Marth, a scrawny blue-haired character, is down to one life, and Anthony Xie, playing as Fox, a speedy pistol-holding character, spits out rapid trash talk at his opponent, Tai Nguyen. “I’m going to beat the Tai Nguyen,” Xie mutters in sarcastic disbelief. After several seconds of expeditious clicking, Fox boots Marth off the stage, and Nguyen pauses the game. Meanwhile, Xie is already halfway across the room in his victory lap, silently celebrating his first-ever win against Nguyen.
Super Smash Bros., known colloquially by its players as just “Smash,” is a Nintendo multiplayer battle game that features characters from a collection of Nintendo’s most popular games. During a Smash match, each player attacks the others with a variety of moves ranging from mallet strikes to laser beams, with the ultimate goal of knocking the other players off the stage.
The game’s following at Palo Alto High School constitutes a relatively small community of gamers, most of whom play casually at Smash Club, which meets once per week in Room 204. A few, however, are active tournament competitors, including sophomore club Vice President Anthony Xie and senior Tai Nguyen.
According to Xie, playing “competitive” Smash merely means using advanced tactics that take years to develop. Competing on the national level would entail years more of practice, he says.
“I don’t think anyone at the high school level can be a national competitor because you’d be playing against people who have been playing for 10 [or] 12 years,” Xie says.
Nguyen, a semi-frequent attendee of Smash Club, is also an active regional competitor.
“I go to a lot of tournaments, mostly around the area,” Nguyen says. “They [the participants] are mostly college-aged people and you just go and compete for the whole day.”
Smash tournaments can be cutthroat, but Smash Club at Paly provides an unrivaled group experience, according to Xie. He describes the club as a group of easygoing gamers who are united by a common interest in the game and who share a love for the casual, stress-relieving environment.
“Going to Smash Club is like relief time,” Xie says. “It’s simultaneously a competitive thing but it’s also just playing for fun.”
Although the founders of Smash Club graduated last year, the leadership transition was smooth and painless, according to Xie.
“The transition of leadership was pretty natural,” he said. “Smash Club was more freely run, [but] nowadays we treat it more like a legit club, and we take it more seriously.”
He noted that the structure of the club doesn’t take away from its relaxed nature; it just adds an extra level of organization to make the club run fluidly.
The game itself is uniquely entertaining and is in a completely different league than other mainstream video games, according to Xie.
“It allows you to be creative and expressive,” he says. “You can watch a game of two people playing the same character, and I can tell you [that] this person has this sort of play style [and] that person has that sort of play style. It’s very easy to identify people based on play style.”
Xie says he finds the individualism in Smash an especially appealing part of the game.
“You can make your own unique and individual style, and you can form an identity around it,” he says.
Both Nguyen and Xie believe that the wider Smash community – beyond just that of Paly – is an easy-to-join group of people that always offers pure fun and excitement.
“It’s a really easy community to get into,” Xie says. “You can’t play online with people as easily so there’s much more face to face interaction, and there are always people that are friendly.”