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Dressed in suits and ties, dapper sweater vests, and evening gowns, 104 gamers came to Carnegie Mellon University on Saturday Nov. 17 to compete in the Pitt Smash Bros. Club regional tournament. The event, titled “An Exercise in Formality,” required formal wear for all players, who battled each other in brackets for the games Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros 4.

“There was a formal event two years ago,” said tournament organizer Shay DeSabato, known to the other players by his gamer tag “Shady.” “It was one of my first events ever, and it was just really well-received.” 

Shay DeSabato, tag name “Shady,” one of the tournament organizers. Illustration by R. Scassellati.

Because of the past event’s success, the tournament organizers decided to bring the formal event back, with positive turnout.

“It makes it feel really professional, which is what I always liked about Smash becoming competitive,” said player Tim Legenzoff, a senior at University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. “It used to be just a party game, and now we all take it more seriously.”

Legenzoff, who goes by the tag “Seraph,” was among the 44 competitors who played SSB4 in the Wii U singles tournament. A total of 61 players competed in the Melee singles, with DeSabato among the few competing in both. Doubles were held for both games earlier that day. In every game in the SSB franchise, players choose from a selection of Nintendo and third-party characters, including Mario, Link, Kirby and Pokémon, to battle each other with the goal of knocking their opponent’s character off the game stage.

The Pitt Smash Bros. Club hosts small tournaments weekly and regional tournaments like this one roughly every two months. These much bigger events are “where the really good players come,” according to DeSabato. “At this event, there’s people from Delaware, Columbus, northeastern Ohio,” he said. “Regionals are like a big deal.”

Tournament organizers monitering scores and brackets on their computers. Illustration by R. Scassellati.

The challenges for each game differ, according to Legenzoff, who has been playing since 2010. “For something like Melee, it’s the tech ceiling, so learning all the physical skills that your hands have to do and being consistent takes a lot of practice,” he said. “With a game like Smash 4, it’s all mental…It’s more about who’s playing more consistent that day, or who’s getting in whose head.” 

Competetors of the Melee tournament, sitting on the desks of the lecture hall. Illustration by R. Scassellati.

Anuj Vij, known by his tag “star97,” had been playing SSB games for fun since he was four or five years old before he entered the competitive scene. “When I’m in that competitive mindset, it’s like, ‘I’m trying to destroy you right now, even though you’re my friend,’” the Seton Hill University senior said. “Why not be competitive in the game I like to play the most?”

Neither Vij nor Legenzoff were among the top standings, but that did not stop them from enjoying the event. “Overall, the format’s really nice and the venue’s pretty cool,” Vij said.

Competitor Holden Sheeks, alias “WinterShorts,” was ranked fourth in the Wii U singles tournament. He praised DeSabato’s organization and leadership, along with the spirited environment. “Whenever I invest in a hobby, I try to do it as competitively as possible, because it just gets more bang out of my time,” he said. “Never really understood casual playing, to be honest.” 

Though Vij also described himself as competitive, he also mentioned the importance of playing for fun. “It’s cliché to say, but I just started playing Captain Falcon because he was really fun…I still have as much fun playing him now as I did so many years ago,” Vij said. Captain Falcon is a character from the F-Zero racing game series, known for his “Falcon Punch” attack in SSB. 

In the lobby between the tournament rooms, former player Anna Zotta set up artwork, keychains and other merchandise for competitors to purchase between games. Once the games ended, tournament organizers who befriended her during her gaming days urged the players buy something from Zotta before they left, affectionately referring to her by her tag “Housewife.” 

“I make a lot of work of the characters from the game,” said Zotta, a graduate from northeastern Ohio. “Hopefully, I can appeal to a lot of the people who play the game.” Not one to be left out from the festivities, Zotta came wearing a black strapless gown and a shimmering necklace. “I really just wanted to dress up,” she said.

Anna Zotta, a former player, selling her artwork in the lounge area between the Melee and Wii U tournament rooms. Illustration by R. Scassellati.

For any new players considering entering the competitive scene, the players at Pitt Smash’s formal had plenty of advice.

“I actually started running a tournament at Pitt Greensburg recently, and so we’ve been trying to reach specifically new people,” said Legenzoff. “I think the best way to get into it is to do a little bit of searching online and find out where the nearest scene is. For here, it used to be Pittsburgh, and now we’re trying to start a scene for newcomers and veterans alike out in Westmoreland County.”

Vij offered advice on choosing a main, a major decision in the world of Smash. “Just play who you have fun with, and from there you can just figure things out,” he said. “Play a bunch of characters. Whoever is the most fun, just stick with them.”

As for Sheeks, he had one piece of cheeky advice for tournament newcomers. “Don’t play Jigglypuff,” he said, earning laughs from the competitors around him.

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