Fox, the main character of the classic Nintendo game “Star Fox,” was about to fall to his death Saturday at the hands of Princess Peach.
Miraculously, Fox recovered and won the battle, much to the amusement of the crowd gathered around a small television at the O’Hara Student Center.
Plenty of these battles played out over the course of 10 hours on Saturday, when gamers from age 15 to 40 gathered to fight to the death, Nintendo style. It was the seventh annual Fight Pitt tournament, a competition for players of the popular Nintendo game “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” which came out for the GameCube in 2001.
This year, 230 registered participants, including both Pitt students and national players, competed on 50 different televisions divided between two floors of O’Hara. Both gaming rooms were lined with tables and televisions occupied by focused gamers, all fueled by coolers and mini fridges full of Red Bull. Commentators also streamed the tournament on Twitch which recorded 60,578 views throughout the day.
The Pitt Smash Bros. — a student organization on campus that holds weekly Super Smash Bros. tournaments — organized the event. Unlike the other tournaments the club hosts, Fight Pitt attracts attention from players outside the state. Johnny Gamble, the business manager of Pitt Smash Bros., said the tournament brought in people from Ohio, New York, Maryland and Kentucky.
The club hosts a tournament every Friday night at Carnegie Mellon University for $1, where players from all over Pittsburgh come to compete. According to Gamble, the low cost and proximity to Pitt and CMU has helped build a large community of players in the Pittsburgh area. Besides the weekly tournaments, the club also tries to draw larger crowds for events like Fight Pitt.
“Fight Pitt is by far our biggest event,” Gamble, a sophomore marketing major, said.
Corey Noel, a junior computer science major and an organizer of the event, said in recent years, the Pittsburgh gaming community garnered national attention from both fans and players of the game.
“We used to have competitions monthly but it just got too big,” Noel said. “There’s not only players here, there’s spectators too.”
Super Smash Bros. competitors, or “smashers,” often prefer the 2001 edition of the game to
newer versions of the game. On Gamespot — a social media platform designed specifically for gamers — players said newer versions of the game are too simplistic and geared toward non-competitive players, while “Melee” is a faster and more interesting version of the game.
“There are a lot of little things about Melee that add up to make it a beautiful game. You have a lot of freedom in your movement and how you choose to play the game in ‘Melee,’” Gamble said.
Saturday’s competition demonstrated the intensity of the game. While two players sat in front of a TV at once, other gamers watched their peers play, sometimes commenting on the player’s technique, or cheering for a match’s winner. Two MC’s spoke into a microphone, calling out names like “bambi” or “Fredrick Lamar” — a tagline players use to identify themselves — to signify when it was their time to play.
Galen Baker, a junior computer engineering major at Drexel University in Philadelphia, participated in Saturday’s tournament and praised “Melee” for how it rewards innovative play.
“I think it’s a fun game and it’s really free-form. There is a lot of room to explore how you like to play. It’s not as rigid as other competitive games,” Baker said.
Baker, who also commentated portions of the competition on the live online stream — has made trips to tournaments before in places like New York and Washington, D.C. Baker said he made the trip from Philadelphia specifically to participate in Fight Pitt.
“I heard that this was really well-run and there are a lot of people,” Baker said.
After a long day of “smashing,” the competition ended with a battle between the final eight, double-elimination style.
Kalindi Jabari Harison from Ohio, better known by his game name “KJH,” took home the $860 grand prize. Following Harison, Arjun Rao took second and David Long took third.
At the end of the competition, some players, like Gamble, ruminated on the Pittsburgh gaming community. He said he enjoyed the competition because of Pittsburgh’s active role in the gaming community.
“Pittsburgh itself is known for having well-known exciting players,” Gamble said. “The ‘Melee’ scene is pretty diverse and Pittsburgh has some entertaining players.”