Playing games and breaking records - and all for charity with #SmashTheRecord!

From the 23rd to the 25th of October, Orlando, Florida will once again see #SmashTheRecord - a yearly charity gaming marathon featuring Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and speedruns that will see video game fans come together to play games, break records and earn money for a good cause.

We chatted with the brains of the event - ESL’s very own Alexander Chiricosta - about how the marathon came to be, how it evolved and what can we expect this year.

ESL: Hi, Alex! Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself - who are you and what do you do?
Alexander Chiricosta: Hey there! I’m Alex Chiricosta - but most of my friends call me “Cherry” (taken from my last name) - and I’m an Associate Producer at ESL out of Burbank, California. Outside work, many view me as a Super Smash Bros. community figure. I have hosted many large Smash tournaments like Paragon Orlando, Paragon Los Angeles, #SmashTheRecord 2014 and Community Effort Orlando 2014.

ESL: How did the idea of #SmashTheRecord come to life?
Alex: #SmashTheRecord dates a few years back to Gaming Knights, the gaming club at the University of Central Florida I ran while attending college. When we started, we quickly grew into one of the biggest organizations on campus within a year. We also became known for our involvement in the Smash Bros. scene, and really wanted to stand out from other organizations. This sparked the idea of hosting an event to break a world record. We also wanted to get involved with charity while hosting such an event, since Gaming Knights is a non-profit organization. We found that the “longest video games marathon playing a fighting game” (48 hours) was attainable by one of our members. Jason “Gahtzu” Diehl knew he could break the record, and ended up playing for 72 hours!

ESL: How did the event start off and evolve over the years?
Alex: The first event (last year’s) started off pretty rough. It was actually the first event that Gaming Knights had operated on our own, and to add to the pressure of hosting a large event like that, the air conditioning for the entire venue broke the night before! As you would imagine, that was a huge issue with the event. Most of the weekend we had all the doors of the venue open with giant fans in the middle facing the players on stream. The Smash community is one of the strongest I have seen, so we got over the hot temperature quickly and focused on the event. The original goal of the event was US$5,000, which we did not think too much about honestly. By day two, we had surpassed US$10,000 and ended the event having raised US$13,932 for charity!

ESL: Which charity do you choose to support and why?
Alex: While planning for an event like this, choosing a charity was a pretty difficult process. Shortly after the planning started for the event, Twitch announced they were partnering with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to host St. Jude PLAY LIVE, which was a summer-long circuit where players would raise money during their streams for a period of time. I also had history of my family supporting St. Jude in the past, so it was a very familiar cause.

ESL: This year, you’ll be bringing speedrunning to the event - why is that?
Alex: During Apex 2015, there was a moment where the stream went down for about 30 minutes or so. During that time, Fuzzyness (a prominent member of the Smash/speedrunning community) stepped up to the stage to show himself speedrun adventure mode in Melee. When I saw it, I instantly fell in love with speedrunning. The biggest influence on speedrunners attending #StR2015 is that a handful of top runners (Cosmo, Siglemic, Fuzzyness, trihex) are Smash players or fans, so we figured we would personally invite them to come and add to the event. We were taken by surprise when many speedrunners ended up reaching out to us on Twitter and booked flights shortly after to join the cause!

ESL: Speedrunning has achieved amazing things when it comes to charity marathons - AGDQ and SGDQ in the US and ESA in Europe. What do you think it will bring to #SmashTheRecord?
Alex: I think it will bring so much, honestly. We will see a lot of new members from the speedrunning community introduced to the Smash community, and vice versa. We will also see two similar communities uniting in such a great fashion. It will also add to the experience spectators and competitors did not have last year.

ESL: What personalities will you be bringing to #SmashTheRecord?
Alex: This year we will have a pretty all-star lineup!

  • Melee: Lucky, Westballz, S2J, Plup, Wizzrobe, Colbol, SFAT, HugS, MacD, Nintendude, MikeHaze, Reno, Zhu, Cactuar, The Moon, DJ Nintendo, Vish, dizzkidboogie, Gahtzu, Gravy, DruggedFox
  • Smash 4: ZeRo, Nairo, NAKAT, Hackoru
  • Speedrunning: Cosmo, Siglemic, trihex, witwix, iateyourpie, Carcinogen, MajinPhil, FierceKyo, Ryan Lockwood, Moltov, cfb, Tixl, Fuzzyness, Dr4gonblitz, Chaoslink, Fizzi, Psychoripper, Smoof
  • Commentators: D1, Crimson Blur, TK Breezy, EE, PB&J and more!
  • Streams: VGBootCamp and Versus Gaming Center

In 2014 we only had six personalities from out of state, whose attendance we personally paid for. In 2015 there are 17 personalities who received sponsorship to attend the event as well as many others who are coming on their own!

ESL: Have you ever tried speedrunning yourself?
Alex: Though I really enjoy speedrunning, I am pretty positive I would be horrible at it. Most games have records that are so hard to beat, and I see how others get frustrated when they mess up a single input (which can literally ruin a four-hour run). I think the only game I would like to run would be Halo 3, which was one of my favorite games growing up for the story.

ESL: What are your favorite speedruns to watch?
Alex: I love watching games that I used to play when I was a kid the most - games like Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Doom and others. Lately I have been getting hype over Super Mario Maker, just as everyone else has.

ESL: What are your goals and expectations for #SmashTheRecord 2015?
Alex: The main goal is for everyone to truly enjoy the event. We have had so many people from out of state reach out regarding attending, and it would be awesome to put on a great experience for them. I want to make sure everything runs smoothly and the attendees are happy with the event. Of course, we do have a goal of US$50,000 raised for St. Jude, which we should hit by the end of the weekend!

ESL: How important do you think these kind of events are to the community and why?
Alex: These events are really important to the community for many reasons. One of my favorites is that these types of events are fun, stress-free environments. The event has pretty minimal prizing for a large event as the focus is charity, so many players take it less seriously, attend to have fun and play a few secondary characters - which gets everyone hyped! It brings together the community in a way that truly makes a difference. Last year was the first year of the event and we raised almost US$14,000 for charity in just three days, which was truly incredible to see. It also takes pressure off top players to perform and instead they just go to enjoy Smash Bros. without any of the stress associated with performing at their top level.

ESL: What do you think the future holds for #SmashTheRecord?
Alex: Personally, I want to see #SmashTheRecord take off as the Smash Bros. charity event each year. I have some pretty high expectations for the future of the event, which will increase each year. The goal is to raise over US$1,000,000 in five years of the event.

ESL: Thanks for chatting with us and good luck with the event! Are there any shoutouts you’d like to make?
Alex: First off, I’d like to give huge shoutouts to Gaming Knights, the group helping me organize the event. I’d also like to give shoutouts to VS Gaming Center (Eric Santner), VGBootCamp (Calvin Lofton) and HostDime for making the event possible. I also want to give a shoutout to my brother Nick, who has been showing me the most support the whole way. Shoutouts also need to go to Zach Whitten and the St. Jude PLAY LIVE team for helping to make this happen - they have shown support since the beginning, and I could not be more thankful for them. Lastly, thanks to my wrestling coaches throughout high school (Randy Miller) and college (Jason Balma) - without them, I would not have the work ethic and mental fortitude to take on such a challenge!

If you want to join an event filled with gaming and record breaking for charity head over to the registration page, and to learn everything you need to know about #SmashTheRecord visit the event’s official website as well as follow the official Twitter.

Good luck, guys!


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