207/365 – Meditation Games #207 – Community In Competition

Developer: Phillip Woytowitz

Launcher Quote: “A few years ago, my summers were filled with 2 things: internships, and Smash Bros. On July 26, 2014, I went to one of my first local Melee/Smash tournaments. It was a hot, sunny day in Silicon Valley, and there was a LOT of stuff that I had to carry to the venue. But once I got to the venue, I had a great time and made a few new friends.”

Way back in the day, I used to be a Magic: The Gathering player. Because the internet was a twinkle in someone’s eye as far as content goes back in those days, the sense of community that I found with playing the game, which of course required that we have more than one person interested in it, was found in local events at places like comic book places and bookstores where you got to sit around and talk with and commiserate with others who played the game – and of course, spend a few hours beating the tar out of one another good-naturedly at Magic. Sure, we were all summoners who were in competition with one another, but through regular interaction and play you really got the sense that a community was being formed just for the basis of shared interest in a suddenly popular card game.

The gaming community tends to carry these experiences forward in tournaments, and in most cases these fall in the fighting game genre, of which Smash Bros. is one of its prominent entries. The fighting game community is filled with old veterans, upstart newcomers, and people not known for much else publicly than being some of the most skilled players in competitive Smash. The developer takes account of their experience going to an event, from driving to parking to loading in gear, and the somewhat euphoric feeling of getting to the venue, despite difficulties, and being a part of a community of competition. It’s the same kind of community building that I cut my teeth on, both with Magic and later on with convention planning, that’s hard to duplicate in other settings.

Funnily enough, Magic does continue to have a presence in both the physical and digital realms today. Magic tourneys and get-togethers are still a thing, and the introduction of Magic the Gathering: Arena, its most successful iteration of its presence online, has been a boon to being able to build those communities across borders, distance, and countries. Regardless, there’s just something about an actual community event or convention surrounding these kinds of competitive games that brings with it an atmosphere of shared belonging and experience, and it’s probably why tournaments still act as community get-togethers as much as they are competitive slugfests.

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