No Johns?

By Kevin “PPMD” Nanney of Evil Geniuses

You can’t be introduced to the Smash community and not hear “no johns”. It’s easily one of the catchiest phrases the community has, so much so that Reggie Fils-Aime of Nintendo of America used it when he appeared on the preview for SSBM finals at EVO 2014! The phrase is incredibly popular, but I have heard complaints of the phrase over time from various players of all skill levels. Today, I’ll look into what are the upsides and downsides of the phrase are.

Easily the worst part of “no johns” is that it does not allow people to consider their mistakes or reasons for losing fully. If someone is explaining why they lost, their explanation cannot hope to be finished being heard even online before the listener(s) throws out “no johns.” Sometimes this can be helpful when the excuses disrespect the opponent, but sometimes the person is answering a question about why they lost or is trying to explain what happens. Many circumstances lead up to a given match result, so it is okay to add facts about food or sleep or even temperature to an explanation of why a result ended up as it did. If tone and intent are disregarded and “no johns” is thrown out every time someone is explaining their losses, then they are discouraged from really getting to explain what happened to them and building on that knowledge. Instead, people are highly discouraged from talking about losses at all and this can lead to a loop in which people make the same mistakes over and over and become severely frustrated. Since they cannot communicate that frustration until it becomes a dislike of the game as that is what is associated with this poor experience now, it is my belief that “no johns” should be loosened to allow for respectful explanations of losses instead of thrown out at any explanation.

The upside to using the phrase so much is that instead of having to worry about what is disrespectful or what is not, “no johns” will catch every disrespectful explanation of a loss there is. Since I’ve come to see a lot of these types of explanations even with “no johns” being highly prevalent, I cannot be surprised that the widespread use is doing lots of good as well. In addition to discouraging talking about losses in an unhelpful manner, it redirects many to instead try to get better and fix those mistakes instead. Of course this is more of an add-on to “no johns” but it is part of the fighting game trash talk mentality “no johns” is based off of. Success and improvement are more meant to be defined through work and achievement and then bragging rights under this style of thought. While it certainly has its cons, the pros are that improvement must be focused upon and disrespecting opponents should typically be discouraged.

Based in a traditional fighting game mentality, “no johns” has very powerful upsides and downsides in its applications today. Used so widely, it trades the ability to communicate well for the idea that focusing on getting better and correcting mistakes is a better use of one’s time than complaining. If I could make my improvements more obvious, I would say I like the phrase but wish it would not apply at the time to respectful loss explanations. It feels like the pressure of “johnning” is always on smashers whenever sets are brought up at all. As the community continues to change, ideally our phrases will continue to evolve as well.

Follow Kevin on twitter at @EG_PPMD