Reaction time matters quite a bit in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Players such as Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett and Justin “Plup” McGrath have brought reaction tech chasing to the forefront of the modern metagame, achieving devastating punishes based on a split-second decision-making process honed through hours of dedicated practice. So it’s not surprising to hear Smash fans talk about the ways that players use reactions in their game. But “reactionary,” the word that many people use to describe this style, has a very specific meaning—one that has nothing to do with competitive gaming.
The Twitch clip above shows a recent example of this error: Commentator Julian “Zhu” Zhu used the word “reactionary” to describe James “Swedish Delight” Liu’s play at Don’t Park On The Grass 2018.
“I think he’s the one who really, really perfected the reaction chaingrab, or reaction tech chase—and just reactionary play in general, his play is so simple,” said Zhu.
This is not the first time I’ve seen or heard people describe reaction-based play as “reactionary.” I’ve heard it in commentary, in articles, in top player tweets, and in conversations with other players at local events. But let’s be absolutely clear: the word does not describe a style of Melee play. It refers to a relatively extreme political view—a desire to return to a previous stage of society. This philosophy, often considered a conservative one in the context of American politics, describes modern political figures such as Donald Trump or French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.
So to describe Swedish Delight as reactionary is to claim that he is an advocate of far-right politics, not a Sheik player whose style is based on reacting to the opponents’ decisions and movement. Since I think it’s important for commentators to be able to easily describe this kind of style, I’d like to propose an alternative: “reactive.” According to Merriam-Webster, this word is an adjective defined as “of, relating to, or marked by reaction or reactance.” This seems like the perfect word for Swedish’s playstyle, and it carries no political connotations.
Take note, Swedish Delight fans—the next time the New Jersey native gets a grab on a space animal or Captain Falcon, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy his finely tuned reactive play.