Super Smash Bros. gets competitive at Missoula's Montana Melee 

For a video game fan, the name "Super Smash Bros." conjures images of adolescent sleepovers and afternoons spent on the couch with friends, furiously clicking away at GameCube controllers. The wildly popular fighting game series, featuring a swath of Nintendo characters including Mario and Kirby across five titles, has a fairly simple objective: To win, a player has to knock the other players off the stage. But beneath the obvious objective is a complex and nuanced collection of techniques that gamers all over the world have taken to a competitive level.

Montana is no stranger to competitive Smash Bros., and is home to a handful of notable players. One of them, Richy Schoessler, a 21-year-old restaurant server living in Bozeman, will travel to Missoula on June 10 to compete in Montana Melee, a statewide fighting game tournament benefitting Watson's Children's Shelter at Ruby's Inn and Convention Center.

Like many players, Schoessler started playing Smash Bros. with friends as a kid. He started with Super Smash Bros. Melee, the second game in the series, released in 2001 for the Nintendo GameCube. But Schoessler soon moved beyond casual play, learning to utilize glitches and bugs in the game's code to his advantage.

After competing in his first tournament, in Billings, during his junior year of high school, Schoessler quickly ascended the ranks, regularly taking first in the city-wide tournaments he traveled to every weekend. His skill did not go unnoticed, and he was signed to a competitive fighting game league called Team Entropy in March of last year.

click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY CHARLIE WYBIERALA
  • illustration by Charlie Wybierala

Entropy, based in Bozeman, has multiple teams that compete in different games, including Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Kyle Hale, the 22-year-old CEO of Entropy, says Schoessler is one of his most ambitious players.

"He's really driven to be the best in Montana, and to travel and get as good as he possibly can," Hale says. "In Montana, that's kind of rare, because there's a lot of people that kind of die down from how small our scene is."

The Montana fighting-game scene may be small, but its players are a dedicated bunch, who pour a significant amount of time into learning the ins and outs of the games they play. Russ Simkins, the 31-year-old co-founder of Montana Melee, has catered to hardcore players like Schoessler since 2011, when he and Seth Faber staged their first statewide tournament in Butte. Since then, Montana Melee has grown into a destination event for fighting game enthusiasts, with more than 100 players attending last year's event in Missoula. Simkins wants to bring the feel of international tournaments, like Evolution in Las Vegas, to Montana.

"We want to try to give them as much of the big fight feel [in] the small area that we live in," Simkins says.

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