VCU Smash Bros. club offers tournaments and friendly play for fans of the Nintendo fighting classic

by | Feb 8, 2016 | COMMUNITY

A distinctive sound is heard from from directly outside of the elevator; controller joysticks smacking back and forth and buttons being pressed at an illusory speed.

A distinctive sound is heard from from directly outside of the elevator; controller joysticks smacking back and forth and buttons being pressed at an illusory speed. Although seemingly intimidating, this sound creates a strange harmonic ambience. Rows of rectangular tables gridlock the room while about 30+ people in groups of four sit around vintage television sets. A sense of nostalgia begins to overwhelm attendees, until they remember that the entirety of the VCU Super Smash Bros. club (or here) is dedicated to that awesome adrenaline that players experience while playing the game.

For any RVA local who’s a closet gamer or those who have a deep, burning passion for some Super Smash Bros., you’re in luck! Every Friday from 5:30-11pm the Super Smash Bros. club meetings are held in VCU’s Harris Hall, room 2108. Anyone can show up and play, but if interested in entering a double elimination tournament, entrants must pay a small fee of $5. All fees are directed towards the tournament’s final cash prize.

Designed by Masahiro Sakurai, the Super Smash Bros. series, originally created for family and friendly fun, quickly became a global sensation while skilled gamers, such as Mew2King and Mango, began their journey to cyber fame.

Although internationally praised, what really placed the series on a pedestal of success is Super Smash Bros. Melee, the second game in the series. The faster and more skill intensive game appeals to a larger array of gamers and initiated the competitive dawn of the series.

“Sakurai designed Melee with the consideration that it be played as a casual party game, but players have discovered hidden mechanics (or bugs, for the cynical) which augment the potential speed of gameplay,” said club attendee Brendan Dresdner. “Because of the deep impact these mechanics have on the game, many players affectionately refer to Melee as ‘a beautiful accident’.”

While the Smash series grew, the objective of the game arguably changed, “Melee’s controls were, however, quite complicated and very tiring if the player really got into it in a serious way,” admits Super Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai in an interview with EDGE magazine. “This made the game less accessible for novice players and it basically ended up becoming a Smash Bros. game for hardcore fighting fans. I personally regret that, because I originally intended the Smash Bros. series to be for players who couldn’t handle such highly skilled games.”

Published by Nintendo in 2001, Super Smash Bros. Melee is the most successful game out of the 650+ gamecube games created. Although the game itself is paced slower than other Smash games, the players have more moves and each gamer’s unique playing style is shown through the player’s techniques, making the gaming experience all the more interpersonal.

Although not nearly the esport status of Call Of Duty or League Of Legends, Melee is considered “on the comeup” with viewers and tournament entrants increasing at significant levels each year (Melee’s growth rate at EVO).

The Evolution Championship series (EVO), is a double-elimination, annual international tournament series with multiple tournaments for each event, one event per year. Founded in 1996 and based in Las Vegas, Nevada, EVO entrants can earn prize money up to $20,000+ depending on the number of overall tournament entrants and their corresponding fees. Because EVO sponsors heavy caliber fighting-games, which Melee was never intended to become, no Smash game was added to the EVO lineup until 2007.

When Brawl was released, it replaced Melee on the lineup and split the Smash community, “Many hardcore Melee players quit Melee to play Brawl,” continued Dresdner. “It wasn’t until later that the Smash community came to more of a consensus about hating Brawl.”

An eventual removal of the Smash games at EVO followed the lower number of entrants and viewers for Brawl and no Smash was featured at EVO until 2013. The Melee community was able to raise around $94,000, which they directed towards a donation drive for breast cancer research, earning them a place on the EVO 2013 lineup as a reward for highest donation.

Although there are other esport related VCU clubs, the Super Smash Bros. club entirely revolves around Smash. All games are welcomed, but competitive Melee is the most popular, therefore, the most common.

“Sakurai has always been a proponent of casual gameplay,” said VCU Super Smash Bros. club attendee, and local Smash legend, Cameron Smucker aka Cyrain. “He didn’t appreciate the competitive scene developing around Melee, so the game developers intentionally designed the sequel (Super Smash Brothers Brawl) with casual play in mind. Characters were slower, movement options were much more limited, advanced technical options were all but gone, combos were shortened, killing enemies was simplified, etc. Worst of all, they added a mechanic that would make a player’s character trip and fall over in the middle of gameplay for no reason. Smash 4 has many similar problems, though they didn’t go out of their way to intentionally make the game unplayable at a competitive level this time.”

With Melee as the club’s game of choice, there is often a lack of equipment for other versions, i.e. Sm4sh, and entrants bringing their own setups is encouraged. Unlike EVO, the lack of setups at the VCU Smash Bros. club causes a disruption when attempting to end the tournament on time, especially if there are more entrants than normal.

“The only things that the small society of Super Smash Bros. Club members need are people willing to play against each other, moderators to run the weekly tournaments, and people willing to provide setups, including copies of the game, systems to play the games on, and CRT TVs to round out the set,” says club attendee Quinn Holt in a student article posted on

So RVA gamers, come out to the VCU Super Smash Bros. club on Friday evenings for a chance to show off your skills and to meet new people who share your steaming passion for one of the nerdiest hobbies of the century!

Each tournament can be streamed on Twitch here.

Becky Ingram

Becky Ingram

Becky Ingram was with RVA Mag in the Summer of 2015 and has continued writing for and ever since, mainly submitting festival coverage. She has recently relocated to Berlin, Germany where she works as a photo-journalist for a fashion photographer. She hopes that her B.S. in Economics from VCU and her international journalism experience will help her acquire a content manager position for VICE Video some day. Her interests include surf cinematography, gonzo journalism, and funky bass lines.

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