A Grand Forks video gaming tournament drew hundreds of people Saturday, Nov. 2, to the Alerus Center — and one so-called gaming deity.
The third-ever DakNo Gaming tournament featured top-level Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Madden '19 and Halo 3 players from the region and, in some cases, the world.
Among them was Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, who for more than a decade has rattled off win after win at tournaments like DakNo and is one of the best “smashers” in the long-running fighting game series’ history.
He’s regarded as one of five “gods” of Super Smash Bros. Melee, the 2001 version of the game, and is a top-of-the-line player in later updates, like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which was the version hosted at DakNo.
But he said Saturday that he thought his chances of winning were about 50/50 if — or when — he faced off against Yatiyana “Yeti” Schaper, a 21-year-old from the Twin Cities who’s considered one of the best Mega Man players in the world and 34th best, period, in the “Ultimate” version of the game.
The 30-year-old has reigned for years in Melee but is at least somewhat mortal in Ultimate. Zimmerman is not listed in the top-50 list that put Schaper 34th. “Melee” and “Ultimate” are fundamentally similar, but the two games have enough variation and strategic depth that switching from one to the other is tricky.
“Whatever game I’m playing more, the other one I’m temporarily worse at,” Zimmerman said as he practiced against a CPU Mega Man before the tournament began, his eyes rarely leaving the screen. The older version of the game has less input lag, he explained. That means the delay between a player pressing a button and their virtual fighter performing an action is subtly greater in the newer version.
“If you’re used to one game and you switch over, it messes you up,” Zimmerman said.
But he and Schaper weren’t the only skilled players at the tournament. Ryan “Strike” Duff is the top-ranked Ultimate player in Manitoba and the 10th-best in Canada, and people watching the tournament online often clamored for him to be featured.
Schaper said he headed to the tournament because of the prize money — $1,000 for first place — the venue, and because he used to regularly drive to Fargo, which has a relatively large “Smash” community, to meet with friends. He works on his game at three different weekly tournaments in the Twin Cities but otherwise doesn’t practice much, Schaper said.
“There are tournaments like this that happen all across the country every weekend,” said Josh Marcotte, Schaper’s manager. “The midwest ... as a region, really lacks a lot of these bigger events, and so it’s very cool to see something so close to us but also something in the Midwest in general.”
DakNo has grown considerably since organizers put the first one together in 2018. It’s an Evolve Grand Forks project that’s quickly expanded into the Alerus Center as more people signed up for each successive one. Unlike some other tournaments, it’s not run for the benefit of a host company or casino.
The nearest large tournament like it, co-organizer Tyler Manske said, is in Wisconsin.