Huddled in the back corner of the SLO Donut Company with five T.V. screens, not many people would think there’s a tournament going on. Yet, this is a monthly event for the SLO Smash community — a time for Super Smash Bros. players from around San Luis Obispo to sit down and flex their skills with Nintendo’s most recent fighting game.
Although the first installment of the Smash Bros. series, aptly titled Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 was released in 1999, the competitive scene for smash didn’t begin until 2001 with the release of its sequel: Melee.
Justin Pottle wrote for technology news website ars technica that “…Smash players united under the banner of Melee, and the series’ competitive potential was finally breaking into the mainstream.” Across the country, there was a growing interesting the new potential of competitive Smash players. In San Luis Obispo, it was the start of the SLO Smash Community.
On/off again over the last six years, it was in 2013 that the first Smash club got started at Cal Poly. The club was founded by Susanna Yu, and was extremely popular right off the bat. The group started hosting Melee tournaments, but remained mostly local during its early years.
The Smash scene in San Luis Obispo (SLO) picked up when professional smash player Julian “Jtails” Martinez from New York moved to the area in 2015. Before SLO, Jtails ranked 9th among the Smash 4 players in the New York area. When he started competing in local tournaments, he attracted the attention of other high-ranking players who wanted to compete against him, boosting the Smash community of SLO.
Since then, its been up the members to spread the word about SLO tournaments to the sister cities of Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.
Clay Kim is the head Tournament Organizer (TO) for the SLO Smash 4 Community. He works alongside Nick Plewtong, who runs the group’s facebook page, to set up tournaments for the community and keep track of local rankings.
For Kim, the final push to start playing Smash competitively came after watching a agonizingly close match between two high ranked professional players: Saleem Akiel “Salem” Young and Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman. At the time, Mew2King was considered one of the best Smash players in the world, playing the strongest competitive character in the game, but in 2013, lost to a less well known Smasher who played a less competitively viable character. Inspired by Salem’s victory, Kim began competing in Smash tournaments hosted across the state.
What keeps him coming back to the scene, however, isn’t the game, but the people Kim said:
“All the times I go to L.A., I meet people I would never meet without the game. Everyone in this room — there’s not a single person I would have met without Smash and they’re all really good friends of mine now.”
Right now, Kim explains, the hardest part about keeping up the SLO Smash Community is finding the right venue. As of now, they typically move between club rooms at the Cal Poly University, or are offered venues by local businesses such as SloDoCo, but its not permanent Smash spot. Once they find a permanent tournament spot, Kim explains, the SLO Smash Community will finally be able to grow and flourish.