Beyond their shared interest in Nintendo characters like Mario, Donkey Kong and Pikachu, gamers in the Smash Club of Cal State Fullerton have another reason to gather around GameCubes and tube-screened televisions to engage in battle every week — community.
These devout players come together at the Titan Student Union Underground, not to see who can be the best, but to bond through virtual combat.
“It’s kind of cool that we all have this one hobby. So, I guess that’s what made me passionate about wanting to get more involved into the game,” said Joseph Badal, Smash Club event coordinator.
Packed with over 20 gamers waiting for a chance to play, Smash Club (a club based around the fighting video game, “Super Smash Bros.”) kicked off its weekly tournaments on Tuesday night.
The double-elimination tournament will continue every Tuesday of the semester from 5 to 10 p.m. It provides club members and students another opportunity and place to play outside of Wednesday meetings, which not everybody can always attend.
“People have fluctuating schedules, they have work, they’ve got classes,” said Adrian Nieto, president of the Smash Club. “It’s been working out for the people that can’t make it to one but are able to make it to the other.”
The tournament featured two brackets: one for “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U,” followed by another for the classic “Super Smash Bros. Melee.”
After five hours of up-and-down smash attacking, club members Austin Killough and Paul Lee came out victorious in “Smash for Wii U” and “Melee” respectively, winning prizes provided by the TSU which included a hat, lanyards, pens and notebooks.
Despite its intense, competitive start in spring 2017, the tournament has become a place for students to refine their craft rather than beat their fellow competitors.
Killough went undefeated in the 24-player bracket.
For him, the tournament is a place to enjoy the game in a more casual setting because he often attends larger-scale tournaments at venues like the Esports Arena in Santa Ana, where some of the top players in the world compete.
Nieto also considers the weekly free-for-all as a place for gamers of all skill levels.
“It’s friendly competition. It’s not too serious. This is kind of good training ground, I’d say, for people who want to get started,” Nieto said.
Badal found his passion for the series because it brings people together. He’s made some unexpected relationships with total strangers.
“I just love going out and seeing how myself and all these other people, people I’ve never met, that we all have an interest and it’s this,” Badal said.
Where games like “Overwatch” and “League of Legends” have players sit in front of a computer screen and talk to each other through headsets, “Smash” requires players to sit right next to each other and talk in real life.
“It is very intimate. That experience isn’t something that we have a lot nowadays,” Nieto said.
The Tuesday tournament still ignited the intensity and the natural competitive nature was very much present.
But these tournaments are more than just playing a video game. It’s a community-driven series, one that is a staple in many of the club members’ lives.
“It’s kind of like this weird part of my life now, but it’s awesome, I definitely enjoy it,” Nieto said.