interview

19 Questions For 2015 Nintendo World Championship Winner John Numbers

by Kyle Hilliard on Jul 19, 2015 at 02:04 PM

Last month during E3, Nintendo held its first World Championship in more than a decade. We got a chance to speak with its winner, John Goldberg A.K.A. John Numbers about the event. John is familiar with the competitive video games scene as a competitive Smash Bros. player, but flying to Los Angeles to play modern and classic Nintendo games on stage was a whole different experience.

Where did the name John Numbers come from?

Before I got into the Smash community, I basically used John followed by a few numbers for Internet aliases. I did the same thing when I first got into the Brawl competitive community one year after its released. A few years in people were just like, “Hey John. John 12346 sounds stupid. How about John Numbers.” And eventually it just stuck.

Where was your head during Metroid Prime: Federation Force’s Blast Ball  mode?

Blast ball I was very nervous about. We got to practice backstage and I actually lost both of the practice times I played. I was like, “Oh no, I’m going to get sent to the losers.” But it turned out I went commando when we played for real. I ended up getting two out of the three goals that we needed to win.

Where was your head during Mario Kart 8?

There was nothing amazing about Mario Kart 8. I used villager and the crowd seemed to like that. I used my normal load out – Villager, Blue Falcon, Slick, and Flower Glider. That’s a three acceleration, 4.5 speed build, and I did pretty well.

Where was your head during Balloon Fight?

Cosmo ended up winning that. At that point I was really upset because Egoraptor? We weren’t expecting him to get as far as he did. He himself said he didn’t even expect to get that far. He was just there to have a good time. And he actually got a really high score in balloon fight. Cosmo beat it by only a few thousand points.

Where was your head during Super Smash Bros.?

The four remaining players played Smash Bros., and you can imagine how happy I was when that came up. The only games we knew about going in were Splatoon and Zelda. I was like “Oh my god,” I was laughing when it came up. My plus one was shouting at me from the audience because he’s also a competitive Smash player. I was very relieved. In the end I dominated it.

Where was your head during Mario Maker?

The retro games we had no way of knowing what would show up, so with Super Metroid and Balloon fight we thought, “Okay, that’s what they are.” But on the modern side, we basically knew Mario Kart would come up. We knew Smash would come up, especially since the DLC just dropped. For the final game, I actually didn’t think it would be Mario Maker. But when I saw the three retro games were deliberately trying not to be Mario, I was like, “Okay, it’s going to be Mario Maker.” It was so fun. The funnest nonsense going into that.

Did Nintendo offer any coaching or ask you not to use profanity?

It didn’t matter. We didn’t get talk the whole time, but they didn’t tell us anything like that. I swore a few times during the event.

Game Informer: Yeah, we saw.

Oh, you saw me during Mario Maker mouth, “I f***ed up”? But, no they just told us where to walk during the event.  And they put us back stage so we could practice Blast Ball.

Was it uncomfortable to be blindfolded on stage in front of an audience?

Actually no, because they were pumping in smooth jazz into the headphones, and that incidentally is my favorite genre second to video game music, so I was just sitting there tapping my hands on my lap like an idiot. I was listening for audience reaction so that’s all I could hear with the headphones on, but I couldn’t get anything meaningful out of it.

Did you go back and watch Cosmo’s performance during Mario Maker?

I’m actually a very big 2D Mario buff. I have a lot of experience with pretty much every 2D Mario game. I was going in pretty hard on that. I said, “What happened Cosmo? You were doing so well on the first and third levels?” To see him just perform like that? It was a letdown honestly. I was hoping it would be a good match, but he only got into the pipe as I killed Bowser. I got a chance to talk to him and he didn’t choke or anything. He just wasn’t familiar with the mechanics, that’s all.

What was going through your head when you won?

At the end of the final level when I killed Bowser, I actually didn’t expect that to be the end of the level. I thought they were going to throw some bait and switch at me and make me do more levels, especially considering how many tricks there were in the first three levels.

