Smash Club fosters friendships, gaming community on campus
Super Smash Bros. may be a video game, but it is also a community that has laid a foundation for countless friendships among avid fans.
Without Super Smash Bros., Thi Tran may not have met his best friend. They began playing the game together after realizing they had it in common and have been hanging out, watching Netflix and grabbing food ever since.
“She mentioned she played Smash after I told her in part of the Smash Club,” said Tran, a computer science sophomore. “I invited her over to my apartment, we played Smash — I destroy her at it.”
While Tran’s friend isn’t part of UH’s Smash Club, he said they still play the game that helped cement their friendship when they hang out.
“For the first round, I go easy on her so she beats me, and then I beat her,” Tran said. “Then we make cookies and watch ‘Stranger Things.'”
UH’s Smash Club has a constant stream of players in and out of Student Center North, where the club is based.
The gaming club hosts weekly tournaments dubbed “Labwork,” where players battle it out in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Ultimate. For a $3 entry fee, or the task of bringing your own set up and TV, players attending the Labwork Tournament can join either the Melee bracket or the Ultimate bracket and fight their way to the top.
“No matter who wins, we’re all friends here,” said psychology senior Tristen Lyons, a Sheik main and the number one Melee player at UH.
When Lyons first joined the UH Smash Club, he found the carrel empty and the scene dead. He put out a call for Melee players on Facebook, and people showed up to play. Now there are daily events, and the weekly Labwork Tournaments regularly draw over 50 people.
“Smash is a big game. You can just go anywhere, people know Smash, people play Smash. What really draws me in is a community sense,” Lyons said. “We also have the carrels, and no matter what time of the day you go, there will be somebody to play.”
The club can be found in the SC North carrels for daily play from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The TVs sitting in their club space are always surrounded by chairs filled with focused players, often making it the most active and largest club in the carrels.
“I love people’s availability to play at any time,” said Financial Officer for the UH Smash Club Robert Hines, a computer science sophomore. “Everybody is super cool, and there’s someone willing to play 24/7. If you go to our office hours we have 10 to 20 people at any given time.”
The Monday tournaments typically run from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. but may last longer if there is a large roster of players.
“I have played the last five or six tournaments,” said MIS Bauer Honors sophomore Chris McCauley. “It’s cool that there’s a big tournament once every week, and it’s a great way to blow off steam.”
Not only does the Smash Club host an impressive amount of UH players, they also draw players in from other schools.
“I’m from Rice, but so far it’s been pretty fun at UH Smash,” said visiting Link main Chibu Ejiofor.
Many of the players are drawn in because of the difference between Smash and other fighting games.
“What I like about (Super Smash Bros.) Melee is the movement, how that transfers to the combo game,” said exploratory studies freshman David Ross Ortiz. “I like that it’s hard and I can see my progress when I play in tournaments.”
The mechanics of movement are a big appeal for many of the players. Lyons said he felt that Smash allowed for more freedom of expression.
“It really lets you express yourself in your characters,” Lyons said.
Other players said they felt that Smash was much better than other fighting games because other games felt restrictive to them.
“Other fighting games, traditional fighting games, always feel the same,” Hines said. “What got me into Smash competitively was that, mechanically, it feels like a sandbox, and you can show your skill in different ways.”
The one thing shared between those that show up for the tournaments is their love of the community and their desire to hang out with friends.
“I really enjoy hanging out with the people at the carrels,” Ortiz said. “It’s fun to play, but it’s just fun to hang out with people you know.”
UH Smash can be found in the Classroom and Business Building most Monday nights and the SC North carrels almost every day. Their Facebook page keeps followers up to date on their events.
As for Tran, he said he is thankful for what the game has done for him and his friend. While his camaraderie with other club-goers is something he holds dear, his relationship with his best friend is unmatched.
“She’s the one person that I can talk to about most things,” Tran said. “Stuff I don’t tell my parents or anybody else.”