Not all gaming events are big. But, even those that are small can be fierce and passionate about their hobby. Twin Galaxies sat down with the USC Biweeklies organizer Ryan Stevenson that brings Super Smash Bros to the University of Southern California.
While some colleges have completely generic “gaming clubs” that cater to all types of games, the University of Southern California has a specific focus on theirs. Super Smash Bros has been a classic since the 1990s, but didn’t gain much momentum in the competitive scene until the second iteration, Super Smash Bros Melee. Since then, the game has come up with a new installment for each Nintendo console since (outside of the Nintendo Switch as of yet). Ryan Stevenson helps organize the Smash Events at USC and shared some insight into how they do it and what it takes to be successful.
USC holds what they simply call the “USC Biweeklies”, which are held every two weeks since Fall 2014. On average, the turnout is around 38 participants, but Ryan hopes that that will grow with time.
Ryan, also, gave some advice for colleges trying to create and run their own gaming clubs. "There's quite a lot that goes into organizing smash events for a college,” he started, “or rather mostly the club. So, the first step is being recognized by the university as a club, same first step with any other club. You don't have to be recognized as a student organization to start a scene at a college, but there are certain perks that might be necessary.”
He continued by explaining some of these perks and obstacles in becoming an official college club. “For us, only student organizations can rent out rooms. So, we need to have that for our venues. There's also the perk of funding, but for us it's difficult cause of all the loops and holes that prevent us funding travel. I've heard stories from other schools where they can't even travel at all because their organization is considered athletic, so they need an upperclassman with a driver's licence in order to go anywhere.”
I asked Ryan what goes into scheduling and getting people to come on a regular basis. “After group recognition, you start scheduling out the year. Do you want biweeklies, weeklies or monthlies? Well, you have to reserve your room at those specific times before the school year starts. Then, there's the day of the tournament. This is where the eboard usually comes in. You'll need a tournament organizer per game, a stream organizer per stream, and a treasurer to take venue and entry fees. Most colleges do $5 for venue, $5 per game with set-up discounts. Our set-up is somewhat efficient. We usually have someone ready to take venue fees and enter players into the bracket, and I usually help set up the stream. The first hour is always a bit hectic, but once bracket starts, things smooth themselves out.
Ryan went into the difference of making the event publicly available or private to students only. “As a club, it's important to decide if you want to make your events public or private and how much promotion you should do. The benefit of promoting your tournaments is you'll get more players from outside instead of just the students, which is great for practice. You'll also find out quickly that these players are so good that ‘Top 3’ doesn't even consist of your college's students. But, if you ask me, more publicity and more people coming in makes for a better experience because you get to practice against people you normally don't play against.”
Super Smash Bros for the Wii U is the main focus of their tournaments, along with Melee. He said they don’t use the Nintendo 3DS version of the game, but some people utilize the system as their controller to play in their tournaments. I asked Ryan how age of the game affects who is playing it and he brought up some great insight on the matter. “I feel one of the things about smash that's different from the rest of the fighting games is that we have a split community. Street Fighter, Tekken, and Guilty Gear players are all encouraged to move to the next iteration. Once Brawl came out, some said ‘Melee is better’ and grew out that older scene. Those that stayed with Brawl moved to Smash 4, and some even to ‘Project M’ (The fan made game). Whenever Smash 5 comes out, it all depends on how competitively viable it is. If it is, it'll have a strong scene, and then maybe Smash 4 will be on the decline. If it's not, it'll still be around, but will eventually go away because of Smash 6, and so on.”
For the USC Biweekly, they sometimes play other games that aren’t Super Smash Bros. related, such as League of Legends, Hearthstone, and Rocket League, but he’s not directly involved with those. His entire focus is on Smash. Where he sees a real split is between the Melee and Smash 4 crowds. “You can sometimes see it just by coming to an event. Melee players are there to have a good time and host a tournament. Smash 4 players are there to start growing a scene, however small it may be at the moment. It might have something to do with our prominent Melee players and CRT (television) providers graduating, but there's a few new freshman interested in melee. We usually have an average turnout of about 38 per biweekly, Melee and 4 combined.”
He explained that the competition is, overall, pretty “chill”, except for the Melee crowd. “I feel like Melee is usually more intense overall. There are some really tense moments when some of our best players are up against power ranked outsiders.”
In terms of a fun story, he was excited to be featured on Yeetsmash video for “getting 0-death'd by a friend.” With over 66k views, he shrugged and said “I guess any publicity is good publicity, right?”
USC Biweekly tournaments are held each semester for both Melee and Smash 4. Tournaments are Fridays from 6 PM - Midnight (with the bracket starting at 7 PM). Primarily focusing on singles, doubles side events are done sometimes as well. Tournaments are located on campus at Ronald Tutor Campus Center, near the center of the campus. The venue entry is $5 and each event is $5, but bringing a set-up gets the venue fee waived.
Folks that want to join up can find USC Smash on their Facebook, Twitter, and Twitch pages. They keep an archive of their streams on YouTube as well. For those looking at events in the south, check out our interview with Brendon Ramdeholl about the Georgia-based Athens Online event.