Competition breeds community in Alberta’s Super Smash Bros. scene

by | Nov 8, 2022 | Arts & Life

Esports is a mainstay in the modern competitive entertainment landscape and has spawned some strong communities around particular Esports games. The Super Smash Brothers franchise has seen a large pool of casual and competitive players from different regions, including Alberta. Alberta’s legacy with Smash Bros. goes back to the release of Melee in 2001. It started small, with a modest number of players, compared to the current day of Smash Bros. Ultimate pushing record competitors at local tournaments since its release in 2018. 

It wasn’t easy for Alberta to gain this deep-rooted sense of community. According to Alberta-based competitive Smash players Kursed and Alphicans, there is more to the story. Kursed is a tournament organizer with seven years of competitive experience in Smash, starting in the basement and travelling coast to coast. Alphicans has been playing Smash since 2007 and has continued to be a top player in all Smash games. 

Kursed and Alphicans praised how communal the Smash scene has been in Alberta. Kursed remarked, “We have had players documented back to 2005 making [tournaments].” Not only did Alberta have an early legacy in the Smash scene, but players from all over the province showed up to tournaments throughout Alberta to better themselves and push the community further. Alberta has even produced some recognized names beyond Kursed and Alphicans. Smash players RM8 and Exodia have gained widespread recognition due to their abilities. 

Alphicans mentioned how hard the pandemic has been for competitive Smash tournaments in Alberta. He noted, “We were not that active during the Covid years.” Kursed backed up this claim by saying that “everyone had to turn to Wi-Fi” since no one could make contact with each other for a locally dominated game in competitive play. Both players remarked how bad the online networking was, forcing players to retire in what Kursed called the ‘Wi-Fi Era.” Alphicans added, “Alberta is not known to have great internet compared to other places like the states. Entering online tournaments is always full of lag, even with a good connection.” Two years passed with only online play, brutalizing the game’s local and competitive community. “It took a toll on the community,” said Kursed.

Things are only now coming back to local play with old and new players returning. Though Alphicans says we are “slow to start back up,” players have shown there is still a love for this game. The Alberta Arcadian 2022, a local tournament held at the University of Alberta, has seen record entrants after such a long break. Kursed, who organized the Arcadian, is happy with the new skill. Because an Arcadian is an event where the top-ranked players in the region are banned, players who haven’t had a chance to show their talent yet can shine.

“Before Covid, [younger players] were coming [to tournaments] with their parents. Now they are older and top level of Alberta after the pandemic,” said Kursed. There’s been a boost in morale for players who struggled in the “Wi-Fi Era” during Covid. Even with this new rush of players, Alphicans thinks the Smash community can push things further and get past the grassroots title Alberta Smash is known for best. 

“We need to work on engaging the people who gain the value. It’s hard with no big production values,” Alphicans said. “We haven’t kept up to the Vancouver scenes. We don’t have the sponsorships yet.”

A lack of sponsorships doesn’t mean it’s over for Smash in Alberta. Kursed and Alphicans are incredibly passionate about the community of Smash. Both players remembered how it felt to be around the friends they met in the game’s lifespan. “It was about seeing your friends every Friday,” said Kursed. That has been the wonderful pull of Smash. The game has been holding out through tough times only to create a stronger sense of community. Swinging swords, flinging bombs or firing lasers while having a laugh on the couch is the true beauty of Smash. Feeling “at home” is a strong sentiment shared by players to sway those still unsure of going out and just sinking into the infectious enthusiasm for this beloved game. 

NAIT and the University of Alberta both have strong ties with Smash Bros. Weekly tournaments are run at the U of A, with NAIT students getting an open invitation to join. The Esports Club at NAIT will also be organizing Smash events for NAIT students and their friends. It’s never been a better time for students interested in competitive gaming to start fresh or jump back into one of Alberta’s most long-lasting and whole-hearted Esports communities. 

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