Charity Super Smash Bros. tournament raises $10K for mental health initiatives
Competitors face off at the Play with Heart Super Smash Bros. esports tournament at the University of British Columbia on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019.
VANCOUVER -- There was free mental health counselling and access to therapy dogs at a very unique esports event held this weekend at the University of British Columbia.
More than 350 competitors from as far away as New York and Florida came out for the Play with Heart charity tournament, and those extra resources gave them a chance to spend time focussing on their own well-being – when they weren't pummelling each other as Mario, Pikachu, Princess Zelda and other fan-favourite Nintendo characters in Super Smash Bros.
Together, they also managed to raise $10,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Co-organizer Jared Bakonyi said the total is roughly double what they originally hoped to donate through the event.
"The goal was around $5,000," he said. "Honestly, it's been such a dream come true and I want to keep running this every year."
As esports have increased in popularity, a few events have been plagued with headlines about toxic behaviour, particularly in high-pressure professional tournaments where there are million-dollar prizes on the line.
But the organizers of Play with Heart said they wanted to show that esports can have a positive impact, both on the players involved and the wider community.
The on-site counselling at this weekend's event was provided by the UBC Centre for Group Counselling & Trauma, and the therapy dogs came from the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program.
Bakonyi, who organized the tournament with Kevin Dhir, Jake Turner and Paul Brian Boici through the UBC Esports Association, said he was thrilled to be able to use his passion for Smash Bros. to support important mental health initiatives.
"It's very close to my heart, having struggled with some anxiety and depression in the past," he said. "We're just so happy that this community has rallied together around a cause that they do care about. It's been beautiful."