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February 03, 2011 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-02-03

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, February 3, 2011- 3B

For the glory of the games


'Smash Bros.' and
'StarCraft' unite in
Daily Arts Writer
Though most members of the
student body might not be aware
of them, two devoted, tightly
knit video game communities
exist in the far corners of cam-
pus. These underground groups
don't advertise at Festifall - one
isn't even officially recognized
by the University as an organiza-
tion. Yet, because of the competi-
tive appeal of the games, both
groups have gained members
and formed passionate commu-
nities through word of mouth
and online promotion. They are
the Smash League and the Star-
Craft Team.
Though their numbers might
be small, both groups at the Uni-
versity are part of a larger video
game scene, both regionally and
The brotherhood of "Smash"
As TVs roll into the room, peo-
ple do as well, happily greeting
each other with GameCubes and
controllers in hand. Players yell
to each other about impressive
combos or recoveries. This is the
Thursday night scene on the third
floor of Mason Hall, where a local
"Smashfest" is being held in one
of the classrooms. Smashfests are
organized "Super Smash Bros."
events that regularly happen on
campus. Players compete in both
"Super Smash Bros. Brawl" and
"Super Smash Bros. Melee," two
different versions of the game.
Both involve pitting famous Nin-
tendo characters against each
other in combat.
Since it's long after class
hours, no room reservations
need to be made and TVs can be
wheeled in from almost every
room on the floor.
"It's almost as if Mason Hall
was built for this," said Engineer-
ing sophomore Robin Harn, one
of the club's main organizers.
While it's obvious that every-

Smashfests take place on the third floor of Mason Hall.

one in the room is very skilled
and serious about their play,
there's a very genial atmosphere
as well. It feels vibrant - chit-
chat is everywhere, and every-
one's eyes are focused on the
screens. By 10 p.m., more than
20 people have shown up for this
traditionally four-person game.
Not all are even students at the
University - a few of them have
come all the way from East Lan-
sing and Southfield.
Ann Arbor is a hub in the state
of Michigan for those who love
competitive "Smash Bros."
"The entire Michigan (video
game) community grew out of
Ann Arbor," said LSA senior
Jason Bowyer, who was, here
when the competitive "Smash
Bros." scene took off in 2007.
The players are here to have
fun, but many of them are also
here to hone their skills to
become more competitive for
larger tournaments. There are
regional tournaments for money
prizes in Chicago and Ann Arbor,
and larger ones in places like
New Jersey. As recently as two
weeks ago, part of Michigan's
Smash League traveled to Kansas
to compete ina tournament.
"I've traveled out of state over
30 times," Bowyer said. "You'll

see tournaments that are giving
out four to five grand for first
Though Bowyer has never
won that much, he says he won
$900 at one of the tournaments
he attended.
Most of these gatherings,
whether local Smashfests or
national tournaments, are orga-
nized through Smashboards.com
- the primary website regarding
"Super Smash Bros." play.
When asked why the game
is so compelling competitively,
players said that both a desire to
improve their technique and the
inclusive nature of the scene is
what drew them in.
"There's no ceiling to 'Smash'
- you can keep getting better
and better," Harn said.
LSA sophomore Brian
Northrup, one of the other main
organizers, said he plays from an
aspiration to be the best.
"(However), the community
aspect of it is really what's kept
me here," Northrup said.
Despite its popularity among
select students, the "Smash"
community at the University is
fairly nebulous. Smashfests can
often be impromptu, and some
people have fallen away from the
scene while others have joined.
"(The group) has become
a little more hardcore, so not
as many older guys come,"
Northrup said. "But we've kept a
number of people; we've gained
a lot more."
World of "StarCraft"
A more structured and sub-
dued scene can be witnessed on
Saturday nights at the computer
labs in the Michigan League,
where the University's StarCraft
Team meets to play. They play
"StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty,"
an in-depth real-time strategy
game, in which players work to
tactically produce and manage
armed forces successfully in
order to defeat their opponent's
armed forces.
With about eight or so people
showing up in the labs to com-
pete, it may not look like the
University StarCraft Team has
much going on, but in reality,
they are part of something mas-
sive. The team is part of the Col-
legiate StarLeague - a league
that consists of 144 colleges

