Yesterday, one of the all time greats of Super Smash Bros Melee announced his retirement from the competitive scene, for the second time. Adam ‘Armada’ Lindgren stepped away from singles competition, although in his announcement he did confirm he would continue to play doubles with his brother, Andreas ‘Android’ Lindgren, as he still has motivation for that part of the game.
The moment he shared his decision, the online debate started about his place in the pantheon of great players, and many were quick to install him as the greatest of all time, or "GOAT" in modern parlance. Alongside Joseph ‘Mang0’ Marquez, there is no doubt that Armada is one of the most accomplished players in history, with multiple titles at Evo, Apex and many other events Melee players consider to be majors.
However, and like Mango, he has at times struggled to motivate himself, with this his second retirement. Even in this spell leading up to his stepping away from singles, Armada has been bested by players such as Hungrybox, Mew2King, Leffen, Plup and others. More than that, there have been obvious signs in his play that practice has not been a priority, and that makes his retirement less surprising. Unfortunately for Armada, it also makes his place as the greatest far less secure than it might otherwise have been.
Motivation is a skill
It doesn’t matter which esport you follow, you already know this tale. To be honest, you don’t even have to know esports to have heard of a player with all the talent, but not enough drive to really see it through. Some of the most tragic examples are people you won’t have heard of, but even in the high achievers club there are men and women who threw away a chance to fully achieve their potential.
And, for every player like George Best, who had enough talent to be the greatest but the motivation and mental ability of a house brick, there is equally a Cristiano Ronaldo or Novak Djokovic, who had enough talent, and turned it into greatness. It might confuse a lot of non-football fans to know this, but Ronaldo wasn’t even considered the most talented player of his generation in Portugal, behind one Ricardo Quaresma, but that didn’t stop him taking on the lessons of Sir Alex Ferguson and putting himself on Lionel Messi’s plinth.
Esports has the same sort of stories, for those who prefer their competition to be virtual. In CSGO, many put kennyS on the top level of AWP players, alongside a dev1ce or FalleN, and the debate over neo vs f0rest raged for years. However, while Kenny may have the talent to match even a player like s1mple, he will struggle to be as great as FalleN in CS history, despite having more natural ability, because he simply cannot motivate himself to live professionally.
Once a GOAT, but not forever
Now, in many ways a lot of this is moot when discussing Armada, a player who set more records in Smash than any other, who only loses to his elite peers, and who came back from retirement once already to win another Evo. That might not be the case forever though, as times change, as anyone who remembers when Mango was considered the greatest will tell you.
In some ways it is better to retire than publicly fade away, as some legends of CSGO are currently doing, but it leaves you open to competition, and taking that decision before you have to is a sign that the hunger is just not there anymore. For Melee, the door is now firmly open for Hungrybox to claim his spot as the best to ever do it, not just because of the results, but because he has outlasted and outfought the other contenders, Mango and Armada.
Whichever way you cut it, though, the reality is that motivation is one of, if not the most important skills you can have in elite competition. What makes s1mple great is not talent, it’s talent combined with desire to improve and win, and no great competitor can survive without that, even if they have all the talent in the world, like kennyS or shox.
Armada had more than most, reaching the pinnacle not once but twice, and he’ll always be one of the greats, but one of the glorious things about esports is the evolution, and nobody knows what we’ll have seen in another five years. Just as nobody believed a player could dethrone Mang0 before a certain Swede rocked up in the USA, it seems hard to believe now that anyone could surpass what that Swede has done since, but everything changes, and that’s something to be happy about.