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Southwestern E-sports are ‘Smashing’ it up

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Southwestern E-sports are ‘Smashing’ it up

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“I don’t think I could ever play like that.” When Jo Garza was 13 years old, they waited an hour and a half in line at Best Buy to play two minutes worth of Super Smash Bros 4, the newest generation of their favorite game. When watching some older kids play, Jo never believed anyone could be that good. Today, Jo is the undefeated champion of their league, the mastermind behind Southwestern’s Smash Tournaments, and a revolutionary behind our school’s e-gaming culture.

Jo’s enthrallment with Super Smash Bros began when they were just two years old and the earliest version of the game, Smash 64, made its appearance. With each generation, Jo put in more practice, working on their technical skills in training mode, watching replays of each game, and talking strategies with other gamers, all with the intent of understanding the theory of the game and becoming The Best. Controller in hand, Jo has found a passion for gameplay, a world within the characters, and a community of gamers that hold the same tactical mindset.

When Jo arrived on the Southwestern campus and realized there was no Smash tournament scene, they vowed to create one, enhancing the gamer culture in the process. While the Smash Tournament is now in association with the Golden Pirates, Southwestern’s e-sports team, Jo initially had to “go rogue” to make things happen.

They called upon Sage Clay, a friend and fellow gamer, to start a mission. They connected with students, reached out for consoles, created a Facebook page, designed advertising, and flooded the SU app with information about the tournament. In September of 2018, with an attendance of 23 players all crammed into the second floor of Prothro, Southwestern’s first Smash Tournament was a success. Since then, the monthly event has grown to fill Olin 105 and is now complete with a console check-out system, game footage mirrored on the big screen, and a power ranking videos at the end of every season.

When asked about the growth of the tournament, Jo remarks that “the big thing for me is just having a team.”

Until recently, Jo had been the sole leader running this tournament. While this allowed them to personally craft the narrative of the event, the pressure of singlehandedly organizing an event is exhausting. The tournament’s “board of trustees”, as Jo likes to call them, are made up of other student gamers and e-sports enthusiasts that are just as committed to propelling SU’s gaming community. You can find them tabling with Jo in the weeks preceding a tournament and helping set up equipment in preparation for the event. The members of the “board of trustees” are an integral part of this tournament’s growth and are vital to its expansion through the campus, other students, and invention of new ideas.

One of these members is Nolan Winsman, a sophomore gamer currently ranking third in the league. He has attended the tournaments for over a year now and jumped at the opportunity to volunteer in a leadership position. Nolan brings a special talent to the Smash team: his extroversion and ability to welcome vastly different groups to the Smash scene. Jo describes one of Nolan’s assets as his willingness to reach out to students who might not otherwise join—a vital resource in the tournament’s expansion.

Nolan recalls that “one of the best memories was when this guy, who had never played Smash before, just showed up. He lost, but still. Mad respect.”

For Jo, “I love it when people just show up [to watch]! It melts my heart.” The goal of this tournament is to facilitate a community— to have fun, to meet people, and to, hopefully, come again. A goal well accomplished, by the looks of it.

So, whether you’re looking to cheer on friends, join a game for the comradery, or uproot Jo as the outstanding champion, everyone is welcome at the Smash Tournament. Come visit and experience the passion first seen in that Best Buy line all those years ago.

Get involved and upcoming events:

If you would like to get involved with the Smash Tournament or Golden Pirates, contact Jo Garza at garza6@southwestern.edu or join the Smash Tournament email list at goldenpiratessmash@gmail.com.

The next Smash tournament is this Saturday, February 29th in Olin 105. Doubles Registration begins at 2:00 P.M. and Singles Registration starts at 4:00 P.M. Be on the lookout for tabling outside the commons where you can practice your Smash skills, make a valentine invitation for your doubles partner, and hang out with the most smashing group on campus.

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