Tensions flared, screens flashed and comradery soared as both a returning champion and numerous other students duked it out in UNH’s semesterly “Night of Tournaments,” held in the Memorial Union Building Games Room on Thursday, March 21.
When the dust finally settled at the end of the night, junior statistics major Cameron Young emerged as the winner of the “FIFA 19” matchup for the second semester in a row following an eight-minute game, a four-minute overtime round and even a last-resort “penalty kicks” showdown, all the while sporting vibrant red, white and blue garb celebrating the New England Revolution soccer team.
“[It] feels really good,” Young said. “I won the tournament last semester as well, so I felt like coming back to defend my title…it came down to luck in the end.”
Young, as did the night’s other winners – first-year computer science major Braxton Holloway for “Super Smash Bros.,” first-year electrical engineering Ph.D. student Muhammad Zaheer for table tennis and fellow student Keegan Penny for billiards – each received a $25 Amazon gift card courtesy of the Games Room; each game’s runner-up received their choice of a Memorial Union-branded hat, t-shirt or a water bottle.
As with previous semesters, this semester’s tournament featured students competing in either billiards, table tennis, “FIFA 19” and, the most popular of them all, “Super Smash Bros.” for Nintendo Wii U, the latter of which saw the most signups with 13 participants. Meanwhile, billiards saw the second-highest participation with nine students, followed by “FIFA” with six and table tennis with five. Although none of the games maxed out their sheets, unlike last semester, the event’s popularity was evident in the mass of students waiting outside the Games Room’s entrance nearly half an hour before the tournament’s start.
“It’s a night for students to come and have fun,” Games Room Supervisor Theresa Faist said. “…I think it’s important for the MUB to have fun activities and it’s important for the students to unwind doing what they love to do.”
In the “Smash” part of the tournament, participants could use custom controllers – such as specialized wired GameCube controllers designed just for the game – and choose from any of the available characters in the roster, including classics like Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Donkey Kong and others. However, only “omega” (or one-floor flat maps) could be chosen, and no items or other unauthorized rules, abilities or perks were permitted. Students competed one-on-one in matches of three rounds each, with the winner of the match moving on down the bracket. Because not all 16 slots were filled on the bracket – and due to the odd number of participants – some students were randomly selected to face an initial “bye” round, meaning that they automatically moved on to the next round without having to face an opponent from the get-go.
Despite the intensity of the one-on-one brawls, “Smash” fighters shared a positive perspective on the game and how, like the rest of the tournament’s offerings, brought students, who would otherwise never meet up, together regardless of skill level.
“…I like playing video games and I like feeling like I’m good at video games, and then losing to people who are better than me at said video games,” first-year computer science major Alexander Mercedes said as to why he attended, adding that the event “gives an opportunity for people who are interested in the same things to really, like, meet each other, figure out each other,” and see “who else likes things you like on campus.”
For the “FIFA” contest, its nine competitors chose between its roster of teams (excluding more powerful “all-star” teams) and faced off in a two-player eight-minute game divided into two four-minute halves, according to Games Room employee and senior forestry major Kyle Roy. Roy added that if nobody managed to score more than their opponent before the game ended, it extended into a four-minute “overtime” round with the same rules. If a tie remained even after overtime, the players would compete in a game of “penalty kicks” in which, per Roy, players would go back-and-forth trying to score as close to seven goals from the box surrounding the net as possible, with the highest-scoring player after the seven attempts being declared the winner. Like Smash, the odd number of students in the event also resulted in one of the students facing a bye round.
Meanwhile, both billiards and table tennis followed similar rules to previous iterations of the tournament. In the former event, players were tasked with shooting the black eight ball into the correct “pocket” (or hole) first before their competitors did but only after successfully shooting the other colored balls into the other pockets as well. As Games Room employee and junior mechanical engineering major Victor Lendaro told The New Hampshire last November, players had to announce which hole they intended for the ball to enter prior to taking a shot; should a player fail to land the eight ball in the correct pocket, they would lose the game, resulting in a last-man-standing vibe that built tension in a game’s final moments. Concerning the latter sport, players won by winning two out of three rounds and by scoring eleven points per round.
Games Room employee Roy acknowledged to The New Hampshire that turnout this semester was lower than previous iterations of the tournament, pointing to its timing after spring break and other popular events happening that night (such as “Meme Bingo” in the Granite State Room) as likely causes.