Smash Ultimate vagabond, Sean, succeeds at tournaments throughout the U.S.
Sean competes in Smash Ultimate Singles at Pound 2022.
Provided by @RellFGC

Smash Ultimate vagabond, Sean, succeeds at tournaments throughout the U.S.

He seeks to make the world better by doing something ‘meaningful’ and ‘weird’

Sean “Sean” Bergeron could tell he was in Isaiah “BacoN” Core’s head during game four of their Super Smash Bros. Ultimate set at Pound 2022. His Captain Falcon still had three stocks remaining while BacoN’s Dr. Mario was down to his final stock.

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“I think it’s no secret that Falcon is an explosive character and, by that nature, it also makes him a character that can benefit off momentum a lot,” Sean said. “That means Falcon players are generally pretty good at feeling out other player’s feelings. Are they scared? Are they confident? What are they looking for?”

After nearly breaking BacoN’s shield with an up smash into up-air, then stringing together four aerials in a row shortly afterward, Sean sensed that BacoN was anxious to escape his clutches. So, Sean read BacoN’s defensive option, a neutral air dodge, and punished it with a Falcon Punch to take his stock at a mere 59%.

While the commentators and the crowd erupted into screams, Sean casually fist bumped his opponent; he had landed that same air dodge read “dozens of times” on Elite Smash in the past.

More than 10 hours after round one pools started, Sean had secured a spot in top 16 for the next day. Later, he walked just outside the venue to the parking lot of Xanadu Games at the Laurel Park racetrack in Maryland, where he spent the night in his black 2009 Hyundai Accent.

Throughout this year, Sean has been living in his car as he has traveled to local tournaments across the United States. The Tampa, Florida, native plans to visit every major Smash region in the country by the end of 2022. Since his journey began, Sean has accrued increasingly better results, culminating with his first top eight finish at a Smash Ultimate major at Pound.

Cashmere no more

Sean had been a high-level Captain Falcon main in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. He performed well at multiple majors — primarily in Florida and other Southeastern states — under the tag “Cashmere.” However, he ditched his former tag after he got a job at a Publix supermarket and got used to people calling him by his first name.

“I [felt] this dissonance between Smash and my real world identities,” Sean said. “I guess I wanted to consolidate my identity into one person. Obviously, a lot of people like my old tag compared to just Sean. Even my dad was like, ‘Why’d you change your name to Sean?’ I’m like, ‘Hey, you should’ve named me something cooler. You had the opportunity.’”

Even before embarking on his tour of U.S. Smash Ultimate locals, Sean had been willingly living in his car for about six months. In a TwitLonger in January, he revealed that he had turned down multiple people who offered him housing, for reasons that he struggled to enunciate.

“I didn’t really understand it myself, which is partly why it was so frustrating to communicate to other people why I was doing this,” Sean said. “All I knew was that I was very interested in doing this and I wanted to give some credit to my unconscious desires and explore this motivation to do something weird.”

Sean ultimately narrowed down two philosophical considerations that motivated him. First, the “survivalist” consideration: By putting himself in a difficult situation, he could force himself to grow into a man. Second, the “futurist” consideration: He’s interested in technology and believes emerging inventions could make the “car life” more commonplace.

Sean took seven classes during his final semester at the University of Central Florida. On a typical day, he would get free food from the Knights Pantry in the Student Union, go to the gym to shower, spend hours studying and occasionally go to a Smash tournament before returning to a parking garage on campus to go to sleep.

“It was just nonstop work pretty much,” Sean said.

He graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology in December of 2021. With his rigorous education behind him, Sean set out to make a name for himself in Ultimate just as he had for Cashmere in Smash 4.

Smash Ultimate U.S. Tour for Sean

Sean got into competitive Smash after watching “The Smash Brothers” documentary and learning about Joel “Isai” Alvarado. While many players claimed Isai had the potential to be the best in the world during Melee’s early years, they also said he rarely tried to win.

Sean said he related to Isai, who also inspired him to play Captain Falcon in the first place. Like Isai, Sean said he had a tendency to sandbag, or intentionally underperform, at tournaments.

“Even other people were like, ‘We always thought you were really good, but we always felt like you were just trying to go for the sick, flashy stuff and not really trying to be the best,’” Sean said.

So, Sean embarked on his journey across the United States with the mission of making himself a more serious competitor. In addition, he considered the broader benefits that could come from simply experiencing new things.

“I wanted to go on an adventure because in the unknown lies things that I don’t know that I could know,” Sean said. “This is a pathway to make the world a better place by doing something that’s meaningful to me, in a very abstract way.”

The journey began with a week-long trip around Florida. Afterward, Sean decided he would spend a month in every major region in the United States — although he said he could see himself staying in many regions for longer stretches of time were it not for his desire to keep moving.

He stayed in Georgia for his first month out of state, during which he also attended a couple of tournaments in North Carolina. From there, he visited Maryland/Virginia and the Tristate region, and recently finished his tenure in the Midwest. Going forward, Sean plans to attend locals in Texas, California and the Pacific Northwest before his journey ends around August.

Even as he has had the chance to visit landmarks in the areas he’s visited, Sean has found greater pleasure in experiencing the culture of each region through its people and seeing how different Smash scenes compare to each other.

“I’m from [Central Florida], and CFL is notorious for being very rowdy,” Sean said. “When I visited Georgia, they made CFL look like Weenie Hut Jr’s from ‘SpongeBob.’ I wouldn’t be able to repeat some of the things they said, but let’s just say they’re very rowdy and I liked it.”

A day in the car life

Most nights, Sean sleeps somewhere with a 24-hour parking lot like Planet Fitness or Walmart; the former of which is preferable, since that’s also where he showers. When he isn’t practicing or attending tournaments, he likes to spend time studying at local libraries.

