Even if you’ve never held a joystick you’re probably are familiar with Super Mario. The red cap wearing plumber in blue overalls has been at the heart, orbiting the center of video games for decades. Super Smash Bros., a crossover fighting video game, has had numerous iterations since its initial drop on Nintendo 64 back in 1999. The game pits characters from all over the Nintendo world against one another: Pikachu against Yoshi, Donkey Kong versus Link from The Legend of Zelda. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was released for the Nintendo Switch in 2018 and professional gaming saw a whole new arena.
Eric Lund, who is 16 and lives in Woodinville, has been gaming before he could read. He first played Super Smash Bros. when he was five and now, just over a decade later, he’s one of the best players in the entire country. Lund, who plays under the name Pandarian, won the regional championship Gameworks contest in Seattle which got him a paid trip to Las Vegas to compete in the Showdown at the end of June. Unfortunately, Lund didn’t do as well as he wanted to but that’s not letting this young professional gamer stop progressing and doing what he loves. He said, “it was a really fun time and all the accommodations made me insanely happy, they treated me like royalty. I had a phenomenal time at GameWorks Showdown.”
Lund describes himself as someone who can’t sit idle. TV and other pastimes weren’t very fun for him but once he picked up a gaming controller, he discovered the consistent interactive experience he craved.
Lund says that he continues to be a “student of the game” and learns as much as he can by practicing which has essentially been his strategy from the beginning. While his gaming aspirations are at the forefront of his future, he knows that a traditional education is extremely valuable. He gives sound advice to young people that have aspirations to give professional eSports a swing. “… the most important thing is that you find a balance between school and gaming if you really do plan to take gaming seriously,” he said. Lund continued, “I know far too many people that pushed school aside and then once their time in the spotlight ended, or their passion died out, they were in a terrible spot. It is doable to be a successful student and professional player; it just takes a lot of time and dedication.”
Lund followed this up by saying that players and students both needed to be able to accept failure. “You will be low-level and essentially a small fish in the vast ocean of eSports…you just need to practice, practice, practice to work your way up to the top, and it will not be easy at all.”
Outside of professionally playing Smash, Lund focuses on school, exercises, and plays a few other games at a more casual pace. He plans on graduating high school and then going straight to college and completing quickly so he can pursue a gaming career.
His gaming career has already garnered mass amounts of success. Now the number 1 ranked player in the Washington Smash 4 Power Rankings, he continues to compete all over the globe, frequently jetting off to another city each weekend. “The best thing about traveling in general is definitely the social aspect. I see so many people at all these events I go to and because of it I have hundreds and hundreds of people I’d personally consider a friend. Seeing the cities and competing against new people is always nice too,” said Lund.
Lund is grateful to the Woodinville and greater Seattle Smash scene because it’s so welcoming. He says the competition is good and both the contests and events typically have huge turnouts sometimes reaching 160 people which is “pretty bustling for any local Smash scene.” He says that as a student, he’s had the opportunity to go to school in several different states before moving to Washington five years ago but the education system in Woodinville is the best. “As an individual, the most development I’ve got as a person in my life has been from the Smash scene here in Washington, it made me (a formerly shy kid) into a social butterfly, and that all helped me improve as a person greatly.”