The third floor of the Shasta dorms plays host to many games on Monday evenings. Residents watch a highly anticipated football match on the massive T.V. while others might play cards on a corner couch. The room is dominated though by dual televisions positioned next to each other on tables of different sizes. Groups of people are playing on each of the monitors while a kid in basketball shorts and spectacles moves back and forth between the clusters, offering advice and support
Brycen Wong might only be 18 years old and new to Southern Oregon University, but the freshman from O’ahu, Hawaii has made a large impact on campus already. Like many other students in this generation, Brycen spent a lot his time as a youth playing the video game Super Smash Brothers.
The platform fighting gameplay features crossover characters from original games made by Nintendo. The original Super Smash Brothers was released in 1999 for Nintendo 64 and was well received by gamers. Two years later Super Smash Brothers Melee become the best selling game for the GameCube system. Though there are new games with more expansive character and level selection being produced by the Japanese company, Melee is arguably the favorite of the series and still is played competitively around the world today.
Brycen who is known to the Smash community by his gamer alias “Wongman” realized that setting up scheduled times to play the game could bring together people from the dorms who were interested in competing, hanging out and having fun.
The Wongman said he scavenged Craigslist during his first day in Ashland to find a cheap T.V. that he hauled around with his Nintendo Gamecube to set up matches for people to play. After gathering a following through word-of-mouth he realized that many people living on campus enjoyed playing the game as much as he did. The theater major then embarked on a crusade to become an official group recognized by the campus.
His epiphany to expand the idea came after what he calls “the 50 hour brainstorm” in which he claims to have stayed up more than two full days researching what it would take to become an official group and how he would do it.
Once the proper paperwork was submitted, the group was made official when EMDA professor Warren Hedges agreed to oversee their activities after Brycen explained the professionalism and interest that was behind the movement in an hour long meeting.
During the interview Wong handed me a plain brown filing folder, heavier and containing more papers than my biology binder for the quarter. Apparently, the product of his sleepless nights includes propositions, documents and charts about being a well run group.
There also is a stapled stack of loose leaf binder papers with signatures filling the front and back.
“These are non-commitment signatures I collected just to show how much support and interest this game has,” Brycen explains, “There are over 100 on here.”
You may have interacted with the Wongman over the first few weeks of school. He claims that he approached students relentlessly and tried to talk to them about signing up for the group.
“I realized that might not be the best way to interest people, so I eased up a little to a more welcoming tactic.”
This new approach proved more useful and really what the Southern Smash Society hopes to evoke around campus. The sense of community is what Brycen strives to achieve in his new setting away from home.
This community has grown from Wong simply playing alone in the third floor common room to a meeting high of 22 people at the weekly sessions.
“The fact that I’m far away from home makes this a nice connection and reminds me of when I played this game with my friends before I came here,” explains freshman Charlotte Kyle, one of the group’s members who wandered by Brycen and a group playing Smash Bros early in the term.
“Even just hearing the background music is familiar to me and comforting in this new place.”
Southern Smash Society aka S3 welcomes players of all levels and has achieved its goal of becoming an official club but Brycen has big plans for the future. Tournaments with prizes are in the not-too-distant future for the club, which hopes to be fully funded during the winter term. Documents including the long list of signature support are expected to be in Brycen’s presentation to obtain money.
Another paper in the Smash stack shows the numbers and prices of hosting Wong’s dream of a big screen projected tournament in the Rogue River room.
“Giving out prize money is against campus rules, but I think Amazon gift cards being awarded to top competitors, would draw a lot of participators around campus as well as throughout the Rogue Valley.”
Wong moderates the group’s facebook page which contains its mission statement as well as information about when they will meet, but he also still uses the laid back approach when trying to get people to play.
“Hey man come play Smash,” he called to a passerby while sitting cross-legged in a chair shoeless, during our interview.
“Doing laundry Wongman, but afterwards I might stop by,” The student answered.
Wong flashed the kid a thumbs up and looks back to me, “We all pay student fees for clubs on campus, I just want to make the most of that money and use it towards something fun for other students and myself.”