Hailing from little Ashland, Ohio, there weren’t many opportunities to compete in games. The only options for me were to drive to larger cities, attend conventions or play online tournaments.
But once I moved to Capital, there were many weekly tournaments, conventions and other small opportunities to play games at a competitive level.
Upon my first couple of entries, I was terrified of the competition and of embarrassing myself in front of them. However, as I went more often, I bonded with other competitors and it became more of a social event than a time to compete. This makes the whole experience much more enjoyable. I can’t recommend going with friends or going with the intent of meeting people enough.
Game Arena has a couple of locations around Columbus and is home to many different types of tournaments every day of the week. I’ll touch on Smash specifically later on, but they host VALORANT, League of Legends, Apex, Fortnite, and other fighting game tournaments on a weekly basis. The schedule depends on which Game Arena you go to, but their tournament schedule is easily accessible online.
I recently attended Ohayocon, with the intention to play in four tournaments: Teamfight Tactics, League of Legends, Apex, and Smash. With my inability to keep a tight schedule, especially with so many games pulling my attention, I only got to play in Teamfight Tactics.
The other batch of games that I wanted to play in have much more dedicated tournament communities online, so playing in a real-life tournament for Teamfight Tactics was really exciting. Conventions are a great way to introduce yourself to competition without the high octane stress of trying to win; everyone is there to just have a good time.
For Smash, there are a couple of weekly tournaments that occur relatively close to campus. SmashLAN’d is a Thursday night competition at Game Arena in Hilliard. This weekly competition is one of the largest in the midwest and the biggest in Ohio. During my first year, there was a common turn out of about 100 entrants. During the peak of the pandemic, this event and many other weeklies shut down.
Late last year, SmashLAN’d returned but with much fewer entrants. They have a 60 player limit, to promote social distancing and safety. This month, the tournament had roughly 40 entrants each week.
There are two other weeklies around Columbus for Smash worth checking out, but I have much less experience with these venues. Rubesday is a Melee tournament at Ruby Tuesday on Summit Street, and the Tuesday Trials at Game Arena on High Street. All of these events have a $3-6 fee to play, and often give you a discount for bringing a set-up (TV + game console).
There are two larger-scale tournaments that happen annually that are worth checking out at least once. Riptide is a tournament that hosts many games, mainly Smash and Rivals of Aether. The venue for the tournament is by far the biggest selling part, taking place at Kalahari Resort. I’ve never played in this tournament, but I went for one day of the three-day event to just get a sense of the scene. It was a great combination to have games and drinks in the lobbies and larger meeting rooms, then just a short walk away is this massive water resort.
The other regional tournament worth mentioning is Frostbite. This tournament happens in February in Detroit. While a bit far away, it is the largest regional tournament that’s accessible to us Ohioans. This tournament is a much more traditional Smash tournament compared to something like Riptide. Many big-time smash players attend this tournament as it’s considered a “major” tournament. Although Frostbite has been canceled for the last two years, it plans on returning in 2023.