across the continent, each with
its own "StarCraft" team. This
league is separated into divisions
of 18 teams each. Each team in
the division plays the other 17
online in a round-robin fash-
ion each week, and at the end of
the 17-week season, the top four
teams in each division move on
to a bracket-style playoffs.
Two weeks ago, the Univer-
sity's team played the University
of North Carolina. Games are
structured so that the first team
to win three matches wins the
game. Michigan pulled a victory
in the fifth.
Engineering junior Tianyi Liu
is the coordinator of the Star-
Craft Team. He decides which
out of the 50 members play on
which days and communicates
with other teams about any
issues. He says he found out
about the Collegiate StarLeague
while browsing Teamliquid.
net, a website that functions for
"StarCraft II" much like how
Smashboards.com functions for
"Super Smash Bros."
"Anyone who's anyone who
plays 'StarCraft' goes on Team-
liquid.net," he said.
Liu and his friends decided
to form a team for the Univer-
sity once they found out about
the Collegiate StarLeague. After
posting about the team on Team-
Liquid.net, it took off.
Though there are' 50 players
on the team, not all of them have
to show up. Liu said the team is
more of an online community
than an in-person community.
"StarCraft II" is played on PCs,
so connection to players across
the world is usually smooth and
there's no need to travel like
there is in "Super Smash Bros."
Also, "StarCraft II" is a very
graphics-intensive game, so
many players like to play from
their rooms where they may
have a better computer.
However, the StarCraft Team
is still a community, and it's
clear that friends and acquain-
tances have been made on the
team. Of the eight members who
showed up to the computer labs
when only two were there to
actually compete - the rest were
there to watch their teammates
play. Players moved their fingers
across the keyboard at unbeliev-
able speeds, inputting hundreds
See GAMING, Page 4B

y parents don't throw
things out, and our
basement is full of
photo albums that I go through
when I'm home for break. I look
back at the birthday parties and
first days of
school, the
friends arm-
in-arm and
the family
dogpiles my
uncle used to
orchestrate ...
and for a good SHARON
50 percent of JACOBS
the pictures,
I see myself
in wide-legged khaki pants and
a sweater with a picture of an
animal on it.
Yes, that's right - for much
of my prepubescent years, my
fashion sense was a combina-
tion of Bret from "Flight of the
Conchords" on top and military-
inspired getup on the bottom. But
"Conchords" didn't existback in
Y2K, and military (while all the
rage last fall) simply wasn't in
vogue in fifth grade. My frill-less,
pink-free clothing, combined
with a constantly messy mop-top
haircut, made a clear statement
to the world: I dressed like aboy.
It's not that strange of a phe-
nomenon, really - I have plenty
of friends who used to cut their
hair short and favored sneakers
peering out from jeans to little-
girl flats beneath frilly skirts. In
the celebrity realm, Angelina
Jolie and Brad Pitt's daughter
Shiloh has caught plenty of
attention from paparazzi and
gossipmongers for her hoodie-
and striped shirt-dominated
"personal style" (or however one
would label the wardrobe prefer-
ences of a three-year-old) and
last summer's tabloids proudly
proclaimed that "Shiloh wants to
be a boy!"
At any rate, my own (tabloid-
free) childhood fashion sense
went relatively unnoticed as I
grew up. I encountered minimal
teasing, and eventually I came
to like floral patterns better than
grinning cheetah faces on my
shirts. The only real difficulty
duringthis phase was shopping:
Despite my obvious leaning
against girly clothing, I was loath
to leave the "Girls" section of the
department store.
My insistence on this front
made shoppingtrips with my
mother insufferable. I would
pore over racks and racks of girls'
t-shirts looking for the baggiest,
most formless ones. My mom
would point across the store to
where the "Boys" sign heralded
hordes of Tommy Hilfiger under-
shirts and plain, collared polos,

