Program Planning: Online Brawl Tournaments

In Pittsburgh, getting teens to rally for a common cause can be tough. Our city’s teens are often affected by intense neighborhood loyalties and splintered social groups. However, if I have learned anything from the last several years of Steelers playoff runs or the Penguins’ most recent trip to the Stanley Cup, it’s that a city-affiliated team can still band teens together like it did when I was a teen, when my dad was a teen, and so on.

Your library can connect with this energy by gaming online, giving teens a chance to face off against other libraries throughout the world. That’s why, for the last few months, Kelly Czarnecki and I have been planning a YALSA first: an online Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament between the teens from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County (which will be livecast online). Now that things are finally picking up, we’re going to each blog about the process, highlighting our unique challenges.

The first and most convoluted step for us was getting our Wii online through the built-in wireless card. Our library uses patron authentification software for connecting wirelessly, which cut off access to the Wii. Our IT department ended up configuring our wireless router for multiple SSIDs and created a special network just for gaming. This allowed us to bypass authentification for wireless devices and get our Wii connected. If you have an IT department, this is the language you can feed them. If not, this is the language you can search in conjunction with your wireless router. (Warning: make sure you read to the end, because I end up contradicting what I say here in a little bit.)

After I knew we could get our Wii online, Kelly and I set a date. This was another unexpectedly tough part, involving working out the difference in open hours, not stepping on the toes of other programs, and confirming with management. Thankfully, we’re both in the same time zone, which made it a little easier. We’re also lucky that we thought to do this over the summer, when teen schedules are generally much more flexible.

Our graphics department then got to work making some really cool promotional graphics, including the web banner above and this little number. To help ease any hesitations about using copyrighted Nintendo material, I referred them to the following quote from Eli Neiburger from the LibGaming list:

You are in the clear. I was told by GolinHarris, Nintendo’s Marketing Firm, that using their Intellectual Property in promotional materials for a free library event is allowed and legal.

Through the LibGaming list, I also found out that Nintendo has a special repository of images to use in promotional materials. You can sign up for an account through Nintendo of America’s Media Site. However, due to what must be immense volume, the application I sent months ago still has not been processed. You should not count on it.

With everything going fairly smoothly and with both of our Wiis online, Kelly and I exchanged friend codes and started setting up our Wiis for some early testing. For this part of the process, you can follow along with this great video from GameTrailers.com:

Keep in mind that friend codes are unique to a combination of Brawl disc and Wii system, so you’ll want to test with the same disc and game system as you plan to use in the tournament. Also, since we plan on playing with two person teams from each library, we needed to figure out how to add additional controllers to the character select screen. When you’re at that portion, you can press the + button on additional controllers and then select the option at the top where it says “Brawl” to change it to team play.

After all of the kinks were worked out with the settings, Kelly and I started a head-to-head match. That’s where we hit our first major snag. The game play was really laggy over our wireless connections, even before we opened. Each of us is now purchasing the Nintendo LAN adapter so that we can offer better gameplay through our ethernet ports.

Going forward, our library still faces a number of challenges. One of the major ones has been getting teens to commit. While the PLCMC is in the midst of a Brawl tournament, our last one–the winners of which are supposed to comprise the online tournament–wasn’t since May. So now I’m trying to chase down teens with letters and unreturned phone calls. To help get teens excited, I started work on a hip-hop remix “diss track” that I’ll post here once finished. But the teens who committed to helping me with that have also disappeared. It might be best to coordinate the scheduling of local tournaments with your online library foe so that both of you can piggyback off the energy.

Streaming our tournament online (we have a Ustream.TV channel waiting to go) is an important component to promoting it to local papers. The idea is that gaming fans and other curious people from all Pittsburgh will want to tune in and cheer on the teens. I’m still waiting for all of our equipment to come in before I can test. What we need:

  • Y adapter to split the audio and video between the television and the computer
  • extra A/V cable to run from the adapter to the computer
  • mixer to mix in the signal from our teen commentators
  • video converter cable (we chose the XLR8 XtraView because it’s PC/Mac compatible and has received favorable reviews, though you might find it worth browsing the offerings on Newegg.com)

We’re also still working out our tournament rules. What items? What levels? Playing in teams, a timed match might work better than a “dead and gone” stock match. But if we do timed matches, will we want to simply count victories or add up the margins to determine our overall tournament winner? What will we do if one library can’t provide the 16 teens that we’re counting on for our eight two-teen teams? Will rotating be unfair? Hopefully, we’ll be able to work it out during our next online test. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

As things continue to shape up, we’ll keep you updated on our progress. And be sure to mark your calendars for August 22nd, as we (crosses fingers, knocks on wood, holds lucky quarter) broadcasts our tournament LIVE!

Joseph Wilk
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Teen

About Joseph Wilk

I'm a teen library assistant with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Main location. Here, I'm the graphic novel and music librarian in addition to running anime, music, LGBTQ, incarcerated youth, and video programming. I'm happy to serve YALSA as a blogger, member of the Teen Tech Week committee, and as chair of the Music Interest Group. Otherwise, you can find me in da club.
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