Once a week, Kirby, Yoshi, Jigglypuff, and their Nintendo friends come to life on a motley assortment of old cathode ray TVs in Lerner's Satow Room. In front of each TV, members of Columbia's Super Smash Bros Club manhandle their joysticks with incredible dexterity as their formidable onscreen avatars fight to the death. The clicking of thirty controllers combined with the soundtracks of ten simultaneous games gives the room a frantic atmosphere. Nowhere in Morningside Heights more closely resembles a 1980s video arcade (except perhaps Koronet at 3 a.m. on a Thursday).
The club feels old school: the TVs are thicker than they are wide and the game’s graphics are relatively primitive. Melee, the iteration of Super Smash Bros the club plays, came out in 2001 for Gamecube. Subsequent versions have higher definition graphics and more features, but Melee remains the best for competition. According to Alex Tong, CC '15, the club's president and founder, the game has actually grown in popularity in recent years. When he started going to tournaments in Chinatown, "30 was a good turnout, but now 70 is one of the lighter days."
The Columbia contingent is a major presence at local tournaments. Alex estimates that some members of his club are among the top 20 players in New York City. Last semester, the club won the Northeast Region of the intercollegiate Melee Games, making it one of the most successful teams at Columbia. Yet despite its talent and dedication, there seems to be more to the club than the gameplay.
There's something unapologetically childlike and carefree about the Gamecube's physical appearance and the whimsical characters on screen. While the battles are intense and the players are passionate, the game doesn't take itself too seriously. Perhaps that's why the club has become so highly sought after as a partner for events like Days on Campus. At a school known for its stress Olympics, the Super Smash Bros Club provides a welcome respite. Or, as member Nick Scarfo, SEAS '17, put it, "no one's here for their resume."
Mounted in the hallways of the Barnard Quad, at Hamilton’s entrance, and near doorways and in hallways of most campus buildings are small metal buttons, about a centimeter in diameter and surrounded by a black piece of plastic about two inches long. The buttons look strikingly like doorbells, often mounted at hip level or on actual doors, but that is actually not what they are at all.
They are actually called memory buttons. Memory buttons can only be read by a device called “The PIPE,” a small blue metal wand carried by Columbia Public Safety officers and billed by its manufacturer as “the world’s most rugged data collector.”
The PIPE and the memory buttons are parts of a system that Columbia employs to “ensure that officers are continuously patrolling their assigned areas, and that specific locations within these areas receive special attention,” according to Daniel Held, a spokesman for Facilities. At intervals determined by Public Safety, security guards punch the memory buttons with the PIPE, creating a record of each patrol.
Though the system may seem reliant on technology from the last couple decades, an analog version of the system has existed at Columbia for a long time. Before the electronic signal transmitters, metal boxes were mounted on walls throughout campus, each housing a unique key. Guards would use the keys to make impressions on paper discs in a five-pound handheld clock called a watchclock. Some of the older guard checkpoints survive in places like the Crypt of St. Paul’s Chapel and Kent Hall. Perhaps they have been left undisturbed to remind us of Columbia’s history and its progress. Or maybe it’s because they’re bolted to the wall and no one can get them off.
Anyone who’s gotten a free t-shirt from a football game can attest to the fact that Columbia Athletics is willing to give out freebies to publicize their events. And no, that’s not just because the times and dates of all the games are printed on the back of said t-shirts.
Last year, to promote a televised football game against Lehigh, Columbia offered the two student groups who could pack the stands with the most spirited students $1000 for their budgets. At basketball games, a group of dedicated students are paid in free pizza to cheer courtside in the “Roar Zone.” And until recent years, students who attended specific games were entered into an annual lottery with a chance at winning Dinosaur BBQ coupons, Columbia apparel, and a tablet computer.
So it wasn’t surprising when Athletics offered $325 in gift cards from their sponsors to Fairway Market, Morton Williams, and The Heights as prizes for the #WheresRoaree scavenger hunt. On April 24, every half hour from 12 to 4:30 PM, scavenger hunt participants sprinted to the locations of 10 Roar-ee bobbleheads on campus based on hints from the eponymous mascot’s Facebook account.
“Roar-ee could never understand the elevator system in this building, so he always got a great workout walking up the stairs,” said one clue. Cue the sound of footsteps and labored breathing as sports fans and Heights margarita-lovers alike frantically dashed toward Hamilton to find the six-inch-tall plastic lion. (If only the football team was as energetic on a fourth down…)
The man behind #WheresRoaree is none other than Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing and Promotion, Danny Spiegel. The event was a lighthearted attempt to raise school spirit and increase attendance at Fun Day, a softball, lacrosse, and baseball triple-header at Baker Athletics Complex the following day. While the success of the second goal was questionable—while the #WheresRoaree Facebook event had 270 RSVPs, the Fun Day event had only 33—the scavenger hunt was a chance for trivia wonks to test their knowledge of Columbiana.