The sounds of slashes, punches, kicks and shouts from screens sharply juxtapose a dozen players who are mostly quiet, honed in on their games. Every so often, a burst of shouts will erupt in celebration. A handful of spectators sit back and just watch, muttering to each other about strategy, or maybe snickering at a friend’s massive failure.
At a typical Fighting Games Club meeting, members crowd around five different gaming systems, practicing their “Super Smash Brothers” skills for an upcoming tournament or throwing down in “Mortal Kombat” or “Gang Beasts” for fun.
Forming just three weeks before being recognized by Student Senate in October, FGC has grown rapidly leading up to its first tournaments this semester.
FGC President senior Collin Siebert, FGC Vice President sophomore C’Antae Kaid, freshman Michael Mullins, senior Jordon Smith and junior Tim Baggett traveled to Iowa State University to compete in their first off-campus tournament Feb. 17, where they took second place.
“I feel really good about it, but Iowa State definitely has been more established than us, a lot more time and practice, and they’re a lot more organized,” Siebert said. “It really let me reflect on what we need to improve on as a club if we want to be more serious and a lot better.”
Iowa State’s team streams every match, including those at the tournament, on Twitch, which they can then watch afterward to critique and learn from. Siebert said watching back the streams has given the club a lot to reflect on.
Siebert said facing opponents outside the club gave the group a new perspective on its abilities.
“They have tournaments with lots more people, so you get to face other talents because facing the same people every day, you might be better than them, but you don’t see where you can improve as much,” Siebert said. “Facing that was a wakeup call that these people are a lot better, which helps you be more serious in the end.”
FGC is collaborating with Anime Club and the Association of Computer Machining on campus to host two tournaments this month, but its next off-campus tournament is Sweet Spot 5, March 30, in Lawrence, Kansas.
Siebert said although the club takes competing seriously preparing for a tournament feels more like fun than practice.
However, even though members can practice any time virtually anywhere, Siebert said nothing is better than training at a competition.
“Being there and actually getting ready, the hardest part is mental,” Siebert said. “Getting psyched out by your own mistakes, usually you’d blow it off, but playing at a tournament where a loss means a loss, it has a lot more weight, so it’s a lot more of a mental battle.”
Siebert says he hopes FGC will be an esports club by next year, with the goal of eventually becoming an esports team that practices and competes like esports teams across the country.
“We’ve already been in contact with Greg (Hansen), who is the student affairs campus recreation assistant vice president, and talking closely about becoming esports,” Siebert said. “But also getting the money to get area, infrastructure, internet and computers to do esports and compete in more than just our fighting games.”
Siebert said if an esports club could be established in the fall, the group could have well over 100 members to compete in more competitive games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch.
Siebert said the club is about more than competition for the members, though. Many have built a community.
“A lot of these people somewhat knew each other,” Siebert said. “But a lot of people built friendships around these new people to where it’s not just in the club that they’re meeting each other, but they’re hanging out a lot outside of the club.”