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Chapel Hill Melee brings students together through video games

Freshman Jimmy Messmer, left, graduate student Weilin Zou, and senior Tyler Crews play the video game Super Smash Bros. in an Everett dorm room. Inspired by the 2013 film "Super Smash Bros.," members compete against one another in each others dorm rooms, referred to as "smash houses" by the group, and in common areas where a television is present.
Freshman Jimmy Messmer, left, graduate student Weilin Zou, and senior Tyler Crews play the video game Super Smash Bros. in an Everett dorm room. Inspired by the 2013 film "Super Smash Bros.," members compete against one another in each others dorm rooms, referred to as "smash houses" by the group, and in common areas where a television is present.

Chapel Hill Melee is a student organization that meets a few times per week to play Super Smash Bros. Melee, a video game released in 2001. It’s played on Nintendo’s GameCube console.

The game has no online component, and some students say that in recent years, it’s created an underground community of people who just can’t get enough.

Tyler Crews, a fifth-year senior biology major, said group members have created a close-knit community because they have to meet each other in order to play together.

“Smash Bros. is a very unique game in the fact that it doesn’t have any online play compared to other recent video games that are really popular nowadays,” he said. “So it’s amazing that you get people from all around the state to come and play with you.”

Crews said the speed of the game and its characters make it enjoyable.

“I love Smash Bros. because it’s one of the fastest-paced games you can play. It’s so intricate — there are huge amounts of options for everything you do in the game,” Crews said.

Every May, Chapel Hill is also home to Dixiecon, the longest-running tournament of the board game Diplomacy on the East Coast. David Hood, Dixiecon program director and a UNC alumnus, said the game — which is based on pre-World War I Europe — is all about negotiation.

“What you’re doing is negotiating between each other to try to take over half of Europe, so you’re making alliances, you’re attacking each other, you’re breaking alliances,” Hood said. Hood said there was once a large population of UNC students with an interest in Diplomacy, which is why Dixiecon takes place at UNC.

Although fewer students now participate, Diplomacy enthusiasts from all around the world still attend the tournament.

Hood said one of the best parts of Diplomacy is its focus on skill over chance.

“There’s no luck in the game, so it’s unlike a lot of board games people play where they just roll a bunch of dice,” Hood said.

“In this game, it’s all about your ability not only to move your pieces around — sort of like, maybe, chess players’ strategy — it’s also a negotiation-of-people game.”

Other UNC students still meet regularly to play board games around campus.

Since his sophomore year, senior Michael Bojanski has hosted monthly game nights, calling the gathering “Board Games with Bojanski.”

He said playing games — from Apples to Apples to The Settlers of Catan — is a great way to connect with people. Anywhere from 20 to 30 people typically participate.

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“For me, board games are a way to both meet new people and to keep developing friendships,” he said. “It’s cool because you have something to do, so it’s hands-on, but at the same time, you can take it slow and hang out and talk — and at the end of it you have this shared experience.”

Bojanski said he encourages everyone to try out games around campus.

“I think board games have a negative stereotype of being nerdy, but I think once you get past the fact that you have to learn some rules up front, you can have a lot of fun and be really competitive,” he said. “I think it’s an activity that more people should try out.”

arts@dailytarheel.com