It’s been the gift that has kept on giving for Brandon Wicke.
When Wicke was just six-years-old, he was gifted a new video game for his N64 that pitted his favourite Nintendo video game characters against one another in battle.
Super Smash Bros. is a Nintendo institution and one Wicke continues to play today, albeit with newer versions and newer Nintendo systems.
These days he and six others are training to take on hundreds of other players as the group of seven get ready to travel to Vancouver in May for the Battle of B.C. 5, billed as the largest Super Smash Bros. tournament in that province. The tournament will be held from May 19 to 21 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
“It’s what’s called a super major competition in competitive video games, which basically means that we’re expecting to see the best players from all across the world,” Wicke explained in an interview.
After going to the competition last year and witnessing first-hand the excitement of the competition, Wicke and others have worked to form the Yukon E-Sport non-profit, hosting a number of video game events in Whitehorse along with training to improve on their performance in 2022.
At that tournament, the Yukoners found themselves placing in the 90s out of 500 competitors.
“And we’re confident that we’re sending an even stronger team this year, where we might be able to even push those results a little higher,” he said.
As with any competition, the team from the Yukon are testing out their skills regularly to prepare.
Wicke is one of the few competitors to opt for entering both the more modern Smash Ultimate category that will be played on the Switch system, and the retro category on the Nintendo GameCube, the system that succeeded the N64 in 2001 and preceded Nintendo’s Wii in 2006.
“It’s a game series that’s been around for more than 20 years so lots of people have fallen in love with one chapter or another,” Wicke said.
Along with players having their favourite versions of the game itself, many also have a favourite character they like to play.
For Wicke, when he’s playing on the GameCube, it’s Sheik, the alter ego of Princess Zelda in the Zelda series of games. Meanwhile on the Wii, its Ness, who hails from the Super Nintendo Earthbound game, but has been part of the Super Smash Bros. series since it’s inception.
“People pick their [favourite characters] for all sorts of different reasons,” he said.
“Either you grew up loving that game, or, like in the case of Ness, for me, he was really bad in the old game and now he’s serviceable so I can play him and actually compete.
“As much as I might have loved the little guy in past versions, I wouldn’t have stood much of a chance. As for Sheik and Zelda piece, I loved the Zelda games growing up.”
It was in his university days that Wicke first got involved in the competitive side of Super Smash Bros., taking part in a couple of tournaments that were happening in Montreal, where he was going to school.
After moving into his career in theatre, he stopped playing the game as much, but that all changed with COVID-19.
“I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands and a lot more trouble creating live, in-person events for people to attend safely,” he said.
As Wicke started playing more and COVID-19 restrictions eased, he began organizing events and eventually working to create the Yukon E-Sports Alliance non-profit.
Along with meeting weekly at Titan Gaming & Collectibles to play and practise their skills, larger events have also been held at the Guild each month where gamers gather to play a variety of games. Events have featured everything from Mario Kart to Halo, with the group looking at the possibility of an April event set to focus on Pokemon games. While numbers vary at each event, Wicke noted his hope the events will grow and organizers are open to new ideas about what games could be the focus for events.
Wicke and the other six heading to the Battle of B.C. 5 will also continue testing one another’s skills on the gaming field, helping one another improve as they get ready.
As Wicke explained, like any skills it’s about practice and learning from one another.
“I think that in the broadest of senses, it’s practice makes perfect with everything,” he said.
“It’s repetition. It’s focused intention on identifying your own personal flaws and your successes as a player. Another set of eyes is so valuable and [knowing] the sort of competitors that you’re going to feed off of and are going to push you.”
The Yukon E-Sport Alliance can be found on Facebook with events listed.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at email@example.com