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Denver Gamers Find a Second Home at Localhost

Every Monday night, a group of dedicated video gamers lugs their 20-year-old Cathode-ray tube TVs and Nintendo Wiis to Lakewood. Their destination is Localhost, a gaming and esports center, filled with state-of-the-art technology any modern player could want. But these gamers have decided to forgo the new, favoring the 2001 classic “Super Smash Bros. Melee.”

“I played [Melee] when I was a kid, and it’s the best game ever,” said Evan Ahkavan. “Me and my brothers got the game, and we played for so long.” 

Ahkavan and others gather at Localhost to play the game they loved as children and compete with others that share their passion.

Competitive gaming, otherwise known as esports, has exploded in growth over the past few years. Experts project that the industry’s revenue will reach almost $385 billion in 2023. However, gamers typically choose to compete in the newest game releases. This makes “Super Smash Bros. Melee” something of an anomaly within the industry due to its age. 

“This game is so unique because we’ve been playing it for the last 21, almost 22 years,” said Jennifer Grebmeier. “You don’t really see games getting played competitively for this long, which is extraordinarily unique.” 

The Super Smash Bros. series, created in 1999, are fighting games with beloved classic Nintendo characters duking it out. Staple characters like Mario, Link, Kirby, and Bowser try to knock each other off a 2D stage. The more damage each player accumulates, the further they fly. The player’s objective is to hit their opponent off the stage before their opponent does the same to them, or time runs out. The last player standing wins the match. 

Despite three game releases in the Super Smash Bros. series since 2001, the Localhost players remain dedicated to playing their favorite retro game on old box-style televisions from the late 1990s. But nostalgia for their favorite childhood game isn’t the only factor that entices them. It’s also the second family they’ve found through Super Smash Bros. 

“This place is my home, in a way. I’ve met so many of my close friends here,” Ahkavan said. “I get to come here and learn to relate to people and build relationships. It’s like a mirror of life.”

Community members like Ahkavan have worked hard to build a space that is welcoming for everyone. Gamers of all skill levels are invited to play and make friends at the Monday night gatherings. 

Grebmeier is a more recent addition to the community, attending the group meetup since 2021. She said she’s felt right at home ever since joining.

“I felt a really intense sense of familiarity with the community. Everyone was really welcoming. It felt warmer than the other gaming communities I’ve been a part of,” Grebmeier said. “This is now my family. It’s been my friend group for a year and a half.”

Despite that friendly atmosphere, the competitive spirit runs wild. Each week, these gamers participate in a tournament to see who comes out as the champion within the group. 

“‘Melee’ is a competitive outlet for me,” Ahkavan said. “It’s such a great outlet for me to come here and learn how to get good at something.” 

Ahkavan, who is lovingly known as “Fizzwiggle” within the Denver Smash Bros. community, is ranked number one in the state of Colorado and travels across the country to compete in tournaments to boost his rankings. He has beaten some of the best players in the nation and even has his own Wikipedia page due to his notoriety. And he isn’t the only one trying to reach the top of the rankings, as around 30 players make the trek to Localhost every week to see if they can come out victorious. Every Monday is an opportunity for Smash Bros. players to show off their skills and how much they’ve improved to their friends.

“Smash Bros. is such a good hobby to me because it’s something that I can put time into and very clearly see the result of my work,” Grebmeier said. “Every week is a battle against ego, and I get to enter a tournament every single week to challenge that.”

The Denver Smash Bros. community may carry a strong competitive spirit and an intense drive to win, but members like Ahkavan take pride in helping their peers improve their skills. 

“We all understand that we are a big community, and we’re just hanging out and having a good time. Ninety-nine percent of the people here are super nice and you can go up to them and ask to play friendly games or just to hang out, which is super sick,” Ahkavan said.

This family born of a group that loves a niche 21-year-old Nintendo game is showing no signs of slowing down. With multiple events planned for the remainder of this year, community members have ample opportunities to compete and support each other.

“‘[Super] Smash Bros. Melee’ is so many different things, but if I had to put it into one word, I’d say that Melee is love,” Grebmeier said.

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