E-Sports & the creation of the Queen’s gaming culture

Super Smash Bros has a vibrant underground community

The Kingston Smash Bros community is full of passionate players.
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Imagine: It’s the height of exam season. Stauffer Library is packed with students, and desks are covered in cyclones of test papers, textbooks, and lecture notes. The tension in the buildings is palpable, though it’s silent as everyone crams for upcoming exams. Outside, snow lines the same roads that students, only months earlier, used to tread down to the pier.

But for all academic responsibilities most students have, a small group makes thepilgrimageto a secluded room in Ellis Hall. You follow, and after navigating a labyrinth of hallways and staircases, you open the door to the loud clicking of buttons and joysticks. Inside, students are playing Super Smash Bros., a crossover fighting game by Nintendo.

Welcome to Queen’s underground Smash scene. 

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Smash is a unique fighting game where the objective is to kill your cartoon opponents by knocking them off a stage. The game’s dynamics are important insofar as they explain its ubiquity within the global gaming landscape. Unlike most fighting video games, Smash doesn’t revolve around depleting your opponent’s health. Instead, characters accumulate damage, which makes them more susceptible to being knocked offstage and killed.

The Smash Bros. franchise, currently comprised of five games, has made roughly $60 million in sales worldwide, which, according to IGN, makes it “the best-selling fighting game series ever.”  

The series’ popularity is what brought many players to the eclectic Queen’s Smash gaming scene.

Adam Brooks, who goes by the gamertag “DKbill,” was introduced to the game in first grade after playing at a friend’s house. Since then, Smash has been a big part of his life.

Brooks got into competitive play in Grade 10 while frequenting a dingy gamer basement in Toronto. Now a fifth-year mechanical engineering student—over a decade later—he continues to do so at Queen’s.   

“When I got to Queen’s, the first thing I did was look for the Smash scene, because I knew all universities had one,” Brooks told The Journal in an interview.

“I love Smash because everybody plays it,” Brooks said. “There isn’t a single other sport where you will see a 30-year-old [playing their hardest] against a six-year-old, only to respectfully bump fists at the end.”

Brooks believes the nature of Smash, with its 88 distinctively “goofy characters,” creates a wholesome and friendly environment for players. The game’s learning curve is steep—newcomers are invariably defeated with ease—but persistence pays off, and players claim that climbing this curve is unperceivably rewarding. Having a community allows casual couch players to plug in against a vast range of opponents with drastically different skill levels and play styles. 

Brooks’ goal is to be the greatest Smash player in the world, and if all else fails, a top player in Canada after graduation. He has a YouTube channel with over a million views and even self-published a book on Amazon titled, The 3 W’s of Life: Women, Wisdom, and Winning at Super Smash Bros. 

This passion is what makes the community special. While some people let their hobbies drift in their transitions to university and adult life, these gamers are persistent. It’s this persistence that drove scores of students out of their exam bunkers last December to Ellis Hall to play the Smash tournament.

Sammy Moss, a tournament organizer for the Kingston Smash community, is a third-year computer science student.

“When I started at Queen’s, the Kingston Smash Ultimate scene was a Smash 4 scene [Smash 4 was Ultimate’s predecessor],” Moss told The Journal. “It was quite a bit smaller, mostly due to the lower popularity of the previous game. Ultimate brought new life to our scene.”

The popularity in the most recent Smash game, Smash Bros. Ultimate, has contributed to the growth of this local gaming clique. The development was so rapid, according to Moss, that they introduced a second weekly tournament, and even launched a monthly series that attracts talent from Ottawa, Toronto, and everywhere in between.

The organization of these events is a significant commitment for Moss, who’s also balancing scholastic and social responsibilities. His enthusiasm for this game—and its surrounding community—is so great it seems like a miniscule price to pay.

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While Queen’s nurtures a unique culture for all students, the community this handful of students have accomplished is nothing short of remarkable.

Whether it’s playing video games or any other passion, we shouldn’t forget what the Smash community makes so clear: always remember the little things in life that make you happy. Keep hold of your hobbies, and don’t let them go.  

For any casual gamers, you can find out more about these events through the Queen’s E-sports Association Facebook page.

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