Player One, Come All

It’s competition and camaraderie for Columbus’s console gamer scene.

Stepping into Ruby Tuesday always feels a little like stepping back in time—its ornate old wood and creaky floors a proper throwback to the days where campus swillers were swimming in dive bars.

On this Tuesday, I felt like I was caught in some quantum leap, the dimly-lit side room filled with other vestiges from the ’80s-’90s: three walls and a stage full of outdated, bulky TVs, surrounded by a small mound of Nintendo GameCubes and serpentine surge protectors.

What the hell did I walk into?

In 2018, it seems a strange setup to happen upon, but I’m here specifically for “Rubesday,” the weekly Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament put on by OSU Melee.

It’s not abnormal to find these tournaments set up this way with the crowd facing older, analogue CRT televisions. That’s because newer, digital TVs can cause input lag for GameCube consoles, and in competitive game-playing, every millisecond counts. Lag is out of the question. The group meets at the bar every Tuesday, other weekdays at a few campus spots, and even Donatos in Dublin.

Turns out there are other groups like them for those that miss the old days of competitive console gaming. Many like OSU Melee welcome all players to the scene.

“We all play this game because we love it, so anyone else that shares that interest is encouraged to attend events, even if they don’t want to enter the actual tournament,” said Justin Zetts, a past host of Rubesday and long-time member of the group. “Our tournament organizers strategize about the best ways to recruit newer and even casual players to promote community growth.” Some tournaments charge a small entry fee, and bigger tournaments held throughout the state bring in players from all over the Midwest region, he said.

“Many of the better players in the group have been playing with one another and often traveling out of region to big events together for years, now,” Zetts said. “The culture has become very welcoming and encouraging to newer players.”

eSports has given rise to the professional gamer. According to ESPN, who now streams and televises eSports events, the 2016 League of Legends World Championship pulled in 14.7 million concurrent viewers with a total of 43 million unique viewers. With the growth of national gaming competitions, such as EVO for fighting games, like Smash Bros. and Street Fighter, and MLG for a plethora of games, including RTS (Real Time Strategy), MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online), and FPS (First Person Shooters), both of which draw in gamers from all over the world, it’s not surprising to find that video game competitions and tournaments are gaining popularity here in Columbus as well.

But Smash Melee isn’t the only game taking the nation by storm. In fact, it’s not even the first to do so. Most competitive video games out there have tournaments, and if you look hard enough, you can find a local group. Another group, Central Ohio PM, hosts Smash Bros. Brawl tournaments monthly at Akiba Arcade in Eastland Mall. New spots like Close Quarters: Social Gaming Club in Franklinton and the eSports facility and gaming café, Game Arena in Hilliard, have opened recently to provide more places for playing and competing.

Close Quarters requires a membership for normal play, but often hosts open tournaments for non-members too. And to keep up the gaming community feel, they have a gallery space for a monthly featured artist to show off their video game-based art.

While Game Arena boasts over 80 gaming systems and a state of the art Tournament Room, they bring with them the promise of future competitions with a wide variety of games, from League of Legends to Mortal Kombat.

Old North Arcade recently installed more consoles and TV screens with their new space addition to the bar. They have hosted tournaments in the past for GoldenEye 64, Street Fighter 4, and Mario Kart 8, along with many others, for a small entry fee with winners receiving money and prizes. Since ONA draws a large crowd in the warmer weather, due to their outdoor space, they will likely ramp up with more tournaments again in the spring and summer.

Whether you’re a Smash Bros. fan, prefer DOTA 2 or Call of Duty, or would rather show off your skills at an old-school game, there is likely a tournament out there for you. Instead of playing games at home, competing against faceless names online, you could instead take your pick of one of the nearby tournaments and join Columbus’s own welcoming and fast-growing gaming community.