Three River Rumble brings Pittsburgh video gamers together

Alice Crow

Most college students on a Friday night choose to stay in and destress from the week or go out in search of a party. Others, though, start their weekend by competing in a friendly Super Smash Bros. tournament.

Students from different universities and experience levels regularly gathering Wean Hall on Carnegie Mellon University’s campus to play in a welcoming video game championship called the Tree River Rumble. For a small entry fee, participants are included in a bracket to show their skills and play a game they love.

Cymon Butler ‘21, who plays by the name of TFool, has attended the weekly events for a while now and is hoping to get the word out to more Chatham University students about how great the experience is.

Longtime players Samantha May, Scott “Mav” Costa and Matthew “Question” Fuller talking about the Pittsburgh Smash Community at Carnegie Mellon University. Photo by Cymon Butler.

Gatherings like this one are “representative of the whole scene throughout the country and Pittsburgh is just one small part of it,” said Butler, who learned about the tournament last summer. “All sorts of people can come together, form a community and have fun over this  one game.”

During a recent gathering, players started to trickle in at about 6 p.m., initially playing friendly practice games. About an hour later when the event officially began, the lecture room was filled to the brim with excited students.

A number of players watch as Alice “Aeris” Carr (left) and Jack “Jaxkey” Bower (right) play “friendlies” together in preparation for a match at a recent Three River Rumble meet-up at Carnegie Mellon University. Photo by Cymon Butler.

There was a certain camaraderie in the room, loud with pop culture references and friends catching up. Once the front table was covered in cash and the brackets filled with player names, the tournament began.

Each person was paired off to compete at different monitors. As the event went late into the night, players carried their personal controllers from one station to the next, narrowing down the victors. Even those who were defeated still managed to laugh and smile after they were removed from the game.

While many were there to play Super Smash Bros., there also were players there for other games. In another room, a small and passionate following turned out to play Project M, a modified version of Super Smash Bros. Brawl and another game called Rivals of Aether.

Alex Strobel, a first-year student at the University of Pittsburgh who plays by the name CakeAssault, is the top player in the country for the game Rivals of Aether. He recently returned from winning a championship in California. Even though he won a little more than $7,000 in his last tournament, he said he still enjoys coming to these small weekly events.

Lily Elelth, who has gained wide recognition for her skills and national involvement with Project M, said that the unique environment keeps her coming back.

“I’m here because I love the people, the ability to travel that it gives me and the community,” she said.

Dom “Leo” Pilorusso (at the top) fine tuning his Pokémon Trainer skills as onlookers observe to prepare for matches during Three River Rumble meet-up at Carnegie Mellon University. Photo by Cymon Butler.

Some may be wary due to the stereotypes around gamers, but these groups seem to be putting a genuine effort into connecting and welcoming people.

“It’s totally worth it if you just want to hang out and have a good time, but it’s not about the money,” said Adam Goldstein, an event organizer who plays by the name LeoLuster!

Chatham students who want to get involved can find more information on Twitter, Facebook, Twitch or YouTube. Search for either “PGH Smash Ultimate” or “PGH Project M.” Students also can contact Butler via email.