Smash Forward is an esports documentary with a focus on the Fighting Game Community (FGC) at a grassroots level in Canada.
We had the opportunity to speak with Melissa Dex Guzman the Director and Producer of Smash Forward.
Hi Melissa, What prompted you to make Smash Forward ?
"I grew up gaming, and I have really fond memories of playing video games with my dad and brother. I really believe that it was gaming that led me into my career in technology, and immersive experiences in the AR and VR industry.
If we have to be real, the games industry is always the first to get the best of the best tech and being involved with playing games allowed me to express myself in ways I didn’t think were possible – interactive storytelling namely. With the World Health Organization (WHO) categorizing “gaming addiction” as a mental illness – I felt like now was a good time to show gaming in other lights, and that perhaps the addictions we see online are closer tied to something deeper, and playing games is just the coping of a symptom we aren’t aware of."
Smash Forward Official Trailer
This is your first film – what were some of the challenges you had as a first timer?
"It was my first film that not only I directed but also produced. My former line of work with systems administration and IT leadership had already introduced me to a world of streamlining, scheduling and efficiency, but flexing my creativity where there’s a crew and people involved was something else. Directing is really all about communication and if you can’t communicate, you can’t direct.
Creating content in Canada was also a challenge because my background was also in photojournalism and YouTube content – making a documentary about a community that revolves around someone else’s IP is literally a clearance nightmare. Doubt I’d ever wish that workload upon someone else."
What do you think viewers will be surprised or taken aback by?
"Honestly, we think that the player community may be surprised how we portray them. This is a light most of them haven’t seen themselves in – it’s more raw, it’s real, and we cut straight to the heart of gaming. We’ve watched other documentaries on esports and they seem to focus on “the top”, and how “cool” the scene is – with a scene growing so quickly here in North America, we think it’s also important to remember and honor the roots of where it all started: in the community, and passion of these gamers.
What makes Smash Forward different from other esports documentaries?
"In Smash Forward, we focused on the Fighting Game Community (FGC) which – I feel – is still relating to esports, but for some reason some folks think they’re different. We were at an advantage because unlike PC gaming, most fighting games are played in-person at tournaments. It’s social by default because it’s old school couch co-op. It certainly made showing the social potential of gaming easier because of that in-person nature. PC gaming is social too, but it’s social in other ways that may be harder for a wider audience to understand context."
What are you most proud of with Smash Forward?
"I think our team handled the acknowledgement of sexism in the gaming realm very well, despite it being a complete surprise for our team. We met and interviewed women and transwomen on their experiences in their perspective communities and while Vancouver’s esports scene is fairly inclusive, it’s important to really bolster those efforts and showcase that if players want support for their communities, it needs to be a healthy environment for everyone."
Do you have any advice for other filmmakers who might want to make a documentary within the esports realm?
"The hardest part honestly was the IP clearance. Other directors advised me that “it’s better to just ask for forgiveness later” and sure that works but when you are basing your story around that IP, it’s not about forgiveness so much as it is destroying the narrative. We were fortunate to have had a grant from winning with our pitch to TELUS STORYHIVE, but with that said, if you can’t clear the IP you’ll need to hire a VFX artist if you want those logo removals to be more seamless. Before I went into the production for Smash Forward, I was also advised that whatever we have planned for the documentary – it will always change, documentaries always change. I didn’t expect we’d change so much but once you get a bigger picture of what you’re investigating – it will always turn out for the better."
Smash Forward will be released on 15th of July 2019, Lets all show our support for Melissa and Co.
If you would have any further questions for Melissa or any of the people feel free to contact them at :
Smash Forward Official Trailer