by Evan “Larfen” Himes
Since the Melee community began creating official rankings of the top 50/100 players, no more than one Chicagoan was ever ranked in the top 50 at once. First it was Kels in the early 2010’s. Then, as his rank began to drop, Michael came in to take his place as Chicago’s best player, at least out of region. That all changed this summer, when two Chicagoans were ranked top 50 in the world. I’ve already written about Skerzo for CLM, but just twelve spots below his #33 placing drops our other top talent: #45 Mekk.
Mekk may be ranked lower than Skerzo on the top 50, but I bet if you did a poll of all members of the Melee community, Mekk would be the better-known figure. Starting in January 2022, Mekk decided to push into full-time content creation and competition. This extensive self-branding has led to many of his catchphrases and other gimmicks to be common knowledge among community members at all levels. I interviewed Mekk and beneath the online persona, Mekk’s journey is one that spans the country in ways that I never expected.
The Origin Story
Mekk began playing Smash casually at a young age. His first step into competitive play was not with Melee, but with Brawl. He never entered any tournaments, but that game is where Mekk first learned that there were deeper levels than just tossing items around. Mekk’s Smash education began when his then friend and eventual YouTube editor Henry taught Mekk about the advanced technique Smash DI, and in his own time stumbled upon the famous Apex 2013 grand finals between Mew2King and Salem.
Mekk started competing himself with Smash 4, starting with the 3DS version. He wanted to get a jump-start on the competition, so right when the game came out in 2014 he started grinding matches on the original netplay hub, Anther’s Ladder. This is also where Mekk picked his main, Captain Falcon, who he plays to this day in Melee.
Mekk was introduced to Melee in late 2015, playing in his college dorm. Between watching The Smash Brothers and Hax and Scar combo videos, he was hooked. Inspired by the 20GX movement, he stuck to Falcon and went to his first local in 2016 at Wisconsin’s Top Dog Cafe, which Eggy ended up winning. Mekk started attending actively in this period in both Wisconsin and Chicago, and eventually beat Eggy for the first time at the very same tournament series.
However, just as Mekk started to establish himself as a strong local player, he hit a major career roadblock. His parents not only didn’t understand what he was doing with Melee, they were actively concerned and opposed to it. In the year of 2017, Mekk played almost no Melee at all. Instead, his family staged an intervention and sent him off to a video game addiction rehab center in Seattle.
Mekk said his parents simply didn’t understand how special this video game and community is, how Melee is a place where someone can find inspiration for self-improvement in a broad sense. Melee is not a time sink that leads you nowhere. Mekk understands what Melee is, and he knows that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Comparing it to a digital martial art, Mekk says it keeps his mind sharp and motivates him to keep fit, to socialize, to show respect to himself and others. As such, this stint in “rehab” did not deter him one bit from returning to Melee once he was out.
Melee was of course waiting for Mekk as soon as he returned. I was actually at the homecoming party myself. Local players and friends of Mekk Wndy and King Fedora hosted a combination New Year’s and welcome home party at Logan Square in December 2017 titled “Return of the Mekk”, a play on the Mark Morrison track “Return of the Mack” that played on repeat all night.
Because of the rift between him and his family, Mekk decided to save up and live on his own for a while. In March 2021 he moved down to Austin, Texas with his friend Smiz where he was able to join the local scene there and get a feel as to how a more Melee-centric life would look. He was able to practice his Ganondorf and broaden his horizons. Traveling often has this effect on Melee players, where practicing in two different regions allows for growth that may not otherwise be available.
However, in 2022 Mekk moved back to Chicago and chose a new path, one that sent him from being the “good local Falcon” to the scene-wide celebrity that he is today. He decided to start streaming full-time.
Mekk the Streamer
Armed with a newfound independence, Mekk went where his heart led him, and that was to take Melee and streaming seriously as a full-time career. Taking a break from school, Mekk began streaming in January 2022, entering an online bracket every day, and incorporating his now-famous pushups during the streams, where he gets down and does a set every time he loses in Melee. This has been discussed at length elsewhere (such as on his Radio Melee appearance), but Mekk felt like he wanted to show how Melee inspires such healthy choices.
