June 23, 2018 | ° F

F A L C O N M A S T E R challenges all in Super Smash Bros.

Photo by Shawn Smith |

A group of Super Smash Bros. competitors play in the North Tower on Livingston campus. Neil Ciupita, center, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, is challenging all takers.

In his first Super Smash Bros. tournament at his high school, Neil Ciurpita, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said he ranked as one of the top three players entering.

A girl in the school brought a wildcard into the tournament — her cousin from out of state. The tournament was a best-of-one series, and Ciurpita said he felt unprepared for his match.

“I was not ready, and he absolutely destroyed me,” he said. “I only got to hit him once. Then I sat across the stage and just taunted him and let him finish me off. I’m always going to remember that game from back when I was a scrub.”

After losing that match his senior year, he worked hard to become a better player.

Now known in the Smash community at Rutgers as the F A L C O N M A S T E R, Ciurpita said he holds matches in his room and the community lounge on the second floor of the North Tower on Livingston campus.

He even posted signs promoting the game and offers a reward to anyone who can beat him. The rules are simple — best of three matches wins. Each player gets four stocks, or lives. No items can be used in the match, and the odds are 20-to-1 in his favor.

Along with this challenge, Ciurpita said he has a drawing of Captain Falcon on his window with a $20 prize taped above it, waiting to be claimed by a victor. Many have tried so far, he said, but none have succeeded.

Ciurpita said the name F A L C O N M A S T E R is more of a symbol than an actual name. In high school, Ciurpita and his friend Clayton Kirlew, a Rutgers alumnus, would use Captain Falcon while playing Super Smash Bros. Melee. Kirlew took claim to the name and held the title while attending the University.

As graduation approached, Ciurpita said Kirlew passed the name along to him to keep his legacy alive within the Smash community at Rutgers. As his own graduation approaches, he said he is looking for a new player who can take over the duty of F A L C O N M A S T E R.

“Central New Jersey is one of the largest Smash scenes around,” he said. “There are smaller tournaments held almost every two weeks in all kinds of locations.”

From comic book shops to pizza places, Smash tournaments are held all over the state, Ciurpita said. He hosted a crowd of about 60 people in his basement and garage.

Smash players tend to stand out in larger tournament events because of their exclusive use of CRT televisions as opposed to LCD and plasma screen televisions, he said. The older tube televisions sync better with the game and have less lag between the moment when a button is pressed and when a character on the screen reacts.

“More professional players will notice the difference, but newer players to the game may not notice as much,” he said.

Ciurpita also said the Smash community is much more accepting of people than other game followings — refusing to discriminate against players for personal reasons.

“We have transgender players,” he said. “We have gay players. We have people in tournaments from all over the world. We always treat each other with respect when we play Smash. Everyone is accepting in the community.”

Ciurpita said the community recently began to phase out specific terms people use when playing games that some players may find offensive.

“We have started to eliminate the use of the phrases ‘You got raped’ when someone gets beaten pretty badly,” he said. “We are also phasing out the use of ‘gay’ whenever something happens you didn’t want to happen.”

The Smash culture has grown because the game is essentially easy to play, Ciurpita said. Anyone can enjoy the game and begin to hone their skills with different playing styles and characters.

“The game is so great, because it’s so user friendly. Even when you get hit, you can direct the direction of your player,” he said. “You can also learn to do crazy combos or just spam the buttons and have fun.”

Playing the game allows a player to take on an almost second personality. Ciurpita said he is a quiet student, but when it comes to playing Smash, he talks smack to every opponent.

Jonathan Liang, a School of Engineering junior, said playing against Ciurpita is challenging, as he does not use all of his energy going after opponents with combos. Instead, he gets inside their head and plays a mental game of cat and mouse.

“He just thinks about the game completely different than anyone else,” he said. “He will play the mental side of things as well. He will just sit there, and he can beat you.”

Before Smash players begin to line up to accept his challenge for the prize of $20, the F A L C O N M A S T E R allows them to play him in a friendly match to access their skill level and give them a chance to change their mind if they feel he is unbeatable.

“I don’t do it for the money,” he said. “I don’t want to take people’s money. I just want to have fun playing Smash.”

By Shawn Smith

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