WATCH & READ: Michigan State eSports Club Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Adapts During COVID-19
Michigan State Has No Student Clubs on Campus This Semester, Pushing the eSports Club to Plan and Play Its Events Online.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – So many things have changed this year for Michigan State students, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But few elements of college life have remained normal, even if students are not allowed on campus this semester.
The video game platform, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, has still been bringing enjoyment to MSU students gathering online to compete and socialize.
The ability to get together remotely is normal for gamers, as there are 57.4 million online game console users in the United States according to Statista. MSU’s popular eSports club usually plays in person, but has kept things going this semester remotely.
“It’s not safe in the middle of a pandemic to hold Smash tournaments,” said club treasurer Sadeem Boji. “It sucks, but it’s just video games we can play online.”
MSU’s Smash Ultimate club focuses on the highly popular Nintendo Switch game Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, where Nintendo's favorite characters and other video game characters battle in a family-style fighting game. The objective is to knock the other players' characters out of the arena.
Highly recognized video game characters like Super Mario, Zelda, and Starfox are three of the 74 character options in the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
The club, in a normal year, would hold weekly competitions in Michigan State’s Communications Arts and Sciences building every Friday. Around 100 players from the East Lansing area participated in Smash Ultimate tournaments, making it the most highly attended collegiate weekly tournament in Michigan.
“The first smash weekly last fall had 170 participants,” said club secretary Thomas Manning. “Our remote competitions this semester usually fall around 20 to 40 participants.”
Majority of the weekly participants are MSU students, but players from around the area can also participate in weekly tournaments.
The club has held 14 remote weekly competitions, titled the Quarantine Quarrels, to fill the hole for their members. It’s challenging as the gameplay has suffered due to poor Internet connections. The club creates a bracket, trying to make the tournaments as normal as possible.
“It’s much harder to play online because not everyone has a wired internet connection,” said executive board member Scott Maxey. “It’s still nice to have the ability to play weekly.”
Attracting new club members has been harder, since MSU moved to all online learning before the semester started. This means trying to reach freshmen and other potential members is not easy as an in-person recruitment. Sparticipation, MSU’s kickoff festival for student organizations, moved all-virtual, and did not work too well. MSU Smash Ultimate only garnered five prospective members.
“Nobody feels motivated to go to Wifi because you don’t see other people and hang out with them as compared to in person,” said Boji. “In-person you can get out and still hang out with your friends and have a good time.”
Although membership has gone down after completely going remote, MSU’s Smash Ultimate club has been able to compete and create relationships with new players.
“I’ve been able to meet people I don’t think I’d have met otherwise,” said Manning. “We get a lot of competitors especially since the semester has started from the Ann Arbor and University of Michigan scene.”
Like most clubs, for MSU Smash Ultimate it’s just not about club - but the opportunity to create relationships and friendships through a common interest.
“Normally after every weekly most people would either go to Buffalo Wild Wings or Pizza House,” said Boji. “I usually would go back to my dorm, but I went to Pizza House right before the pandemic and it was just awesome and so fun to be with that group.”
Like most eSports competitions and clubs, the MSU Smash Ultimate club has commentators for each match-up for the club’s stream on the Michigan State eSports Association’s Twitch. While these occasions are made for competition between the gamers, the atmosphere of MSU Smash Ultimate’s weeklies were filled with laughter and humor.
“We’ve had people try to do serious commentary which hasn’t always worked out the best for them,” said Maxey. “Comedic commentary usually works out better.”
Last year’s club power ranking recapping weeklies:
While the club is itching to get back in person and enjoy some laughs, they’re willing to wait until Michigan State is once again reopened to students.
“We will go in person when it’s safe to do so, we don't have any plans until that time,” said Boji.
The executive board hopes that the club will operate as normal by the fall of 2021 but will wait and see what the world looks like then.