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Game on

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | FEBRUARY 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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Everyone knows the first rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight club. Yet Fight Club is being advertised all around Iowa City.

A new business, Game Geeks, 114½ E. College St., will host the first Iowa City Fight Club, a retro fighting-game tournament, at 6 p.m. Friday in Room 14 at the store. On the day of the event, Cody Pirko, the Game Geeks owner, will pick a random, relatively little-known game for the Grand Prize bracket and whoever wins will walk away with an "old-school" Arcade Cabinet.

Game Geeks deals exclusively with retro gaming — Super Street Fighter, Killer Instincts, and Super Smash Bothers will be featured at the event.

"I think it's great to return to the games that continue to be great even beyond their respective generations and really stand the test the time," said Pat Took, a competitive gamer. "Like in all forms of art, there are certain elements that go in and out of style, and a lot of today's games are lacking a certain flavor that a lot of people miss."

If the turnout so far is any indication, people in Iowa City certainly miss these games.

"We play Smash tournaments once a month, and those have been pretty successful," Pirko said. "We're hoping that carries over here for a big tournament."

The tournament will seem big to many involved, considering Iowa City gaming events first began in Took's home. 

"I am the creator of Iowa Smash a group aimed at organizing, teaching, and promoting competitive Super Smash Brothers," Took said. "I just started the group last year after not finding any community in the Iowa area for these games, and now we have a solid 90 members and are organizing events across Iowa."

As the group grew, Took's house seemed smaller and smaller, so when Pirko contacted him about setting up events at Game Geeks, Took was more than willing.

"[Game Geeks] has a lot more space than my house," he said. "My role [in Fight Club] is to try hard to organize the group to come out and play in these events and recruit new people. My group tries to work with [Pirko] to host events that work well for the group."

What's working for the group recently is the game Super Smash Brothers: Melee.

"Back in January, my friends and I started to play Super Smash Brothers: Melee and Project M again because we had watched the new Smash Brothers documentary," said Mike Robinson, a gamer who will attend Fight Club. "I saw an ad for [Fight Club] on Facebook and got really excited that something I had read about and seen was going to be happening in an area around me, and I started getting all of my friends involved. I think the tournament is an awesome chance for Iowa City to gain publicity in the Smash community and, hopefully, get new people involved."

New and growing, the gaming community of Iowa City needs a headquarters, and many are hoping Game Geeks can take on that role.

"I really enjoy the community here in Iowa City, and I have met a lot of great people who love playing games," Took said. "However, so far, there hasn't been a place for the many gamers across the city to meet up, make friends, and show off their skills. Hopefully, Game Geeks can make that happen and create a strong community for Iowa City gamers."

The university students make an excellent population for an organization such as this to thrive.

"I think Iowa City is an amazing place for this because it not only has a large number of people, but it gives the tournament the opportunity to be exposed to thousands of students who may not have known they wanted to play or even kids who have played their whole lives and never had a competitive outlet for their abilities," Robinson said.

Retro games especially help create a sense of community, because they require gamers to meet in person.

"A lot of retro games lack an online feature, which requires you to have to find people in your area to meet in person to play with," Took said. "While to many that may seem like a drawback, in my opinion, it's one of the great things about them. With the Internet being the force that it is, we don't often have a reason to go out and meet people in our community, and I think that's sad. I have met some of my best friends here in Iowa City through playing these games and organizing events, and I wouldn't trade that for anything."

Bonding over games may seem odd, but Kyle Moody, a University of Iowa graduate fellow in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication who focuses on video games and online communities, said it makes perfect sense.

"Put simply, interaction in games is a form of communication," Moody said. "In this form of participation, people forming bonds as a way of playing video games together is no different from others forming friendships through sports, music, dance, or other participatory media and cultures. When interacting with others in a shared space, and when sharing the same experiences of in-game activity, it is common for players to form a bond due to the shared experience."


GAMES
Iowa City Fight Club
Where: Game Geeks, 114½ E. College
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Admission: $10 per game bracket, additional $10 to enter Grand Prize Bracket


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