You enter the Goodhue Superlounge and instantly hear the clicks of controllers, resulting from the intensity at which the student gamers move their thumbs to attack their opponent on Smash Bros and Melee. There is immense concentration in the room as each player competes to move up a bracket, a system of ranking based on how many games a person has won against the other players.
There is a lot more to gaming culture at Carleton than just interest alone. Gamers at Carleton put in as much passion and dedication into these games as the athletes at Carleton put into their sports. Gamers at Carleton will practice a few times a week depending on their homework load.
Smash Bros is a game that involves fighting between characters across different franchises like Animal Crossing, Mario, Kirby, etc. This game is often times played on the Nintendo Switch, while Melee, an iteration of the Smash Bros series, is played on the Nintendo GameCube, an old video game system released in 2001.
“In terms of serious games that I’m trying to get good at, Melee is the only one,” said Harrison Atlas ’22. “It is very complicated and it has a lot to it and getting better is a very hard process, but it feels so rewarding.”
Most of these gamers started playing at really young ages and were mostly influenced by older siblings. Often times, a Game Boy or another video game system was passed down to them by their siblings, which led to their love for video games. Gaming stayed with them throughout these years and became a hobby of theirs that they brought to Carleton.
“I’ve been playing Smash at Carleton since the first week we’ve had tournaments,” says Rudra Subramanian ‘22. “I’ve made a lot of really good friends. I don’t think Carleton would be as fun if there weren’t gamers.”
The gaming community is very close knit and friendly. They welcome anyone into their tournaments even if they only want to watch them play. Not everyone needs to be good at Smash Bros or Melee to join or participate in the tournaments — they just need to have the desire to get better through practice.
Even then, some players, take their gaming very seriously when it comes to battles ad tournaments.
“I’m very emotionally invested in what happens in the tournaments,” said Subramanian. “It’s tense. It’s fun. It’s like you’re playing a real sport, just a video game.”
Tournaments happen most Saturdays in either the Superlounge at Goodhue Hall or in a first floor Myers classroom. It is a way of bringing gamers in the Carleton community together and practicing against one another to improve.
The gaming culture at Carleton even extends out to the Northfield community at times as well. It mostly brings out high school students who are passionate about playing Smash Bros and allows them to socialize with Carleton students.
“Sometimes Northfield has a surprisingly big Smash team — a lot of the townies play. One of the better people of the state lives here,” says Peter Sparks ‘20.
Sparks remembers a tournament that happened a couple of years ago with Northfield gamers where a really skilled player came back after taking a break for a month.
“For a long time he was just completely freeing me up every single time we played.” says Peter. “I played him again and I just freed him up and I was like ‘Wow, I’m better! I’m getting good at the game.’”
These students disprove the stereotype of the socially-awkward loner gamer. Whether it’s to prepare for an upcoming tournament or to simply wind down after a stressful school week, these Carls always manage to turn their time in front of the screen into a welcoming and social experience.