Sean turned his car into a “stealthy setup” by making silver window covers that could block out sunlight. The outside of the covers is made of a black material that gives his windows the appearance of being tinted, which makes his car appear uninhabited at night.

Greg Lancette, who owns the 4o4 Esports Arcade in Atlanta, is primarily a Tekken player and knows little about the Smash scene outside of Georgia. As a result, he had never heard of Sean before he showed up to 4o4 Smash Ultimate tournaments in February. By the end of the month, Sean had won 4o4 events over players like Steven “Anathema” Acosta, Michael “Teaser” Rice and Brian “omega” Campbell.

“To come into the Georgia scene and win any tournament is a pretty big deal,” Lancette said. “He’s got to be a beast, man.”

Despite Sean’s reserved demeanor, Lancette managed to bond with him by playing Tekken with him after tournaments. He said he became impressed with Sean’s drive as he learned about Sean’s journey around the United States.

“He’s got to be very competitive to just start backpacking throughout the country and testing himself,” Lancette said. “I respect that kind of resolve and ambition.”

However, Sean doesn’t make the best first impressions, according to Tyler “DEUS” Amos, a Virginia native ranked No. 5 in MD/VA and formerly ranked No. 1 in North Carolina. DEUS said Sean was more than 10 minutes late for their losers top eight set at The Peabnut Formal in Raleigh, North Carolina, in February.

In addition, Sean can be almost standoffish in his tendency to keep to himself at tournaments. Nevertheless, when DEUS decided to approach Sean first, he found Sean was eager to sit down with him and give tips on how he could improve.

“He’s definitely a very knowledgeable player, definitely very willing to help out,” DEUS said. “But, at the same time, he doesn’t go out of his way to talk to people from what I’ve seen.”

Sean has a Smash Ultimate breakout at Pound 2022

Sean didn’t plan on attending many Smash Ultimate majors during his trip since it’s easier to make money by winning a local than making top eight at a major. Although he had saved enough money before his trip that he didn’t need an income, he had still been profiting off of locals.

Nevertheless, he decided to make the drive from Tristate back to Maryland in April so he could attend Pound 2022.

“I was going into [Pound] thinking, ‘I don’t care what I place unless it’s top eight,’” Sean said.

Despite being the 48th seed, Sean managed to upset Michael “Tilde” Tedesco, Jon “Suarez” Suarez and Takeyoshi “takera” Okamoto en route to top 16, while dropping a set to Towa “Atelier” Kuriyama. Yet, he went into the third day of competition with low expectations.

To make top eight, he would have to upset Dylan “ApolloKage” J. and Brian “Cosmos” Kalu. Both of them had won their most recent sets against Griffin “Fatality” Miller, the best Captain Falcon player in the world.

“I was like, ‘I’m just going to try to get this out of the way as soon as possible [and] not make it look embarrassing for me,’” Sean said.

Nevertheless, Sean studied Fatality’s losses in order to figure out different approaches he could take in the respective match-ups. As a result, he eliminated both ApolloKage and Cosmos before ultimately losing to Salvatore “Zomba” DeSena for seventh place.

While Sean didn’t expect to perform so well at Pound, others who had encountered him on his journey were already anticipating such a breakout run.

“When he got to top eight, it didn’t surprise me in the slightest,” DEUS said. “If you’re on the grind, you’re going to improve, and he honestly has a better mentality for improving than most people.”

On the road again

In hindsight, Sean said he wishes he had been eliminated before top 16 at Pound. He said he thinks he could have made more cash by money matching other players than he did by reaching top eight. In addition, he garnered far more attention for his run at Pound than he had for any of his local performances.

“There’s less responsibility with less clout,” Sean said. “Now, I feel like I have more expectations put on me. In some way, I was kind of depressed after winning, which is kind of ironic.”

Sean also received two separate sponsorship offers after Pound. One organization offered to pay for his flights, hotels and tournament fees so he could attend majors throughout the country, while another offered to pay him to compete under their banner. While it would be a dream come true for many Smashers, accepting one of these offers could conflict with Sean’s ongoing mission.

“What some people don’t understand is that, even if I had a million dollars, I’d still be doing what I’d be doing,” Sean said. “What I’m doing on this journey has a very personal meaning to me and no amount of money, I don’t think, would get in the way of that.”

The crowd cheers during Championship Sunday at Pound 2022.
The crowd cheers during championship sunday at Pound 2022. | Provided by @RellFGC

Over the past few years, Sean has grown accustomed to refusing the offers he can’t refuse. DEUS had offered to house Sean while he was in MD/VA, which Sean politely declined. Even so, Sean said he is seriously considering the sponsorship offers and wants to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

Going forward, it’s hard to imagine Sean’s results doing anything but improving as he continues to compete against many of the best players in the United States.

“I think he’s going to keep getting better and better because he seems like he’s got his heart and his mind set on really focusing on getting better at Smash,” Lancette said. “He’s there now, but he’s on his way to being in that elite tier of Smash players.”

However, Sean’s lifestyle has raised concerns from others who have met him.

“Sometimes I worry about him,” DEUS said. “I want him to be okay. He said his car was modified so that he can be comfortable, but I also wonder to what extent you can do that and I wonder if that’ll pose health issues. I’m just curious to see when the burnout is going to hit, honestly. So far, there’s been no sign of it and I wonder if that’ll happen before he completes his trip.”

It’s unclear what comes next for Sean after his Smash Ultimate tour. He could only say there are “many different paths” he could see himself going down when his journey comes to an end this fall. Even so, Sean has let spontaneous, creative impulses drive his unique lifestyle for nearly a year now and he shows no signs of changing that.

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Dylan Tate
Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.