Gamers bring it face-to-face on campus

A group of students playing Super Smash Brothers Ultimate in one of the weekly tournaments run by Ryan Burton at the DC student lounge. Photo credit: William Black

Playing video games online is a regular pastime for many gamers, but an Ontario Tech student is finding success staging face-to-face competitions on campus.

20-year-old first-year Commerce student Ryan Burton hosts weekly, monthly and regional Super Smash Brothers Ultimate tournaments.

Burton holds the events at the Durham College (DC) Esports Gaming Arena, allowing members of the gaming community to interact with people in person. Many top players from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) compete in these tournaments, along with people who want to get into the local scene for the first time.

Burton says the tournaments are popular, noting one regional event called the Amuka Cup featured 150 competitors.

Prior to hosting events at the DC esports arena, Burton was hosting weekly tournaments in his dorm and hosting the larger monthly tournaments online.

“They were terrible,” says Burton. “We do have an online scene but I think more people do definitely prefer doing stuff in person.”

Burton had to move out of his residence in April, 2019 which was the same month the esports arena was opening up. Burton still wanted to host in-person tournaments for the community so he started hosting monthly Super Smash Brothers tournaments in May.

“We’ve done one just about every month since,” says Burton.

The Smash Brothers community calls its weekly and monthly tournaments ‘weeklies’ and ‘monthlies’. Burton says these are important for introducing people to Super Smash Brothers Ultimate in a competitive environment.

“Weeklies are outstanding because people can come and just play without any risk. Having a weekly in your scene gives you the opportunity to go out, play some games, have that bracket experience, meet the people in your scene… All that experience is necessary,” says Burton.

“Monthlies are a lot more serious though. They last a long time, they cost more money to go to, bigger venue. Usually, you’d want to go into a few weeklies first and then the monthly.”

To play in these tournaments it can range from $10 for weeklies to $55 for the regional tournament.

A regional tournament held at Durham’s esports arena and organized by Burton had a prize pool of $3,000 and featured top players from all around the GTA, including the number one player in southern Ontario, Michael Kim, or as he is known by his online handle, Riddles. A top player from Washington state, Reyhan Ticehurst, known by his handle Duwang, was also competing. Kim ended up coming in first place.

“If you have no tournaments nearby you…all you have is wifi, and that’s not going to get you anywhere,” says Burton. ”I improved so much as a player when I came down to Durham, just because there’s more players, there’s locals, weeklies [and] having that in your area lets you go offline and meet people.”

Weeklies were first held at the esports arena but they are now held at the student lounge every Thursday featuring singles and doubles brackets starting at 6 p.m.

The next monthly tournament is Feb. 9.