New weekly hopes to retain ‘Fudds’ spirit

Matt “Dr. Hunk” Koester

CLM players Joe “JustJoe” and Eric “Ferocitii” Giovanni post with a Spongebob CRT and Gamecube in front of the Downers Grove Fuddruckers in 2017. The weekly held its last bracket days prior to the beginning of the 2020 COVID-19 quarantine.

For years, Chicagoland Melee and Project M players congregated every Wednesday at an unexpected place. In a humble Downers Grove Fuddruckers, players such as Michael, Captain Faceroll, Kels and ORLY played high level games over fries and shakes.

When the location closed for good in the early months of the pandemic, however, the dream of a revitalized “Fudd Brudders” was dashed.  Now, with many local tournaments roaring back in the area, a former Fudds TO hopes to carry on its legacy.

Starting Monday, Melee will be joining the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament at Scrims eSports Gaming Center in Lisle.

According to tournament co-organizer iWater, vaccinations will be required. The weekly brackets will start at 7 p.m. and be played on monitors. This news broke Wednesday evening in a Twitter post by the tournament organizer.

For iWater, who is only 18, it will mark the culmination of years of growth in the scene, first as a player and second as an organizer. This journey began at the “Fudds” weekly.

Burgers and brawls

The Fudds weekly started through sheer luck. One day in 2017, Chicagoland players Ferocitii, Giogio and JustJoe stopped at the Downers Grove Fuddruckers on their way back from a weekly tournament to celebrate somes strong performances.

Serendipitously, they bumped into another player in the line, Hore. The four talked about Melee, and were overheard by the manager, who soon suggested that they host a tournament at the burger chain.

The two players had not considered TOing before, but with the opportunity presenting itself, they took it. Fuddbrudders was born.

“A week or two later, we had everything we needed and we were able to start. (It was) pretty simple actually,” JustJoe said.

The Downers Grove tournament helped fill a hole left by other suburban tournaments that had stopped running. It became a common hauntfor many of the region’s best players like its two head TOs, as well as Chicagoland PR regulars like Michael, ORLY and Kels. It also served as a training ground for up and comers like Frost, iWater and Aero. 

Chicagoland Jigglypuff legend Michael was one of the Fudd Brudders’ top competitors

For iWater in particular, the weekly was a place where he, then still in high school, felt connected with others, where he could make friends.

“It gave me my sense of purpose in high school,” he said. 

Starting to attend tournaments in his early teenage years, iWater never felt too connected to his peers at school. Melee helped him venture out and find something to be passionate about.

“It also just gave me people I could actually be friends with, and people I actually cared about,” he told CLM. 

The teenager’s desire to help out eventually led him into the world of tournament organizing.

iWater had started attending Fudds in January of 2018, and by summer time he found himself helping set up the tournament. The regular TOs were late, and he simply pitched in. This was the beginning of an increasing amount of responsibility put on the younger player’s shoulders.

“Over time they started really finding out, oh, this guy’s pretty useful,” iWater said.

First being referred to as a TO jokingly, by the end of Fudds’ run, iWater had become a respected tournament organizer in his own right.

Almost a year and a half later, the 18 year old hopes to bring Melee back to the area. 

The end of Fudds

Nothing lasts forever, not even fast casual burger chains. The last Fuddbrudders tournament was held in March of 2020, before quarantine would end its run.

The final nail in Fudds’ coffin came in May of that year, when the Downers Grove restaurant closed its doors for good. When Chicago locals did return a year later, the landscape had changed. 

Chicagoland weeklies like Tripoint Smash in Romeoville and Combat Café in Evanston have returned, and new weeklies like Midlane Melee in Logan Square have picked up the slack in the city proper. That said, suburbanites south and west of the city were lacking a nearby tournament.

A list of weekly Melee tournaments in Chicagoland as of August 2021 from the CLM Facebook page

iWater hopes the new local will address some of the issues he saw at Fudds and other weeklies. He says the venue should be more spacious, and he hopes to also have enough setups that people can even play friendlies during bracket. He also wants to keep things on schedule. Fudds had a tendency to run late back in the day.

The weekly will not be far from Fudds’ old location in Downers Grove either with the Lisle location.

As for why something like this has not come together sooner, iWater feels that the issue lies more in a lack of tournament organizers in the suburbs rather than a lack of suitable venues. iWater points to the robust scene for suburban Smash Ultimate tournaments as an example.

“I don’t see CLM being another New York where it took a while to get (a local tournament) off the ground,” he told CLM in October. “I think people aren’t looking enough in the suburbs.”

New challenges

Still, there are some factors that make Melee a more difficult game to organize around than Ultimate. Melee is played on aging hardware, Gamecubes and Wiis, and often in tandem with aging CRT televisions. While Ultimate is perhaps the most popular fighting game of all time, Melee’s community is generally smaller, older and more hardcore.

Also unlike Ultimate, Melee has an excellent online infrastructure in Slippi. This allowed players to enter tournaments and practice matchups from the comfort of their own home during quarantine, and many of these online tournaments and resources will likely remain important in the game moving forward.

The former Fudds TO says that he plans to get his local running in November or December, to make sure he has prepared it. He will be running it alongside fellow TO Delta.

Besides having plenty of space and setups, iWater says he wants to make sure that those who show up for the tournament are also showcased properly in the weekly’s stream and VODs.

“That’s something I want to strive for,” he said, noting that commentary is something he hopes to also have for the event.

he young Falco player turned some heads in commentary earlier this year in a highly biased, highly entertaining commentary block during the most recent Hold That L Chicago regional. He hopes to take commentary a little bit more seriously the next time he does it, while still keeping things entertaining.

The addition of another local brings its own questions. Can CLM support another weekly right now, at a time when many locals are still just getting off the ground? Melee picked up its share of new players during quarantine thanks to Slippi, but getting those players to attend an in-person tournament is its own challenge.

Moving beyond Facebook and using more social media platforms like Twitter and Discord should help, iWater says. 

“I feel like people do not advertise their tournaments, and that’s a big part of running them,” he said. 

2 thoughts on “New weekly hopes to retain ‘Fudds’ spirit”

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