Meet the 3 Expats Changing Gaming Culture in Shenzhen

By Bryan Grogan and Pedro D'avila, March 11, 2019

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Console gaming in China is taking off. While the format was banned in China for 15 years until 2015, young gamers have all of a sudden become enamored with the newest Nintendo console, the Nintendo Switch. Although consoles still have to vye with the likes of mobile games, PC games and more, local gamers have been showing a keen interest in console gaming. 

While a number of groups have been taking advantage of this newfound interest in games such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate around the country, one such trio of friends, Ranen Parry, Victor Mendelgwaig and Matt Kietlinski, recently took the initiative to establish their own recurring event focusing on the beloved video game series, under the name SZmash. 

With another tournament taking place this coming Saturday, March 16, we spoke a bit with the three lads about what attendees can expect at an SZmash event, their hopes for the future of console gaming and the rich variety of options available for gamers in China. 

Could you give us some background on how you guys got started with the Smash Bros event and team?
Ranen: Victor and I met working at DJI and discovered we were both into playing competitive Smash (Super Smash Bros.) I was never involved in local tournaments in the US, but I was a semi-competitive Starcraft player and watched some professional Smash tournaments on Twitch. Victor was involved in the competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee scene in Europe, so I learned a lot from him. We decided to hold a Melee tournament at a bar in Shekou about a year ago, but didn’t get too many attendees, mostly because there wasn’t a lot of interest among Chinese audiences. I later met Matt through a post he made on the Shenzhen subreddit looking for people to play.

Image via SZmash

Can you explain the format of your tournament for newcomers?
We stage pools in the first round. The best people in the pools go on to a winners bracket. The players who did well but not great go to a losers bracket. It’s ‘double elimination’ so if you lose in the winners bracket you play against someone in the losers bracket. Winners of the winners bracket and winners of losers bracket then face off in the finals. 

You guys have already hosted a tournament at a local bar in Shenzhen, how was the experience and what challenges did you encounter that may need to be addressed in the future?
Ranen: We had a great turnout, and overall I think everyone enjoyed themselves. We had five TVs packed into a relatively small area, so it was a bit cramped, but the venue got the job done. We ran four pools that fed into a winner’s and loser’s bracket. 

If the events keep growing we’ll definitely outgrow our current space. We’re keeping an eye out for suitable venues that are a bit larger, ideally with TVs already there. We had to borrow two TVs from friends last time and carry them to the bar ourselves, since we don’t have cars. 

In Shenzhen, do you guys feel there is a large competitive console gaming scene?
Ranen: Basically there was no scene before Victor and I tried to set up tournaments. Now there is a lot more interest in Smash among locals and gamers in general. Chinese gamers play a lot of PC games, because consoles have been banned here until recently. The Switch is the first Nintendo system that’s been widely adopted, and the games are now localized into simplified Chinese, so they are much more accessible than before. 

Image via SZmash

Do you think the foreign community plays a larger role in developing the Smash community?
Ranen: I would say yes, but only because we have the most experience with the game and it means a lot to us. Our ultimate goal with all of this is to get more locals involved, and to help make the scene run on its own even after we have left Shenzhen, because we probably won’t stay here forever. The guy who won the last tournament was a Shenzhen local, and now he’s helping us to organize events.

Young people in China have become more attracted to the smartphone gaming industry. Does that make things difficult when it comes to folks adopting the console gaming format?
Matt: For a long time, people battled between PC and console gaming, thinking that one would be the death of the other. However, time has proven that each caters to its own type of players, and innovation in product quality varies. We are living in a generation of cross-console playing. I think that the Switch is unique in the fact that it is both a handheld and a console at the same time. Lastly, I think mobile devices appeal to a more casual style of player, and it is super exciting to bring in more players who would not have considered playing on PC or a console in the first place. Ultimately, what benefits the video gaming industry in general is an increased audience and further innovation, which mobile gaming is certainly bringing to the table.

Fan of the Super Smash Bros. series, tag along this Saturday to get in on the action. To register, scan the QR on the poster in our event listing below. 

Sat March 16, 1pm; RMB50. Beeplus Co-Working Space. See event listing.   

[Cover image via SZmash]

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