Debacle over Esports Club at SMC

The room was filled with the sound of ancient televisions, the energetic clack and snap of the controllers, and the creatively varied insults from the mouths of the attending patrons. There was around twenty to thirty people, many of whom had just met in person for the first time, spread across the room huddled around the behemoth TV sets, intently focused on destroying their opponents. This wasn’t just a match for fun, there was money riding on every battle, with the winner taking home a grand prize of a few hundred dollars.

Santa Monica College (SMC) student Ryan Dempsey didn’t always just host twelve hour Super Smash Brothers tournaments in his family’s home. In the spring semester of 2018, he pursued the formation of an Electronic Sports (Esports) club on campus but was never able to have this dream come to fruition. Along with Dempsey, there was an avid group of gamers who sought to establish the club. Despite their efforts, they found the Inter-Club Council (ICC) system to be unaccommodating to their request. They are forced to meet unofficially in places like this, where they can exercise their mental fortitude in combat.

“I didn’t get much help to set up a club in any way,” Dempsey said. “They would give you cards to talk to people but those people don’t talk to you or call you back... It wasn’t that helpful, and when the Associated Students office isn’t making it easy for you to make a club when it’s already really difficult to make a club, it makes it really hard to get the rest of the people in the club.”

One of Dempsey’s friends and a fellow gamer, Michael Silver, describes the sense of community that gamers found with each other when playing older titles such as Super Smash Brothers.

“I really like [Super Smash Bros.] and what it can do for people. This game, because it’s so old school, it’s not online, isn’t so developed as games like League of Legends or Fortnite, etc. There is more intimacy when you meet someone,” Silver said.

SMC, though a community college, is located near a number of universities like UC Irvine, UCLA, and USC, who all sponsor their esports teams. Dempsey and his friends dreamed of doing the same at SMC. However, they soon ran into pitfalls. The ICC requires that every club have a group of officers who are all taking at least six units, a club president who holds only this office, a delegate to attend all ICC meetings who must also be an approved officer, and a full-time professor to be their advisor. All of whom must take a quiz provided by ICC in order to be approved.

“We wouldn’t be able to find a professor that’s full time to sponsor us," Dempsey said. "Professor Julia Raz was super cool and she teaches the video gaming class, the history of video gaming class at SMC, and she was willing to help me… [but] she wouldn’t have been able to go to all the meetings.”

Dempsey also encountered problems with constantly bringing equipment to and from the main campus. He would have to haul three heavy cathode-ray tube (CRT) televisions to campus, in addition to a "duffle bag full of consoles."

"And we were stealing the tables from the cafeteria to do it… We had no funding which meant that we had no resources to make it a comfortable space to play in,” Dempsey explained.

Despite the failure to form a club, and the challenges they face bringing materials to school, the group of gamers can easily be found duking it out on a TV and Nintendo Switch in the cafeteria. They still hope to one day form their club and gain access to the coveted college tournament circuit that could help launch their professional Esports careers.