The Miami University Varsity Esports Program has added Super Smash Bros. (Smash) to their list of official varsity esports. Miami is one of the first collegiate varsity esports programs to adopt the wildly popular game.
The news is unsurprising given the size of Miami’s current Smash community consisting of 325 members. Under the banner of “Smash”, the varsity program has two teams – one for Super Smash Bros. Melee (Melee) and one for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo Wii U (Smash 4).
Smash 4 team captain Nathan “Hunter” Sterzenbach has been playing Super Smash Bros. since childhood, but gravitated toward the competitive scene after a few months of Smash 4.
“I knew people played the game competitively, but I didn’t know it was this world-wide affair,” Sterzenbach said. “I saw one of the top players of the game streaming himself practicing in the lab doing crazy combos, and I thought, ‘wow that’s kinda sick.’”
While the games may be different, the rules are the same: two players fight in a best of three format. Each can select from a variety of different fighters – 26 for Melee and 58 for Smash 4. During each fight, both players have lives called “stocks.” The first player to take away all of their opponent’s stocks wins the game. In Melee, players start with four stocks and in Smash 4, they begin with two.
Super Smash Bros. Melee, was released in 2001 by Nintendo and has a nationwide cult-like following. Team captain Hunter “Snap” Hersko-Fugitt leads the Miami University Varsity RedHawks. Smash 4 was released in 2014 and is the most recent game added to the Super Smash Bros. franchise. Melee is solely played using GameCube controllers, while Smash 4 allows competitors to use the Wii U gamepad, Wii remotes or the heavily favored GameCube controller. Each of these games has a large, steady professional scene, but the world of collegiate Smash is uncharted territory.
“It’s another big step forward for esports. Smash is not traditionally thought of as much of an esport league, because it’s grassroots,” Sterzenbach said. “Things like Miami picking up Smash and the league we are going to be entering is a strong step for Smash being more of a popularized and serious esport.”
As of right now, Miami University Varsity Smash competes at regional tournaments as individuals or doubles, but a nationwide collegiate league is in the works.
Unlike the other varsity esports, Smash is primarily an individual game. In the future collegiate tournament, each player fights until they are out of stocks. At this point, the next player enters and fights the same opponent until one team of five is completely eliminated.
The Smash team consists of 12 players – six for each game. While full competition has not officially started, the teams are working hard for a strong start.
“Everyone has really been getting together to practice and discuss what competitions we will be entering,” Sterzenbach said. “Our team is excited and ambitious for what’s ahead.”
The Miami Varsity Smash 4 team will compete as individuals this Friday, April 6 at Bowling Green State University.