and I would stomp my foot in
opposition. There would be no
confusion: I did not wantto be a
boy. I did not want to be a girly-
girl. I was, and took the utmost
pride in saying it, a tomboy.
Despite its lack of department
store signage, there's clearly a
place for androgyny in today's
fashion world: Ultra-skinny
supermodels certainly don't look
feminine, but they're definitively
women. Pantsuit-clad female
talk show hosts and fictional
characters running the gamut
from Annie Hall to Peppermint
Patty all dress on some midpoint
along the infinitely distinguish-
able spectrum of male and female
dress. Nobody's sayingthat the
"Men," "Women," "Boys" and
"Girls" (and, oddly, "Juniors")
Macy's method of sorting is obso-
lete, butI think it's-worth noting
that this has never really been
how things work.
Conchords, fig
leaves and me.
Think about it. In ancient
times, both men and women
covered their privates with loin-
cloths - in some cultures, people
still do. And while I'm sure there
are differences in style and color,
it's nothing like the thongs-and-
boxers strata we see today. Heck,
when Adam and Eve first broke
out the fig leaves after the Tree of
Knowledge fiasco, theyset a noble
precedent for gender-blind cloth-
ing. (Though granted, depending
on which Renaissance painter you
trust, I guess the pair could have
styledtheir eco-friendly garb in a
sex-specific way.)
Ramses and Cleopatra alike
dutifully dabbed on dark eyeliner
for a mysterious and royal look in
ancient Egypt. Scotsmen tradi-
tionally don kilts, which original-
ly signified their clan according
to the specific plaid pattern and
which were worn sans under-
pants, purportedly to be more
sanitary. Kimonos are sported by
both men and women in Japan,
though by neither often anymore.
The French - well, we say a lot of
things about the French and style
and gender, but we'll leave them
out of it for now.
Nowadays, boy hipsters can
strut skinny jeans, grunge girls
can flaunt flannel and I have
no reason to be ashamed of my
10-year-old fashion sense (not that
I would be - I was awesome), but
it would be wrong to assume this
is a modern innovation.
See JACOBS, Page 4B

Digital Ops is one of several hubs for the University's competitive gamers.

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Almost famous on YouTube

Daily TV/New Media Editor
On a cool August evening in
East London, hundreds of people
crowd into the Ice Father Nation
pub to celebrate the curious fan
community of YouTube.
Let's back up a bit. This "curi-
ous fan community" can be
traced back to 2007, the year that
brothers John and Hank Green
gave up textual communication
in favor of video blogs for 365
days. Several thousand subscrib-
ers later, they had spawned a fan
community called the Nerdfight-
ers. As these fans began making
their own YouTube videos, they
found different niches in the
That brings us to the likes of
Alex Day (YouTube username
nerimon) and Charlie McDon-

nell (charlieissocoollike). As of
January, Charlie is the most sub-
scribed YouTuber in the United
Kingdom. In 2010, he, Alex, Tom
Milsom (hexachordal) and Ed
Blann (Eddplant) formed the
band Sons of Admirals - one
of many groups spawned by the
Nerdfighter community. On this
night, they were hosting a con-
cert and a book reading by John
So where do I fit into this?
Well, I consider myself to be fair-
ly familiar with the concept of
fandom. I'm a huge "Harry Pot-
ter" fan - I check the websites,
listen to wizard rock, go to con-
ventions ... you name it. I went to
this Ice Father Nation event with
friends I'd met at "Harry Potter"
conferences, so if there's anyone
who knows what fandom can do
for people, it's me.

I hay
was my
after tw

ppened to be in London friends Tom, Rosi (missxrojas)
family at the time and and Lex (tyrannosauruslex).
t I'd go to Ice Father Rosi and Lex are also prominent
to see John again (it British YouTubers who knew
third Nerdfighter event, the band; Rosi was organiz-
vo in 2008) and to hope- ing the event and managed to
secure places for the rest of us
behind the merch counter since
we were so far back in the entry
)w Igot the line. Before we knew it, we were
ternet-star selling Sons of Admirals CDs
to rabid fans while John Green
eatnment by signed books two feet away from


~ us.
association. John, the band, Rosi and Lex
were treated like bona fide celeb-
rities. Fans in line started loudly
singing songs by Chameleon Cir-
fully meet Charlie, my YouTube cuit - another band with Charlie
crush. (It turned out that he and Alex - and cameras flashed
wouldn't be there, which signifi- at the rate I remember seeing on
cantly decreased my interest in TV during the last Olympics,
the event.) None of this was that unusual;
I went to the pub with my See MISTAKEN FAME, Page 4B

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