IDAHO FALLS — Dozens of gamers flocked to the College of Eastern Idaho’s Creek Building Saturday to battle head-to-head for “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” supremacy in the school’s “Smash” tournament.
The event was a double elimination-style tournament with contestants divided into two brackets depending on their age. The school had gaming seven stations set up for the tournament, including one set aside for free gaming to keep gamers entertained in between matches. The action at several gaming stations was even projected onto big screens, for that added touch of epicness.
Participants weren’t just playing for bragging rights, either, as prizes like gift cards and cool Nintendo gear were up for grabs.
Throw that all together, and you have a really cool event that the school has hosted throughout the summer and, according to the people behind the tournament, the word has gotten out.
“We have several (players) that return and several that bring friends,” said CEI spokeswoman Hailey Mack. “We have parents who come and bring their kids and we have spouses who come and watch their players play.”
Mack said the tournament was spawned from a number of ideas had by college officials, including Dean of Student Affairs Michael Walker and school president Rick Aman. Aman conferred with the other community colleges in Idaho and determined that hosting the tournament would be a good dry run for beginning a competitive e-sports program.
“E-sports is competitive video gaming,” said Mack. “Video game tournaments are happening all over the world now. I’ve heard of large sporting arenas, like the Staples Center, being filled by spectators watching these competitions.”
Mack cited a recent “Fortnite” tournament where the 16-year-old winner took home $3 million.
The growing popularity in e-sports and the low costs relative to a traditional athletics program convinced CEI officials that competitive video games were a viable option for the school.
“It’s a neat way that the four community colleges in Idaho can actually compete against each other but not have the travel costs and other things that come with traditional sports,” Mack added. “We can stream and compete from our own areas.”
Mack also said that the school is looking beyond “Super Smash Brothers” at getting into P.C. e-sports, which would require increased investment to acquire the needed hardware. Hopes are to build an e-sports program up to a point where CEI can offer scholarships to prospective students who may be interested in joining the video gaming team.
Mack also said that the school is considering “League of Legends” and “Overwatch” as options for their expansion into PC gaming, with fielding a competitive team being the ultimate goal.
“Hopefully, within the next year, that’s the direction we’ll be going,” she said.
This summer’s tournament also served as a recruiting tool and a way to get future students to the school and familiarize them with the campus.
“Students feel more comfortable going to college at a place they’ve already been,” said Mack. “So what we’re hoping is the younger ones who come and play feel comfortable on a college campus. Then once they graduate from high school, that they do continue on to college. And if that’s at CEI, that would be great.”
While Saturday’s competition was the last of the summer, Mack said they would continue to host “Smash Bros.” tournaments on the first Saturday of the month throughout the school year, with the first one scheduled for September 7. These tournaments will cost $5 for community members but will be free of charge to CEI students with a valid student I.D.
For more information about College of Eastern Idaho’s “Smash” tournaments and other events, visit their Facebook page.