Every Wednesday night, a group of gamers set up what looks like an old-school LAN party in a back room at the King’s Sports Bar.
Televisions and computer monitors, gaming consoles and streaming equipment are set up on folding tables lining the walls, with one main system set up near the center of the room.
For those who aren’t tech savvy, teens used to get together and hook their computers together so they could join them and play games on a Local Area Network (LAN).
A couple dozen young men filter in between 5 and 6 p.m., toting their big equipment, wires and controllers and talking excitedly about the game plan for the night.
Joshua Hughes has already been on site, setting up recording equipment and making sure everything gets organized according to plan.
Hughes is the tournament organizer for the Northeast Nebraska Smash Scene — the local Super Smash Bros. Ultimate league and a part of the larger Nebraska Smash Scene.
“We usually start a Smash Bros. bracket competition at 6 p.m., and it will run until about 9 or 10 p.m. There’s a $5 entry fee and a pot for the first-, second- and third-place winners. We try to record the top eight matches of the bracket, so people can analyze their footage later on,” Hughes said.
At 6, he calls out the gamer tags — the names competitors go by when they play — in pairs that will compete in the first round of the bracket. Not everyone plays at once, so there are always a few watching their fellow gamers or playing different games on retro consoles between matches.
On this particular Wednesday, that game is the original Super Smash Bros. Melee game on a Nintendo GameCube.
“We usually host a side bracket at 5:15, and that’s a single-elimination, free bracket. It’s other fighting games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken. But when Pokémon Sword and Shield come out in November, we’re going to switch out our side events for Pokémon events. And those are going to be regular brackets, just like the Smash ones. We’re hoping to attract more Pokémon players,” Hughes said.
The group has been playing together at King’s since Super Smash Bros. Ultimate came out for the Wii Switch last November, but the group has been in existence for about five years. Hughes said he previously hosted similar tournaments at the Ponca Tribe for Smash for Wii U.
“We play every Wednesday, but there’s pretty much a tournament every day in Nebraska, except for Saturdays. We usually try to bring a group to the Lincoln tournaments every single Sunday. And whenever there’s a monthly in Nebraska — where they’re trying to attract people from Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas — we try to go to those as well, once a month,” Hughes said.
Although the current demographic is a bit homogeneous, Hughes said the group is welcoming of guys and girls of any age who want to come play video games.
“We’re open to anyone joining. We love people who play video games, so just come by and have fun. Bring your family, bring your friends. We’re always open to having people just show up,” he said.
Interested gamers don’t have to own a Switch or the Smash Bros. game, either.
“You can just come and play games — we always bring extra controllers for people who may not have a controller.”