As a champion esports player of “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” the West Valley’s Jeffrey “Axe” Williamson loves the game and embodies the state in which he grew up.
“I always wear the flag and represent Arizona because it means a lot to me,” Williamson says. “It’s where I spent pretty much my whole life. So that’s why I wear the flag. I always remember that I’m playing and I’m trying to win for all the people who helped me get this far.”
Born in Germany to U.S. military parents, Williamson moved to Arizona as a youngster and was raised in Sierra Vista. Relocating to Phoenix in 2009, Williamson juggled work, school and competitive gaming, especially with Nintendo products.
One series got Williamson’s attention: Nintendo’s “Super Smash Bros.” Its second installment, 2001’s “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” features a cast of iconic Nintendo characters with whom players can fight. He played the game casually, but he had a fateful encounter in 2006.
“In 2006 there was an advertisement at my high school for a ‘Super Smash. Bros. Melee’ tournament,” says Williamson, who also briefly studied at University of Arizona in Tucson and DeVry University. “I entered the tournament and did really bad.”
He was determined to up his game, so Williamson entered in other tournaments with a friend.
“I just got sucked into it,” Williamson says. “I started practicing and wanted to enter a lot of tournaments, try to get better and make a name for myself.”
It’s fair to say that Williamson has done well. Since attending his first state tournament in early 2007, Williamson has been regarded as the No. 1 “Super Smash Bros. Melee” player in Arizona. SSBMRank, a panelist of the game’s figureheads and experts, ranked Williamson No. 9 in the world in January. But being the best was never Williamson’s inspiration.
“It wasn’t necessarily my goal to become the best in Arizona, or the best in the world, or top 10 or anything like that,” Williamson says. “I just continued because it was really fun. It’s funny how that worked out.”
In 2013, the “Super Smash Bros. Melee” competitive scene blew up after its exposure in the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) tournament and a documentary. Two years ago, Williamson became serious about his talents. He signed a sponsorship deal with Mortality eSports in July 2014 and spent six months with it. He moved on to Tempo/Storm in July 2015. Williamson quit his job in late 2014 to be a full-time pro gamer.
“It was a risk at the time because I wasn’t sure if I would make enough money,” he says. “Luckily, things worked out very well.”
Williamson competes as Pikachu, a Pokémon character that is rarely seen as having a viable choice to win games by those who play competitively.
“I thought it would be cool to be known as one of the best players who uses a character that’s not even that great,” he says.
Williamson is hoping to score big again this month, as he attends EVO 2017 July 14 to July 16 in Las Vegas (http://evo.shoryuken.com), and Dreamhack Atlanta from July 21 to July 23 in Atlanta (https://atlanta.dreamhack.com/17/). First, he participates in Boss Rush on Saturday, July 8, at SAK Gaming Lounge, 1849 E. Baseline Road, Tempe. Williamson occasionally attends “Super Smash Bros. Melee” events there on Tuesdays.
With all his success, Williamson has never forgotten his roots. Like other Arizona competitors, Williamson rocks state gear and flags for big tournaments. His signature garb is fashioning a cape out of an Arizona flag.
“We’re all kind of like a big family,” he says. “We’ve all been together for a long time. All of my best friends have been from Arizona. It’s where I started and developed as a smasher and competitor.”
For more information about Jeffrey “Axe” Williamson, visit twitch.tv/AZ_Axe or twitter.com/TempoAxe.