by Gabriel Kitsos, SFU Student
SFU boasts alumni such as senators, talk show hosts, and even Olympic athletes. But now, SFU can claim Dawson Perron, a professional esports player, among their midst. Today, Perron is one of the best in the world, playing the character Ice Climbers in Super Smash Bros. (SSB) Ultimate. He has even invented a widely used technique in the game which has since been named after his gamer tag “Big D.” In SSB, Ice Climbers are actually two small characters that play in sync wPerron, aka Big D, played his first SSB tournament back in 2011 when he was 16 years old, placing third. “It was out in Maple Ridge in the back of some video store called Home Video and it was maybe 12 or 15 people,” he said. After this, Perron was drawn to compete in more tournaments. He won his first tournament with prize money ($60) and blew it all on candy.
Since then, Perron said he has played in hundreds of tournaments and won many of them — especially when it comes to SSB Ultimate. Perron started getting recognition because he played with Ice Climbers, a character no one did well with.
Rise to Stardom
Perron’s breakthrough recognition in SSB Ultimate was when he beat Zackray at Mainstage 2019 in California. At the time, Zackray was rated 12th best in the world. A month later, Perron made it onto the top 50 of the Panda Global Rankings list — the international SSB rankings.
The basic concept of the game is like most fighting games: players choose a character and battleground to fight on. Each character has various attacks and maneuvers they can use. The goal is to eliminate your opponent(s) by sending them flying off the screen.
However, there are many complexities to this game, different hits deal different amounts of damage and knockback opponents to different lengths. There are certain “combos” — moves quickly strung together — for each character that, if used correctly, can be especially dangerous and often impossible to escape.
Many people play video games by frantically pressing buttons, hoping they will win, but Perronplays strategically. If he loses, he pays close attention to his games and watches the recorded live stream afterwards to see where he needs to get better.
“I played a guy who’s been a thorn in my side for a while,” Perron said, referring to Pacstreet, a player who uses the Pac-Man character. Perron lost to Pacstreet, but noticed when Pac-Man is boxed in the corner, he jumps up, attacks and then shoots items at the Ice Climbers. The following week they played again and Perron lost. But this time, he observed the very moment he blocked an item from hitting him, Pac-Man would unleash another attack Perron wouldn’t have time to block. Perron decided to only knock away the fire hydrant when Pac-Man was far away. If Pac-Man was close, Perron would dodge the fire hydrant instead. The next time Perron faced off against Pacstreet at The Pinnacle 2021 in Vancouver, he finally beat him. “I went from losing to him, to beating him down really hard just by making these adjustments,” Perron said.
Many SSB players are familiar with the YouTube video You CANNOT Get off the Ledge Against Ice Climbers! Created by GimR’s Lab; it’s a video that explains a strategy invented by Perron and is now called “Big D.” Ice Climbers typically are controlled in sync, with one character following the other. But it is possible to “desync” them. If you give a new command before the first character has completed its move, then it will by default go to the second character. Perron found out if he makes his first ice climbers grab the ledge — forcing the opponent off — while the second of the two Ice Climbers hits the opponent with an attack, it is near impossible for the opponent to survive.
There are many different organizations that release ratings but the most concrete ranking comes from the Panda Global Rankings (PGR), which puts tournaments into tiers to calculate rankings. Their most recent list was from fall 2019 — since the pandemic has slowed travel and only allowed for smaller tournaments. Perron placed 49th in the world for SSB Ultimate on this list. He is the only player in the top 50 who uses Ice Climbers and is therefore known as the best Ice Climbers Player in the world. According to the Smash Canada Ranking, Perron is the 3rd best SSB Ultimate player in Canada.
Wherever he went, Perron contributed to the video game community. Perron studied at SFU from 2015–17 and played in a SSB 4 league for SFU. “We put a team from SFU together, and we actually had made it to the finals,” Perron said. They beat California, qualifying the SFU team. Unfortunately, the finals took place the same day Perron had final exams, so he could not attend.
It’s been 10 years since his first tournament. While still one of the best, Perron puts a lot of his focus on the kids, some of whom are even younger than him when he started. Perron is one of the oldest in the competitive world of SSB and as he puts it, “probably one of the few PGR players with a degree.”
Perron still attends local, community tournaments despite also playing on a much higher level. He speaks with people about the game in an accessible way and is excited by new players showing interest in the game. Though he doesn’t like to admit it, the younger players look up to Perron as an example, which is why Perron makes sure to keep his cool after a loss. “I make a really good effort to try and lose with grace,” he said.