Smash Club members duking it out in “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” during a competitive Tuesday bracket set. (Dylan Robinson/Lariat)
Many clubs are on offer at Saddleback College, but only so many are named “Best Club” at each new semester’s Club Rush event. The Saddleback Smash Club has benefitted from this designation and has seen the club become even greater in player participation from the local student population.
From preparing for larger tournaments in the Southern California area to just coming to unwind in between classes or display a casual interest for the game, the Saddleback Smash Club is a refuge for Saddleback College students who congregate over the shared passion for Nintendo’s “Super Smash Bros.” series of games.
This year the club is offered on Mondays and Tuesdays from about 1:30p.m. to “wheneverish” in SSC 212 or the student lounge according to their Twitter for practice among other club members in addition to competitive brackets, same as last semester.
The largest difference between these semesters is that the available brackets shift depending on whether it is Monday or Tuesday still offering brackets for “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” ”Project M 3.6,” and “Ultimate.”
Unlike last semester, only two events’ brackets will be run each day rather than trying to fit everything on Tuesday as it was previously. Timing was strict then due to Mondays being set for practice while Tuesdays were utilized for brackets of every game making the club members who wished to compete in all available games wait until late into the night.
Members who have been attending since Spring of 2019 when the club started gaining more popularity have noted the increase in new members and regulars attending. Sophomore Nathan Whitney began going around January and February of last Spring according to a flyer on one of the bridges around campus, given his love for “Smash” as a series.
“A lot of the people were really nice and I just got known when we met and started making more friends throughout,” said Whitney.
Whitney notes that upon first attending the club a year back, the attendance was very small and not as prolific as the club measures currently. The increased public notice of the club thanks to consistent weekly meetings proliferated its popularity in addition to monthly tournaments becoming a staple now.
“Now during the Spring semester, we have a lot of people coming in as well, we try to host every Monday and Tuesday,” said Whitney. “We try to have weekend tournaments every once in a while that are bigger with prize pools where we get now 25 people or more.”
The SoCal “Smash” scene is ravenous for weekly competition as this scene is not only one of the biggest in the country alone, but also one of the biggest in the entirety of Smash around the globe. Not even including Northern California and between all of the 3 popular “Smash” titles, SoCal outranks the popularity ratings of entire states due to such tight competition as it hosts some of the fiercest talent to grace the scene across every iteration of “Smash.”
There are rankings within the club to determine who the top talent is of the club offering a microcosm of actual Panda Gaming Rankings that rank the top professional talent around the world to lay out who is exactly in the Top 50. Whitney tells that the rankings are mostly for fun, yet can be used as a way to make sure lower level players do not run into higher ranking players in brackets in a process known as “seeding.”
Freshman Maddy Wade talked of the monthly tournament, Gaucho Gauntlet as it ran its trial run last semester to much success prompting a second one that occurred on Feb. 8 to even greater reception.
“I remember there being a lot of people that showed up in addition to a lot of setups to play on,” said Wade. “This semester we’re going to have another Gaucho Gauntlet coming up somewhat soon.”
Wade has loved “Smash” as long as she can remember with the release of “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” back in 2008 while she was in middle school. Being able to attend a club where like minded people are available to play alongside in an offline environment free of lag has been freeing for Wade.
“I would say I’m just a casual player, but there’s something about this club just knowing everyone here that there’s a sense of community you wouldn’t get at larger tournaments,” said Wade. “I’ve never had friends that play ‘Smash Bros.’ so it’s really cool not having to go online and play with people right here, it’s convenient and provides practice you wouldn’t get otherwise.
The upcoming Gaucho Gauntlets numbers three and four that Wade hinted at are slated for Mar. 21st and Apr. 25th respectively as announced on the club’s Twitter account. Registration includes a $5 venue fee to attend and $5 per game to compete in, totaling out to $20 if all three are registered for.
Dylan Danley, Saddleback student of three years, has been attending the club for two years and is ranked within all three games available. Ranked second in both “Melee” and “Project M” and eighth or ninth in “Ultimate,” Danley fosters a ton of “Smash” competitive experience and represents strong showings among club members.
“After the first semester we had a huge increase in people coming because a lot of people play ‘Ultimate’ since it’s the new game drawing in a lot of people,” said Danley. “It’s nice since we started out as a ‘Melee’ club, but then it got renamed to the ‘Smash Club’ to be a lot more inclusive.”
Players coming in purely for “Ultimate” ended up trying both “Melee” and “Project M” strengthening the communities of all three titles and allowing for greater bracket diversity each and every week during practice days.
“‘Smash’ is pretty large in Southern California, it’s one of the more popular e-sports or games to be played competitively,” said Danley. “The majority of the attendants for the Gaucho Gauntlets are from the Inland Empire, Los Angeles county and Riverside with about two or three high ranked players of each game.”
The Saddleback College Smash Club is a consistent force in providing a Mission Viejo-centric practice space so that students do not have to drive up along the busy freeways to attend larger tournaments where progress is halted against top level talent. Going in as either a casually interested fan or one with competitive spirit are both viable options for becoming a club member.
Occurrence, once again, is weekly on Mondays and Tuesdays in SSC 212 or the student lounge across the same hall for practice in all three prominent “Smash” titles or for competitive bracket entry. The next Gaucho Gauntlet is set for Mar. 21 in the same rooms with registration available ahead of time on the website, smash.gg.