The Lure of the Tournament

When I arrived at my new library at the very, very end of last year, the head of my department handed me a slip of paper with two names and telephone numbers and ‘Super Smash Bros Tournament’ scrawled in big letters across it. In the downtime between my predecessor’s departure and my arrival, two of our 7th graders had approached us with the idea of running a Super Smash Bros tournament for our Young Adults (here, ages 10 to 18). We own a Wii and the game and I figured why not give it a shot, even if I knew nothing about the game itself except it was decently popular. I chose a Friday afternoon, made a flyer and put it around the library in places the young adults might be, started fostering a relationship with our school librarians (although I didn’t get them the flyers, but just word of mouth) and called the two young suggesters to tell them when and where it would be.

I had no idea what to expect. We hadn’t had any teen programs since before school started and, from all I had learned, not much for a while before that either, at least nothing that they had come to. I dutifully bought snacks and monitored my registration – it wasn’t registration required but I’d offered it as an option so I’d have an idea of how much food and drink to have on hand. The day before, I figured out how to plug our Wii into a projector so that it could be a spectator sport. By that time, I had maybe 5 kids signed up. The next day, it rocketed quickly to around 15 so I was ecstatic.

I got 30 kids. 25 of whom competed in the tournament. My program time slot was 90 minutes, so I quickly fudged up an impromptu bracket – with so many kids, we did groups of 4 with the top two kids in each game moving on to the next round. I didn’t actually post a bracket because of the chaos but kept track of winners’ names on paper. My group was mostly the middle schoolers, but I happily got a smattering of high schoolers. All boys. The kids were really good about playing fairly and not complaining about the numbers and how half of them got to play only one round before being eliminated. They didn’t seem to care much as long as they could watch the other rounds and root for their favorites. We did have one small incident with a fist thrown because of overzealous taunting, but we had a brief chat about how rooting for someone and rooting AGAINST someone are two different things and they were fine for the rest of the time.

I did another tournament last month and got about half the number of kids, which actually worked better. Every teen got to play at least two rounds (we had a winner and loser bracket) and there was about 20 minutes at the end for free play.

I found a couple things important. The huge screen is key as is the projector. It allows the other kids to spectate at their leisure. Snacks and drinks are welcome because clearly cheering people on and competition makes you thirsty. Both times, they’ve gone through everything I’ve offered. Do not offer popcorn because they unintentionally grind it into the carpet. I’ve allowed them to bring in their own controllers and so far, other than the occasional confusion over which of our Wii remotes work at any given minute, I’ve not had an issue with it. None of the other kids have complained to the group or to me that the other controllers give an unfair advantage and one of our best kids uses the Wii remote to great success. Also, thankfully, one of the high schoolers got here early and offered to help set up and showed me what settings to put to keep the rounds fair but not lasting forever. If I hadn’t known that, there might have been trouble. The second time, I just told one of my regulars to set it up like normal and they were fine with it.

Since then, Fridays, in general, I’ve found, are not great for drawing the crowds (or sometimes anyone), unless it’s something as big and exciting as a tournament. My prizes are nothing special, old summer reading prizes that didn’t get used, but they love them anyway. Also, in general, I have no been able to replicate the ability to get word out quite the same way, but it’s a work in progress.

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