One of the biggest gaming tournaments of the year so far is smashing its way into Oakland this weekend.
Genesis 6, touted as "the largest grassroots, community-run Super Smash Bros. tournament in the world", is drawing more than 4,000 pro gamers and fans to downtown for a three-day competition and celebration.
"It's one of the most storied tournaments in the Smash Bros. community," said Andrew Wu, one of the event's lead organizers. "Aside from EVO, it's considered one of the 'super-majors', as we like to call it."
If you're not familiar with Super Smash Bros., it's a fighting game that features dozens of characters from every corner of video game history. Players can control Super Mario, Pac-Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man, Pikachu, and a host of other game mascots, heroes, and villains. The most recent entry, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, released in December 2018 to rave reviews and record-setting sales.
While thousands of gamers -- both professional and amateur -- have signed up to compete for a share of the cash prize pool, the event is drawing gaming fans from around northern California and the world.
"I think you can draw parallels to watching sports, like a traditional spectator sport," Wu said. "The entertainment value is there. You want to see the highest-skilled players going head-to-head with each other, and you want to see the competition at its peak."
Among those competitors is Gavin Dempsey, better known by his online handle Tweek. At age 20, Dempsey literally grew up with the Super Smash Bros. series, which debuted in 1999.
"Smash has been my favorite game since I was a kid," Dempsey said. "When Super Smash Bros. for Wii U came out, a little over four years ago, I went to my first tournament, and I won. I just eventually made a career out of it."
That pro gaming career has boomed lately for Dempsey. Just last month, he was signed by Team SoloMid, one of the world's largest pro gaming organizations. Dempsey says pro gaming has a bright future as it becomes more mainstream.
"It's been growing and growing," he said. "There's hundreds of thousands of Twitch viewers at events like this, and there's people from across the country who travel [here] just to spectate."
With those thousands of attendees comes a need for safety and security. Tournament managers say that's a top priority in the Genesis event's sixth year.
"We stepped it up with a safety council," Wu said. "[We're] dealing with sexual harassment on site. We're making sure all the doors are secure, and making sure bags are checked at the door, so it might cause a little bit of turn-around time for some folks, but we think it's worth it in the long run."
Dempsey -- or Tweek to his fans -- faces stiff competition this weekend. Other top gamers at Genesis 6 include Mew2King, Armada, Nairo, Hungrybox, MKLeo, and Tweek's TSM teammate, Leffen. They rank among the top-earning Smash players in the world, with some taking home hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money.
The intensity of the top-tier competition doesn't faze Dempsey.
"It's a bit of a rush," he said. "I'm definitely used to it by now. I've been doing this for a while. But it's nerve-racking, and exciting."
Fans can still check out the action in person, all day Saturday at the Oakland Marriott City Center, and Sunday at the Paramount Theater. Online registration is sold out, but tickets are still available at the door. Click here for schedules and event information. The tournament is also streaming live on Twitch.tv.