Smash community torn over ZeRo sexual misconduct claims

By Olivia Richman


Jul 4, 2020

Reading time: 8 min

The Super Smash Bros. community was shaken up by a string of sexual assault and rape allegations over the past few days. One of the accusations even led to this year’s Evo series of tournaments being canceled, a huge blow to the fighting game community at large. But one allegation has led to the Super Smash Bros. community being completely torn in half.

Former Smash Bros. pro and current streamer Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios was accused of sexual misconduct and predatory behavior, leading him to announce a self-imposed lifetime ban on all future Smash tournaments. The Smash scene immediately split in two: One side claimed that ZeRo was all but innocent because of his age and the nature of the actions. The other stated that you can be a sexual predator at any age and that it should always be taken seriously. 

On July 2, ZeRo decided to share a TwitLonger outlining his interactions with the accused people in the Smash community. This includes popular commentator D’Ron “D1” Maingrette and Smash pro Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada 

“I feel really bad in all of this because I was someone who was friends, from way back in the day, with a these people and I just feel stupid for not being able to do anything despite me knowing them from so long. I should have known, I should have seen it, I should have recognized it… that’s what I think about this morning. I think it’s important for me to make a statement because in my opinion being quiet about this is an awful thing. I’m sorry if the way I write this its strange, I’m very distressed over this,” ZeRo told his fans. 

In response, a well known artist in the community, Jisu, decided she should finally come forward with her own stories about ZeRo and how he wasn’t so innocent himself. 

“You were showing me explicit Craigslist ads of sex workers and hentai on the big screen and constantly harassing me at the Sky House when I was 15,” Jisu said. 

She also shared a story from an anonymous Twitter user named Katie. According to Jisu, Katie was only willing to come forward if Jisu told her story for her. 

Katie, who has since left the Smash community, stated in a TwitLonger that ZeRo had acted inappropriately with her when she was 14 years old and considered him to be her idol. In their Skype conversations, ZeRo allegedly called her “kitten” and “all mine.” She also stated that he had manipulated her into saying sexual things, also calling her his “secret” so she wouldn’t tell anyone about the conversations. 

“The worst offense I can remember is that you asked me to masturbate with ice and take pictures. I lied when I told you I masturbated as you asked and then I declined sending you pictures. The worst part of this is that I did not take screenshots of this particular situation since I was so embarrassed by it. You wanted to make this activity a habit, that every two weeks I would do what you say for a day,” Katie confessed. 

She stated that she didn’t share her story right away because she was embarassed and lacked evidence, she told ZeRo that all she wanted was an apology. 

Initially, ZeRo came forward with his own response, claiming he didn’t recall any of the incidents Jisu had brought up. 

Smash community responds to allegations against ZeRo

A lot of people within the Smash community immediately condemned the women who came forward against ZeRo. They argued that ZeRo was young himself, and that showing someone inappropriate content was nowher near as serious as rape and sexual assault. To some, it seemed like Jisu and Katie just wanted to “fit in” with the other fighting game community victims. 

At one point, Jisu even started receiving death threats over her statement. 

Jisu then addressed ZeRo’s letter where he claimed to have no memory of his negative interactions with her. 

“Secondly, ZeRo, you basically played dumb and said nothing. Using your girlfriend you started dating when she was 15 and you were 20 as an ‘alibi’ and holding my kindness to you over my head doesn’t excuse the abhorrent things I remember even if you conveniently ‘forgot,'” Jisu tweeted. 

Big names in the Smash community started to come to Jisu’s defense as well. This includes legendary Melee player William “Leffen” Hjelte. He said he knew both ZeRo and Jisu but did not personally know what transpired between both of them. 

“First off: Anyone who thinks Jisu’s allegations is some ‘gotcha’ thing where she is trying to get clout or use this ‘movement’ or her own purpose is completely in the wrong. A simple check on her history coming forward for these things show how wrong that is honestly. Anyone harassing her for sharing her side is dead to me,” Leffen started. 

He also stated that ZeRo and other Smash players often watched hentai and discussed their “waifus” together, something that ZeRo had claimed in his original statement he would never do. While Leffen stated that this doesn’t mean ZeRo is guilty, it definitely matched the behavior described by Jisu. 

“I do not want to ‘cancel’ ZeRo or think he deserves to be, but I do think that it’s very important to show accountability and realize how you’ve contributed to the culture that allows such awful things to happen – this is something I’ve had to face myself on too, attending hotel room parties and house parties and not making sure everyone drinking is of age for example,” Leffen said.

ZeRo releases second statement regarding sexual harassment allegations

As the Smash community continued to defend ZeRo, the former top player decided to take a break from social media. When he came back, he said he had to “come clean.” 

He first addressed Jisu’s claims once again. This time, ZeRo stated that he understands that she is hurting and offered her an apology.

“I’m sorry for being a stupid irresponsible teenager. I’m sorry for not being a good ally in the vulnerable position you were in the house. I considered you a friend, and from what it seems, I unintentionally hurt you and impacted you negatively. I just want you to know that I never intended to hurt you, and in general I always respected you and appreciated you,” ZeRo confessed. 

ZeRo then said that he hopes this gives her closure and that she can reach out to him to talk about it further if it would help her. 

“As a community leader I should know better, do better and I can understand the anger from how my original post came across. Once again, I am sorry,” ZeRo said. 

The popular streamer then addressed his relationship with Katie. He stated that he never met her in real life and neither of them sent the other sexual photographs. He also noted that he was not aware of her age during their conversations. 

ZeRo assault allegations

ZeRo sexual assault

ZeRo creepy messages

“Point blank, the last comment here, is very inappropriate and disgusting. I regret it tremendously and it just shows I have a lot to learn and strive to be better. It’s shameful and gross. I’m sorry,” ZeRo said of the messages he sent when he was 19-years-old. 

ZeRo stated that he “feels terrible” and has a “tremendous level of regret” for his actions. While he claimed to have no “ulterior motives or terrible intentions” with Katie, he said she didn’t deserve the way he was speaking to her. He apologized to her multiple times in his final statement on the matter. 

In his most recent statement, ZeRo also decided to share more personal information about his life and why he is so “robotic” and “unable to understand social cues.” While he claimed he was not asking for sympathy, he expressed a desire to be transparent about why he is who he is, a “flawed person.” 

“Moving forward I want to take this time to self reflect and improve myself as a person. I always wanted to inspire people, and be a beacon of reason. I failed, and I’ve made terrible mistakes that I deeply regret. I want to learn to be a better person one day. I’m so sorry to everyone involved. […] I feel I’m going to break. I don’t know where to go from here,” he said. 

Some in the Smash community came forward to support him, while others admitted they were ashamed to have looked up to him all these years. Jisu also responded to his admissions. 

“To anyone who thinks just because someone confessed that it’s over…it’s not over until you tell the entire story and show just how exactly things went down. Thank you to everyone who believed in me, in Katie, and everyone who’s spoken up. It’s not over yet…I’ll update soon,” Jisu said.