Breaking Ottawa records: Video game popularity skyrockets as pandemic subsides

By: William Smith

For Sayer Azim, participation in the first Super Smash Bros. in person in Ottawa after COVID-19 restrictions eased indicates an increasing level of passion for the game. Azim is the host of the Don’t Kick Chairs 2 tournament, a tournament that took place on November 5 and was the first in-person tournament in Ottawa in over two years.

This year, the tournament saw the largest in-person participation in Ottawa with hundreds of participants.

Super Smash Bros. players compete in the first face-to-face tournament in Ottawa since the start of the pandemic

“The last iteration we had had 118 players and honestly we were expecting 150-200 [players], but it ended up being 220 plus all viewers, ”Azim said.

The increased passion could be seen both in the number of participants and in the distances the competitors traveled to compete.

“It’s everywhere in Ontario, it’s actually mostly in Quebec; Quebec and Montreal. We had people from New York, I know someone from Newfoundland who introduced himself. It is therefore everywhere in Canada and in certain states, ”he added.

For Azim, the huge turnout came as a welcome surprise after the pandemic cast doubt on the future of Smash Bros.

“Nintendo’s Online is really bad,” he said. “And a lot of people left the game because they had to spend two years online… but some of those players that I can see are back.”

One of these players is Tamim Omary. Omary is currently ranked 6th in the world in Smash Bros. 4, the previous Super Smash Bros. He retired in 2019, but said the pandemic actually made the Smash Bros. community stronger. long term by giving players a new appreciation for the game.

“I think before there was a period of stagnation where a lot of people were starting to get bored of the game … when they came back, [they] came back with a mental reset and their passion grew, ”said Omary

Omary believes that due to the increased interest in the esports community as a whole, more and more players will continue to flock to the Smash Bros. community.

Omary (second from right) and teammate Aaron Grandison-Vargas (far right) play a preliminary match of the doubles tournament. [Photo File (c) William Smith/Capital Current]

“Because the game itself has become more important as a whole, I feel like a lot more players interested in the game will see Smash and try to see what it is like and I feel like for players who are already there, their passion will not go away, ”he said.

Jonathan McLaren has agreed with Omary that the esports and Smash communities will only continue to grow. He was the tournament commentator and commented on over 100 Smash Bros tournaments in North America.

Omary and Grandison-Vargas compete in the doubles final. [Photo File (c) William Smith/Capital Current]

He said esports has become the world’s largest entertainment industry and a common feature of society.

According to, the gaming industry is one of the fastest growing industries and is expected to surpass the $ 200 billion mark by 2023.

McLaren points to other popular video games as an indicator of where this Smash Bros. community could be heading.

“The League of Legends Season 1 World Finals consisted of 10 guys sitting in a boardroom… and then you’re going to watch the World Grand Finals happening today. [season 11] and it’s a multi-million dollar production, ”he said.

As the day wore on and Red Bull’s apartments sold out, hundreds of players gathered around the stage to watch Omary win the tournament’s singles and doubles events.

Although he won over $ 5,000 in cash prizes, he said that Smash Bros. was really about the community and their love of the game.

It’s a game of passion, ”he said. “You don’t play much of this game, unless it’s out of passion. “

Azim recognizes the rise in popularity and hopes to expand it at future events.

“We expect even bigger things for the next iteration,” Azim said. “We could make it a two-day, three-day event. “

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