in favor of those with the right looks, the right connections, or the willingness to assimilate to a system they perhaps didn’t agree with. Melee has none of those roadblocks; the game doesn’t judge you for how you play your character (even if your opponents might), and the bracket doesn’t care if you’re best buds with the top seeds. Dizzkidboogie is living proof that Melee cares about dedication and the commitment every player must make to themselves. He is proof that Melee makes no distinguishment between those of different ages or backgrounds. Most importantly, he is proof that if you are in tune with yourself and unafraid to follow the voice in your heart, success is waiting for you to take it in.