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Super Smash Bros. brings Michigan State students out for fun

The tube-style television that Super Smash Bros Melee players have to play on.
Joe Ayrault
The tube-style television that Super Smash Bros Melee players have to play on.

The fighting video game, which debuted in 1999, still has a strong following. But finding the old video game equipment to play Super Smash Bros. is another story.

One could assume that most academic buildings on campus at Michigan State are just about empty on an average Friday evening, but that is not the case for room 154 in the Communication Arts and Sciences building.

Each week, around 50 students fill the room to play Super Smash Bros. This group is just a small portion of the much larger eSports Club Association, which is made up of 20 different clubs, each with its own unique game. They are managed by Chris Bilski, the director of esports at MSU.

“There’s a huge community for gaming and eSports here on campus and it’s only continuing to grow,” said Bilski. “It’s really exciting where eSports is going at Michigan State.”

A unique aspect of the Super Smash Bros club is that some players prefer to play an older version of the game called Super Smash Bros Melee, which came out in 2001, on the GameCube, while others play the newest version, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, which came out in 2018, on the Nintendo Switch.

Bilski said that while Super Smash Bros Melee is not exactly a modern game, the community of gamers here that play it is one of the largest in Michigan, and it is thriving.

“There’s kind of a nostalgia aspect to it,” said Bilski. “Not just the older consoles but some of the older controllers as well, some players just prefer how they feel. There are still a few games that have to be played on older consoles, like Smash Melee. You need an older tube-style television to play.”

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Like any other club on campus, equipment can become outdated and even break down. Bilski said while the eSports community is enjoying older games like Super Smash Bros Melee, sourcing the equipment harder every year. Luckily, for now, they are able to find a good amount online, and some students know how to maintain and fix their equipment to keep the nostalgia alive.

“There’s just less of them as these things break down,” said Bilski. “But we also have built up a store of a lot of older equipment, so hopefully we’ll be good for years to come.”

Bilski said the eSports Club Association is one of the larger student organizations on campus, and they use a unique form of communication to keep everyone informed and involved called Discord.

“Discord is the way that gamers communicate,” said Bilski. “We have 2,500 people online interacting, playing, competing, and doing all of those community based things. About 1,000 of them come to in-person events consistently. It’s really a cool thing to see. Each club has its own server that they can use to get information out or even communicate as a group while playing their games.”

A few players that are a part of the Super Smash Bros Club are also members of the varsity competitive team that plays against other universities in tournaments throughout the year. MSU freshman Thomas Evansky is a team member who enjoys playing his favorite games in a competitive setting and the community that eSports provides.

“It’s provided like a safe space of sorts, for people to come together and make new friends in a community that will have them,” said Evansky.

Gamers who play Super Smash Bros competitively play the newer version of the game, Ultimate. Evansky said he prefers to play Super Smash Bros Ultimate, but he occasionally enjoys playing the older Super Smash Bros Melee with friends.

Despite the size of the eSports Club Association, a lot of it is still relatively new as it has grown around the development of gaming culture.

Bilski said that he wants to continue to grow the eSports community, but not just at MSU. Local high schools can play a big role in getting kids into eSports and help kids find a community that accepts them, while also showing them that there is an opportunity for them to be a part of something even bigger at the collegiate level.

“The number one thing I would say is that gaming has no age limit,” said Bilski. “It’s very accessible for people of different ages or different backgrounds, there’s games for everyone.”

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