Inside Williams 309 and 310, at this month’s Ithaca College Smash Club tournament on Oct. 8, two players sat in front of a screen. In spite of the shouted advice and crunching of chips from the crowd gathered behind them, the players focused intently on the miniature Princess Peach and Mario bouncing around on-screen. As Mario shot a fireball at Princess Peach, knocking her offscreen, the crowd emitted a loud combination of cheers, groans and laughter.
“Smash Club is a club for casual and competitive players,” Nigel Nelson, the club’s president, said. “We gather together and just try to have some fun playing Smash Bros. together.”
“Super Smash Bros.” is a series of multi-player fighting games released by Nintendo. Players can battle as characters from other Nintendo franchises, such as “Mario” and “Donkey Kong.” The goal is to knock out opponents by launching them off of the game’s stage.
Smash Club used to be known as Ithaca College Gamers, a club founded in 2009 dedicated to board games, card games and video games. Last semester there was a drop in attendance from over 20 attendees to five or six core members. They collectively decided to dissolve the old gamers club, and founded a new club that focuses specifically on Super Smash Bros.
“It wasn’t as much of a sewn-together group that it used to be,” Smash Club co-founder Lucas Nicholas said. “A lot of people had the idea of, ‘Oh, we’ll just make an RPG club and some people can just make a Smash club,’ or whatever they’re interested in. That way, it’s just easier to make clubs that are based on specific interests.”
The club is recognized by the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs and received 132 signups at the student organizations fair. Its Facebook page currently has 111 members from the college, Cornell University and Syracuse University.
“We’ve seen a lot of new people … show up,” Morrison said. “It’s always a great time because you never face the same person or same set of people, so you always get to see new faces.”
The Oct. 8 tournament was attended by over 30 players. Weekly meetings, held on Saturdays in Williams 309, draw a crowd of around 20 players.
During last year’s meetings, members consistently played Super Smash Bros. over any other game. They hoped to reach more people that were dedicated to the game and specify what meetings would include by advertising around campus with informational posters about tournaments.
Junior Evan Morrison was a member of the old gamers club and watched the transition occur.
“I think it was fairly easy because, at that point, gamers club had become basically Smash Club,” he said. “It was more of a rebranding into something that we collectively could unify what it was.”
Smash Club was, in part, inspired by Cornell’s Super Smash Brothers Club, which also hosts tournaments.
“We just thought if people in Cornell like it, people in Ithaca will like it,” Nelson said. “We knew we weren’t the only six, so we tried it.”
Super Smash Bros. is also increasing in popularity in the eSports world internationally. Online forums discuss the quality of “Smash scenes” in cities or on college campuses, sharing how many opportunities there are for amateur Smash players to play as a group. The Major League Gaming (MLG) World Finals 2015 featured two versions of Super Smash Bros. games. Annual tournaments like Apex and the Evolution Championship Series, also featuring Super Smash Bros., involve competitors from around the world. During these tournaments, fans gather in large arenas to watch teams and individuals compete in a variety of fighting games, with gameplay broadcasted on large screens.
Smash Club plans to host both free tournaments and tournaments with $2 entry fees, the winner taking the pot.
“After registration concludes, we make a whole bracket and everybody gets to play each other,” Nelson said. “It’s not just two goes and you’re out. We’re going to have everybody play each other … to make it more friendly for everyone.”
Snacks are provided, and players can watch others compete as well as learning new skills from other members.
Monthly game nights will also be held to include a variety of games on Xbox, PS4 and other consoles. Through tournaments and general game nights, Smash Club aims to appeal to all levels of players and competitiveness.
“Smash has a fun element to it because it’s a lot of people’s childhoods that are in the game, like Mario and Yoshi and everybody,” Nicholas said. “It’s more fun because it’s a little less competitive than a lot of fighting games. It really draws both more casual players and more competitive players.”