By Michael Rodriguez
A wave of frustration and excitement washed across the Recreation Center as students holding video game controllers crowded around dozens of television monitors.
On Sunday, May 5, the TCNJ Lions Gaming Club hosted its public Super Smash Bros. tournament, King.
The club coordinated the one-day public competition to revolve around the well-known Nintendo games Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
From 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., King invited esports professionals to compete against the College’s own gaming community. Both students and non-College participants signed up for multiple brackets and competed against each other for the title of Champion.
The event centered around four main brackets — Melee Singles, Melee Doubles, Ultimate Singles and Ultimate Doubles. While some participants fought alone in the singles rounds, many teamed up with friends to play against their peers.
From across the state, professionals and amateurs traveled to compete in King, bringing a variety of players, strategies and hours of entertainment. Santiago Pinto, a sophomore computer science major at Rutgers University and competitive Melee player, drove an hour to Ewing to play.
“I was excited by the energy when I first walked in,” Pinto said. “Seeing all my friends having fun with complete strangers is a real sight.”
Volunteers from the College’s Graphic Design Club provided the venue and served as the event coordinators.
Jawan Turner, a senior interactive multimedia major, volunteered to create King’s logo, which features ‘King’ written in blue and gold cursive with a small crown on top of the ‘K.’ As a member of the Graphic Design Club, Turner was happy to volunteer and spectate.
“Competitiveness is great to watch,” Turner said. “These events are all about fostering new friendships, and it’s a great way to unwind before finals.”
Ryab Strenkowski, a senior interactive multimedia major and head coordinator of King, organized the event by working with Lions Gaming and sponsors such as Saber R and New York Excelsior, a professional Overwatch esports team. Facilitating the equipment setup and organizing the brackets, King served as his senior thesis.
Strenkowski “fell in love” with the competitive gaming scene as a freshman at the College and fostered that love within his major and leisure activities.
“I have been in both the TCNJ gaming community and the New Jersey Smash team,” Strenkowski said. “It’s like a real family.”
For those who did not participate, King had other activities throughout the day such as a virtual reality station and art stations. The virtual reality system was set up as a means for students to participate in Beat Saber, an interactive music game where the participants competed for the highest amount of targets hit and an Oculus Rift VR headset.
Student artists and amateurs also set up individual booths to show off their original artwork or to sell various key chains, stickers and other homemade collectibles. Promotional T-shirts designed for King were also sold.
Alina Osborn, a senior biology major, set up her own art station alongside the players in the hopes to advertise and sell her art, putting her original hand drawings on display.
“My ideas range from random to super serious,” she said. “But I drew art related to Smash and that has garnered some attention.”
Strenkowski was happy that everyone enjoyed the event and hopes that TCNJ Lions Gaming can keep the King tournament going for future generations at the College.
“This was a dream come true,” Strenkowski said. “It started with 10 of us in the Travers and Wolfe Hall, but now I managed to give something back.”