Players from all over western Canada are meeting Saturday at Sasktel Centre for a competition like no other.
Rather than lacing up a pair of skates and dawning a jersey, these players arrive with one tool for success: a Nintendo Switch controller.
The event is called Smashfest, a competitive gaming tournament that pits players in elimination games of doubles or singles matches on the new blockbuster game Super Smash Bros Ultimate.
“You’re going to have one-on-one players or two-on-two and they’re just going to duke it out, see who comes out on top.” Bailey Dietrich, marketing director for tournament host SKL Esports said.
Better known by its moniker of Esports, competitive gaming has seen a surge in popularity across the globe in recent years. Now, Saskatchewan is catching up.
That’s where SKL Esports — a league created by a group of Saskatoon-based gamers — comes in. What started as a group of five friends playing League of Legends together quickly became a co-ordinated effort to host and provide more events as gamers used the League of Legends competitions to move onto larger leagues with more prize money and bragging rights on the line.
“There’s just not the infrastructure for a feeder league to be sustainable in Esports right now,” Dietrich said. “So from there, we had to find other titles and games to move on to.”
SKL Esports moved on to popular games like Hearthstone, Overwatch and CS:Go before really finding their groove with Super Smash Bros.
“It’s more of a locally-based (game), so players are willing to travel for it because they’re really dedicated,” Dietrich said about the popular Nintendo game that isn’t known for its online reach.
Some of the competitors travelled more than 18 hours from British Columbia to be at Smashfest, competing for only a few hours.
This Smashfest is the fourth Super Smash Bros. tournament held by SKL Espots and its largest to date.
The first Smashfest gathered 70 gamers, the second 100, before 120 registered for one in West Edmonton Mall.
Registration for Saturday’s Smashfest had to be capped at 208 players, as organizers feared there would be no space to hold everyone.
“It’s been pretty surreal to see our numbers achieve this,” Dietrich said. ” It’s just really nice to see the positive effects of our labour of love.”
The winner of Smashfest 4 will walk away with $1,000 and bragging rights over some of the country’s top Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players.
As far as any tips or suggestions for the recreational Super Smash Bros. players looking to transition into the world Esports, Dietrich says practice and consistency is key.
“You generally want to find one or two characters that you really enjoying playing with and practice, practice, practice with those,” he said. “The more you find the ins and outs and get used to how fast they move or how high they can jump, that’s when you’re really going to find all the nuances.”