The early days of Mekk’s streaming career reflected his full-time commitment. He advertised heavily on Reddit and Twitter, and his eccentric persona was a major selling point. Mekk plays the part of not only a competitive Melee player, but as a motivational speaker and life coach on his Twitch and Youtube channels. The biggest catchphrase is “I ain’t stoppin”, a declaration that he will always get back up and keep trying no matter what gets in his way. Mekk states this persona is him acting more like the person he wants to be: relentlessly positive, endlessly motivated, and dedicated to improvement. He wants to be the antidote to toxic negativity online.
Mekk’s branding paid off, and his success in streaming accompanied success in tournament results. Mekk’s greatest tournament run of the year was clearly his performance at Low Tide City, where he defeated Skerzo, Bobby Big Ballz, and finally Axe on the way to a second place finish behind Pipsqueak. Mekk rode his newfound notoriety in the community and ran a quite successful Summit campaign right after this breakout run. Despite narrowly falling short in the voting, a last-minute DQ from Pipsqueak allowed Mekk to attend Smash Summit 13. This brought his persona to a brand-new height, and allowed for viral moments such as Jmook joining him in post-set pushups after the two went to game 5.
Later in the year, Mekk would again turn heads with his compilation-ready moment of attempting an offstage Falcon Punch vs Lucky at Shine. Of course, let’s not ignore the fact that to even get on the stage to attempt this, Mekk defeated two top 20 players in Ginger and Polish. Much has been made of this moment, as it was obvious that Mekk could have easily won the game by merely holding the ledge, and he ended up losing the set in the end. However, this just shows the type of showman that Mekk is. He would rather be immortalized for striving for glory than for simply succeeding.
Mekk has since stepped back from full-time streaming, and is currently attending school again. Since the stream and channel have gotten a foothold, he can ease off the gas in marketing and uploading while still maintaining a community and fanbase. He strongly states that school and a traditional career are the Plan B though. In the future, Mekk’s streams could remain Smash focused, or venture into other games, similar to how Melee community members like Mango and Ludwig have diversified their streaming content over the years.
Mekk and CLM
Despite Mekk’s national attention, he has a different approach to locals than, say, Skerzo. Whereas Skerzo is heavily involved in the local community, specifically attending weeklies often, Mekk actually did not meet activity requirements for the most recent PR despite still residing in Chicago.
Part of this is due to him having also become involved in competitive Smash Ultimate. Harkening back to his Smash 4 and Brawl roots, Mekk has made an effort to enter Ultimate tournaments online as part of his stream repertoire. The biggest online weekly for Ultimate, The Coinbox, schedules over Midlane, Chicago’s biggest weekly.
Another reason for Mekk’s sporadic local attendance is the same as is for many top players: locals aren’t very good Melee practice. A strong player will often only get a handful of challenging sets at a local, and it’s not uncommon to be in the situation where one has to wait a full hour in between those sets. That problem becomes worse the longer you stay in winner’s bracket. Mekk’s best LAN memories are instead of smashfests, which lack the pressure and unwanted downtime of locals. If he has one wish for the CLM community, it would be to start to bring these back.
Ultimately, Mekk has chosen to represent CLM in a different way. Instead of primarily being a local community member, Mekk is a member of the Smash community at large. Mekk speaks to the general public, and is a strong voice in the tapestry (or maybe cacophony) of the online community. If you were to ask the average competitive smasher to name a Chicago Melee player, Mekk’s name would probably be one of the first to come to mind.
Thus in terms of top talent, Chicago really has their bases covered. You have the familiar face of Skerzo, the guy who will drink a couple White Claws with you on Wednesday before destroying you in bracket, and Mekk, the guy who will make Melee more enticing to the public, in turn bringing more bodies into venues around the world. Both are in their own ways ambassadors for our scene, and make CLM the great community that it is.
Mekk’s plans for the future remain to be seen. Will he become the next Ludwig? Will he become the next top 10 player, or die trying? Will he actually fall back to Plan B, and lead a life outside of Melee? We know that whatever path he chooses, HE AIN’T STOPPIN!