Hamline Havoc: eSports hosts Smash tournament

Cathryn Salis, sports editor

The eSports team provided 10 computer monitors for players to connect their Nintendo Switch controllers to and compete against their friends on. Duals, or player versus player games, are how most competitors play one another at tournaments. (Cathryn Salis)

Deodorant, body wash and a child’s Minecraft t-shirt were gag gifts included in prizes being handed out at Hamline’s eSports team’s first tournament of the year, Hamline Havoc. The eSports team hosted their first ever Super Smash Bros. tournament in Anderson on Nov. 11., boasting over fifty participants. 10 computer monitors were moved into Anderson for the players to use with Nintendo Switch set-ups, and four people even brought their own monitors to play on. 

The event was open to Hamline community members as well as the Minnesota Smash community, and players of all ages showed up to compete, including a couple of Hamline’s own public safety officers. 

“I’ve been playing video games since I was a wee little toddler,” Officer Julian Barnes from Hamline Public Safety said. “I’m a big fan of Super Smash Bros. ever since the first one came out and I love playing this game with my friends.”

Super Smash Bros. has been played in different versions for over 23 years, and for many it holds ample opportunity to compete with the huge community of players. First-year Joshua “June” Patton-Skadsen is one of the biggest Smash players the eSports team has and is currently ranked in the top 50 competitive players in the state. 

“I’ve been playing Smash since Smash Ultimate dropped … Ultimate is my main game,” Patton-Skadsen said. “The pro scene is really, really up there. I would say I play competitively, but I’m not at a professional level, key word, yet. I’m not there yet. I will be eventually but until then, no, I play at a more competitive level and I’m always trying to improve.” 

Having grown up playing video games, many of the members attach a more sentimental value to the rebirth of the team. First-year Liv Degendorfer remembers watching their father play Sonic II on the Sega Genesis in their basement and identifies that as a pivotal moment in her relationship to games. 

“I haven’t played games as much recently because I’ve been getting focused on other things, which is why I was kind of interested in eSports club so I could start playing video games again because it was something so prominent in my life when I was a kid,” Degendorfer said.

The eSports team suffered a huge blow from COVID-19 restrictions and the club almost died with the graduation of the founding members. However, three students decided to revitalize the team at the beginning of 2022 and have made long strides to being an active team.

“This was an organization that existed but it was pretty dead. Me, Colby and Korai took it back and hopefully we’ll be able to make it something for the new generation of Hamline students to take over and do something with,” senior Jaime Mendez said.

Colby Wong and Korai Kayim-Yanko helped Mendez build the team back up and share a similar mindset.

“When we revitalized this, we had two seniors and then Colby’s an almost senior, going to graduate in the fall next year, so we really want to leave a solid foundation for this club because we know it can be something really great and we were left with something really special in the PC setups,” Kayim-Yanko said.

Many of the event attendees cited the provided pizza as a positive incentive to
hang out in the space with the gamers, whether they were playing or not. (Cathryn Salis)

While they are hoping to form a competitive team to send to events, the goal is not to become a one-game team. The leaders would rather foster an inclusive gaming community where people of any skill level can get involved and maybe one day attend a competition. 

“We have a lot of interest in Valorant and League of Legends, but that doesn’t mean we’re only going to do that,” Mendez said. “My goal was to have events like this, a lot of bringing people together.”

Hamline alumni and former eSports team member Lauren McDonald attended the Smash tournament and was surprised by the size and success of the event in comparison to the events that eSports hosted when she was a first year student at Hamline.

“I expected two people and a Wii,” McDonald said. “I didn’t go to a ton of stuff when I was here but it was still a good group of people, which we see here today as well, but it definitely wasn’t as well funded as tonight. With the announcer and everything, it feels like an actual eSports event.”

Senior Gracee Hurley-Brown who is not a gamer attended the event in support.

“It’s just cool to see so many people, so many Hamline people, coming together for something that I didn’t know so many people were into. There’s so many different communities on campus,” Hurley-Brown said. 

One issue that eSports has been running into is the lack of inexperienced players showing interest in the org, in addition to facing some stigmas around video game culture in the sports world. 

“One of the things that’s a huge challenge for us is getting people to take us seriously … people who play sports, which is a huge community here … view games as a pastime, not something you can be passionate about. Not something the cool kids do, I guess,” Kayim-Yanko said.

Despite this, the existing gaming community, not only at Hamline, but in Minnesota, is strong. With the widespread use of communication tools like Discord and Facebook, it is easy to find other players to connect with. It’s almost as easy as walking down to the club room in Walker Fieldhouse on the basement level and joining the team there on Thursday evenings.

“Play the game, it’s really fun. The community is really nice … from beginner to intermediate to wherever you are, just go, find a community,” Barnes said.