My Time at GatorLAN Spring 2014

Gator Gaming is a student-led gaming organization at the University of Florida that hosts a video game tournament, GatorLAN, every semester. Recently they held their spring semester event. As I had just defended my dissertation two days prior, I decided to attend, the perfect way to wind down after a semester of hard work!

GatorLAN is a 12-hour event in which numerous video game tournaments are held, including League of Legends, Street Fighter, Smash Bros., Pokémon, and more. I attended my first GatorLAN a couple years ago when I first arrived at UF. I signed up for the Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament and started practicing the day before the event. I thought I was pretty decent at SSB and thought maybe I’d win a match or two.

I was dead wrong.

I got demolished in the first round. The matches were best 2/3 with three stock lives: I only managed to KO my opponent once. Those players did things in SSB that I had never conceived of. Their characters moved so fast, and they knew the ins and outs of their characters, down to the individual frames of animation for each attack.

After that whomping, I didn’t return to GatorLAN. My perception was that this group of gamers was just too hardcore, too dedicated, for me to compete with.

But, as I stated in the introduction, I did go back! The lure this time was Pokémon. They were holding a Pokémon X and Y tournament, and I had recently gotten into the game a month before. I’d been strategizing for weeks how to best form my team. I read advice online (this website was my friend); I played constantly with my roommate, ever refining my move-set. I knew the competition would be fierce, and I didn’t have high hopes of even winning one match. At the very least, I thought it would be fun to at least see other people’s teams.

The tournament was double-elimination (unlike the previous SSB tournament) so I knew I was guaranteed to play twice. And twice is all I played! I actually did slightly better on my first match. My team was Vaporeon (my best), Jolteon (my second best), Gourgeist, Talonflame, Roserade, and Furfrou. What was more fun than the tournament, though, was  playing casual matches with other people, including some of my students. I got some great advice on how to improve my team and even won a few matches!

The other cool thing about this GatorLAN was the casual SSB Melee matches I played with some students. In the center of the ballroom they had a stage were the finales of various tournaments were completed. All matches were streamed on Twitch.tv and included commentary from two eSports announcers. I was contacted earlier in the week by one of the organizers who asked me to participate in a faculty vs. students match-up. Absolutely!

Before the match, I was interviewed briefly by one of the commentators, Primary Lotus. Catch the interview in the video below:

Primary Lotus Interview at GatorLAN

(Clicking the image opens the video in a new window)

Next, I played some SSBM matches with students. Some matches pitted one-student-one-professor team against the other, and sometimes we did professors vs. students. The students were clearly the best, but I could hold my own and got some kills in. The other professor, though, did not know very much about SSB and was clearly the weakest link. Fortunately, all the streams were saved, so you can catch my matches below!

A couple notes of context. First, the announcers mistakenly identified the participants in this video. The person they thought was me (Professor Frohlich) was actually Professor Goldberg. He was player 1; I was player 4 (the one with the name identifier “DENS” as in “Dennis”). All in all, it was a great 20 minutes and I had a lot of fun playing with everybody!

Game on,
~Dennis

SSBM Faculty vs. Student Matches at GatorLAN

(Clicking the image opens the video in a new window)

Last Night There was a Mario Kart 64 Tournament. Good Thing I Have This Luigi Costume for Just Such an Occasion

I came as Luigi to the Mario Kart 64 tournament

I’m sporting Luigi’s classic look from Super Mario Bros. days on the NES: white overalls with green shirt.

All week my apartment complex has been hosting “beginning of the semester” events. Last night they capped off the first week back at school with a Mario Kart 64 tournament.

Because I teach a class about video games, I had just the costume for the occasion: classic Luigi! Everybody was super excited when I walked in.

Unfortunately, my entrance didn’t match my playing ability. I volunteered for the first round of 4 player verses and promptly lost in the first round, on Moo Moo Farm, no less!

Naturally I chose Luigi, but I don’t really like Luigi all that much, so by the time I figured out how to control with his character the race was over.

Oh well! My roommate won the tournament, and afterward I did much better in the pick-up matches, using Peach, of course.

A lot of serious gamers don’t like the Mario Kart series because of it’s randomness and balance. Mario Kart is one of those games that rewards people for being bad. If you are toward the end of the pack, you get better power-ups than the guy in first place. Thus, the guy in first place has a very difficult time staying in first place because so many people are gunning for him.

I understand that concern; however, Mario Kart has always been about fun more than fairness. About 20 people participated in the tournament; about half were decently good at Mario Kart. A few were terrible. But even the people who had to be told “A is for acceleration, B is for break” had a lot of fun.

And despite the “unfairness” of Mario Kart, the best players still find a way to win.

Game on,
~Dennis