Best of 2015: Welcome to the Tournament Scene

First Published: Oct 27, 2015
Voted For By: Ric, Adam, Lorna
Reason(s) For Vote:
“Despite the conversation-quoting intro being quite clearly being ripped off from me, Keegan’s account of his tentative step into the world of competitive Smash is really quite sweet, and shows a human side to a world that from the outside seems quite insular.” ~ Ric

“The touching story of one man discovering he’s not a world-class Super Smash Bros player after all.” ~ Adam

“We never usually get to read (or publish) pieces like this and I really enjoyed it. To hear a personal account about the tourney scene was lovely, especially as it was humble and not mired in boasting and self-hype. Down to earth, different, and very Keegan.” ~ Lorna

“Hey man, how are you doing?”

There’s no answer from my opponent, who is apparently too focused on unwinding the cable of his GameCube controller to return my greeting. We’re in the losers’ bracket now, so the pressure is on, but his unfriendly refusal to even acknowledge my existence is very much the exception to the behaviour I’ve encountered today.

“You good to go?”

I try to stay friendly and calm, but his demeanour is starting to irritate me now. This may be the first Super Smash Bros tournament I’ve ever attended, but before this guy sat down I’d been greeted with big smiles and friendly chatter. The people I’ve played against have been unfailingly friendly up to this point, taking their wins or losses with grace and a smile. When our match is over, however – my victory was relatively comfortable, by the way – he scowls and stumps off without a word, angrily rolling up his cable and leaving me to report the results of our match to the tournament organiser, another friendly man who is conducting the whole tournament on pen and paper with only a few paper print-outs to help him along.

I’m in Gloucester for this tournament, held in the clubhouse of a rugby club just out of town. The players in attendance would be the first to admit that the skill level of the tournament isn’t the highest, but from the moment I arrived they have been great company, playing friendly practice bouts before the tournament itself started, and happily chatting away to people they had never met before.

For most people, this is their first tournament. They’ve taken the plunge to get out of their comfort zone and play, and all of them are visibly enjoying it. Like myself, however, there are signs of nerves everywhere that are only slightly eased by the friendly arcade atmosphere of the practice games. My first opponent is one of the few experienced tournament players, and he proceeds to crush me while I’m still trying to shake off the worst of the nerves. My second match isn’t so bad, and by the time I crashed out of the tournament I’d somehow nabbed fifth place.

More importantly, I’d managed to talk to a bunch of friendly people, and it wasn’t long before I had half a dozen Facebook friend requests from folk who wanted to chat and play some videogames. I walked away from my first ever Smash tournament with a warm glow, desperate to get myself to another soon.

My next event was hardly the same sort of success, results-wise, but once again I found myself chatting to approachable people while I played friendly matches and grew more and more accustomed to the intense, if cheerful, atmosphere. This time I found myself playing a match on the big screen, with dozens of spectators watching and cheering – or booing – my skills. If I thought I was nervous during my first tournament, this really proved how much more terrifying playing games competitively could be.

Despite my horrible result, I once again left with a happy glow of contentment and a new-found realisation that I had fallen in love with the tournament scene. Since that second tournament I’ve signed up to a couple more, ones with more games to offer than just Super Smash Bros, and although I never expect to make a name for myself playing fighting games, I’m more than content to soak in the environment and become a pot monster – the players who show up time and time again and contribute some money to the prize pot for their entry without ever expecting to win the whole thing.

It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.

And who knows? I’ve already begun to see the results of my tournament visits in the way that I play – in ways that are both positive and negative. In the long run, maybe attending every tournament that I can get myself to means that one day I might even win one or two of them. For now, I’ll freak out every time I have to play on the big screen, have sweaty palms before every match, and try to calm the butterflies in my stomach before I play.

And when I crash out of the tournament in the first round, then it just means that I have more time for some casual games, more chats with the friendly people who populate these events, and maybe even learn a lesson or two from the finalists when they play on the big screen themselves. Only one thing is for sure – the tournament scene is going to be seeing a whole lot more of me.

Last five articles by Keegan


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