When I won, I was really excited. I’m a little introverted, so I don’t do a very good job of physically showing my emotions very well, but I was extremely excited, don’t worry about that. It just didn’t look like I was.

For more from John on meeting Miyamoto and whether or not he has seen The Wizard, head to page two.

What was it like meeting Shigeru Miyamoto?

When I won, I was like “Oh boy a trophy,” and I was being snarky because I knew I was getting a trophy – they said so on twitter. But it wouldn’t be any fun without some surprises, so here’s a guest: Miyamoto. And oh my gosh, I was star struck when that happened. I was floating there and I shook his hand. I was overjoyed to meet the man. I shook his hand and basically said thank you for all of the games and experience you’ve provided for us over the years. I’ve had a good time gaming with Nintendo. And he said thank you. He more or less understood what I said.

What are you doing with your 3DS and your trophy?

I was a little annoyed Cosmo got a 3DS, too. My prize was a 3DS and trophy, but he got a 3DS, too. The 3DS I’m going to keep for a very long time, at least for sentimental purposes. I might sell it one day, I probably won’t, but you never know. It might be worth a lot in the future. I’m more likely to sell the trophy because that thing doesn’t even have my name on it (laughs). It’s just a really heavy, 25 lb trophy. I think it’s made of lead.

What kind of preparation did you do leading up to the tournament?

I didn’t do anything special to prepare, honestly Except for when they mentioned Zelda would be a game, then obviously I started practicing Zelda because I have no experience with Zelda games. We didn’t know what the challenge would be so I found an any percent run guide with the fastest route possible without the screen scrolling trick and I practiced it a little bit. I had beat it once or twice and then they said, “You just have to beat the first boss.” I was so mad when that happened.

I played Splatoon, too, but I didn’t do that because I was practicing. I did that because I enjoy playing Splatoon. I love that game.

What did you think of Reggie Fils-Aime’s Smash Bros. performance?

I don’t want to say anything too damaging here. It seems like Reggie was deliberately playing badly, but I don’t know – I don’t think it’s possible to play that badly on purpose. I don’t have any comments on it. He spends 16 hours a day managing a company.

What is the hardest specific section from any Mario game?

That stupid part in… I think it’s world C of Super Mario Bros. 2 from Japan, Lost Levels in America. That stupid part where you have to get through a fire bar and there are two edgy blocks that don’t let you do it easily.

There aren’t that many hard moments in Mario, honestly. The hardest I would say is finding star coins in Super Luigi U is really difficult.

Do you play non-Nintendo games?

As far as that, I don’t really play that many. I play 2D fighters on Xbox 360. I play Ultra Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and I play Skullgirls. At one point or another I would actually enter tournaments for all three, and I did pretty well. I beat basically everyone who was not a known name, but eventually I got beaten by people who knew what they are doing. But the fact that I am better than the randoms is pretty nice. I also have Sonic ’06 and Generations and that’s my whole 360 library.

Did you go to E3?

No. They said they would give us a free ticket, but the plane ride back and hotel would be on us to stay a few extra days. That was the only disappointment of this event – that I didn’t get to hang around for E3. It’s not a big deal, though.

Is Yoshi’s Island for the SNES a Mario game?

I consider it a Mario game. I understand Yoshi has made his own niche for himself at this point, but that it still a Mario game. I’m not sure about Yoshi ‘s Island DS, or Yoshi’s New Island, but the one on SNES is definitely a Mario game.

Have you seen The Wizard?

No, actually. I’m going to watch it. I saw the Super Mario Bros. movie. I like that move. It’s a bad Maro movie, but it’s a really good movie, in my opinion. It was hilarious, honestly. It’s like how Paper Mario Sticker Star is a really bad Paper Mario game, but it’s still a really good game.

For more from John Numbers, check out our interview with him in the upcoming issue of the magazine.