by Lucas Schmidt
Smashing beers while smashing in Smash Bros.
Combining video game arcade cabinets with the nightlife of bars isn’t a revolutionary idea, but it’s not everyday that an arcade cabinet in a bar is handcrafted by local artists and fundraised by a Super Smash Bros. tournament. Such a cabinet now sits in the basement of the bar Be Here Now, where it begs to be played by any patrons, at no cost.
The cabinet was built by Glue & Scissors, a Muncie art collective that collaborates on various projects such as art shows and organizing musical performances. This year they wanted to create something that deviated heavily from the routine of their previous works, but was still achievable within the members’ skillsets.
“Glue & Scissors wanted to define a new direction that played off its members’ strengths. Where in the past we’ve been known primarily for art shows and concerts, we wanted to expand our boundaries. Our new members, as well as being musicians, writers, artists, are also programmers and designers,” said Blake Mellencamp, assistant creative director of Glue & Scissors.
But before they could start building the arcade cabinet they had to raise several hundreds of dollars for the necessary materials. Since the funds would be used to build a machine primarily built for Smash Bros., it seemed only natural that the funds should be gathered through a Smash Bros. tournament. And by bringing people to Be Here Now, the tournament doubled as a promotional event for the cabinet’s inevitable unveiling.
“The arcade machine had already been decided as a free-to-play game system, but the idea of bringing the whole community together to have a hand in making it a reality just seemed too extraordinarily awesome that we couldn’t pass it up,” said Andy August, creative director of Glue & Scissors.
The fundraising tournament
With Ball State University’s campus right down the street, the members of Glue & Scissors figured they would be able to draw in enough young college students to have a large and vigorous Smash Bros. tournament. They dubbed it the Boldly Brawl Ball and set up a Facebook event. It quickly gained traction online and when the cold, February night of the tournament arrived, Be Here Now was packed.
“I’m not sure any of us knew quite what the response would be, but we certainly weren’t disappointed. I didn’t realize there’s such a huge Super Smash scene around here and the first night we had about 10 or 15 people sharing the event and we just started getting an unprecedented amount of interest,” said August.
With nearly 30 competitors in the Boldly Brawl Ball, two setups were in constant rotation of 1 vs 1 matches as spectators and waiting competitors watched. Since one setup used Smash Bros. Melee, and the other used Smash Bros. for Wii U, the tournament was split into two brackets, one for each game.
A third game console and screen were set up for casual games to play Project M, a popular mod of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Many people attendees were dressed as Smash Bros. characters because doing so exempted them from the bar’s cover charge. Anyone who walked into Be Here Now that night would have quickly sensed that the patrons were there for more than just music and beer.
After dozens of matches, the tournament was settled and the champions of both brackets made it clear that it takes years of practice to win such a tournament.
Dan Fischer, a senior elementary education major at Ball State, said he loves the sense of community that exists among many people who play Smash Bros. He was exposed to the competitive aspect of the game by watching professionals play.
“You’ve got this community of people who have this one game in common and it’s really cool to see that bring people together,” he said. “First time I saw competitive Smash, I knew that’s how I wanted to play.”
Fischer keeps his skills sharp by practicing at least five times a week, and says his roots in athletics had a heavy influence on his passion for competitive Smash Bros.
“I’m a very competitive person. I’ve been an athlete all my life,” he said. “What really got me into it was the competitive nature. It’s really great to put time into something and get results.”
Fischer won the Smash Bros. Melee bracket and was rewarded with having his name painted on the frontside of the arcade cabinet.
“I can’t wait to have my name on it,” he said. “I actually hadn’t heard of Be Here Now until today. I’d definitely like to come back.”
Joe Clemmer won the Smash Bros. for Nintendo Wii U bracket and is no stranger to the competitive side of the game. He said he played two and a half years of Smash Bros. Brawl in Major League Gaming, and competed in more than 50 tournaments. When he was in school, he honed his abilities by playing with roommates and friends.
“My roommates learned to hate the game because of me,” Clemmer said.
By the tournament’s end, competitors were already buying one another drinks at the bar and excitedly reminiscing about the night’s matches.
Glue & Scissors now had much of the funds they needed to build the arcade cabinet.
Constructing and painting the cabinet
In the months following the tournament, Glue & Scissors assembled the cabinet, arranged all the electronics and painted on illustrations that reflected those in the community who contributed to the project.
The Super Smash Bros. arcade cabinet will have its unveiling this Saturday night at 8:30 at Be Here Now.
The Smash Bros. tournament will be divided into three brackets: Smash Bros. for Wii U, Melee and Project M. Mario Kart will be set up on the projector for anyone to play.
Cover charge is $4 and registration in the tournament is $6. Free frozen yogurt is included for all entries and live music will be performed all night. All fees will go towards future community projects such as the arcade cabinet.
For those who are interested, more information can be found on the event’s Facebook page.