Featured Group: Bourbon State Smash

Featured Group: Bourbon State Smash

by Michael Pfaff; photographs provided by Bourbon State Smash, Michael Melhorn

Link v. Donkey Kong; Mario v. Pikachu; Samus v. Mega Man: only in Super Smash Bros

When many people think about Super Smash Bros., they think of it as a casual Nintendo fighting game played on a couch among close-knit friends. But, in addition to casual play, Super Smash Bros. has a competitive scene thriving throughout the nation.

In Louisville, Bourbon State Smash aims to fill a niche that not only speaks to competitive players, but also casual players looking to meet new friends to compete against or enter into the local competitive scene. Bourbon State Smash organizes tournament events in and around Louisville for Super Smash Bros. players. They hold monthly tournaments and every Tuesday they have an event at The Hideaway Saloon on Bardstown Road in the Highlands. The founders, Alex PardueCamber Griffin, and Jeremy Tyler are all Louisville natives who took it upon themselves to help develop the scene locally.

“I realized I loved this game and I wanted to play with more people,” Alex said.

Bourbon State Smash’s first tournament; a handful of friends playing in Alex’s apartment.

Bourbon State Smash began casually enough in Alex’s living room, playing small tournaments with friends and friends of friends. But, after the first couple tournaments, attendance quickly grew beyond what could be hosted there. So, naturally, instead of not permitting new players, they decided to expand it and create Bourbon State Smash.

“Our first tournament was like 12 players,” Alex said. “Then, it was just a swarm. We got too big. So, we reached out to Brandy, the owner of Something 2 Do, and she agreed to help us out.”

With a larger space at Something 2 Do, the tournaments expanded rapidly. The group went from doing brackets by hand and spray-painting objects gold for prizes to teaching themselves tournament programming, establishing cash prizes, and investing hundreds of dollars into better equipment and promotion.

A more recent Bourbon State Smash tournament.

It worked. Through bold flyers around town and word-of-mouth from fans, Bourbon State Smash events are now bringing in dozens of attendees. Alex and Camber humbly attribute their success to help the community has given them and the focus on what they call a “casually competitive” atmosphere at the events.

“We’ve had people show up and say they had so much fun because it wasn’t as competitive as some other tournaments they’ve been too,” Alex said.

Camber elaborated:

“We consider ourselves an incubator for casual players. We had one guy show up and barely knew how to play the game. But, he kept showing up and getting better and better. He began making friends, ranking, and before long was really invested in the scene.”

This emphasis on community and friendship radiates through Alex and Camber. They said it really is more about breaking through cliques and building relationships with the other players. And, the way their events are structured, they really emphasize building those relationships. Even if you lose the tournament, there is a section dedicated toward friendly games where players can play casually and teach other. Furthermore, other activities, like costume contests keep people entertained. 

“Our crowd goes for fun,” Camber said. “If they get knocked out, they’ll stay and play all day. We had a six year old kid who came with his parents and actually beat someone. It was a friendly match and they were playing the same character, teaching each other. That’s what we want.”

Contestants in a Bourbon State Smash costume contest.

The entry fees for the tournaments are modest ($3-7) and the majority of that goes to paying the venue owner and the prize pool (or, in the case of the Hideaway events, shots that go to the winners of games so they get drunker the more they win). Alex and Camber said they are fine with not making money off all their effort and time put into the group.

“It is just rewarding throwing a tournament and seeing how much fun everyone has,” Camber said.

Alex said the community is what motivates them to continue doing more. In the future, Bourbon State Smash is looking to expand under the moniker, Bourbon State Gaming, which focuses on other games’, like Starcraft and Street Fighter, tournaments. In addition to the tournaments, social connectivity using YouTube and Twitch for Let’s Plays, recordings of the tournaments, and funny videos is a goal for Alex and Camber.

Bourbon State Smash’s last tournament of the year is tomorrow at Something 2 Do. Each tournament has a theme and this one is Wanted: Luigi where certain players will have Luigi hats and if you beat them you can score bounties. It’s $7 to compete and if you bring your own setup, you get $1 off the entry fee. If you’re new to the scene, go talk to Alex or Camber. They want you to show up and feel comfortable.

“When you come to the tournament, come talk to me,” Alex said. “We’ll hang out with you and coach you on how to get better. We’re really a bunch of friends.”

To find out more about Bourbon State Smash, visit Bourbon State Smash’s Facebook group, and join along with nearly 250 other members. Also, check out their YouTube and Twitch accounts for media.

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Mike Pfaff

Mike is the co-founder of Nerd Louisville and still volunteers from time-to-time. He's been a nerd since he was first introduced to Dungeons & Dragons when he was a wee lad and continues playing to this day. You can play games with him at Slur Your Role or other Nerd Louisville events.