A weekend of games, a chance to win cash, and roller coaster rides | The Best Thing I Saw

A rare combination of top gaming talent with the opportunity to ride roller coasters was a strong draw last weekend.

I know. I was there.

Carowinds hosted The Rock the Winds esports event, which drew some of the world’s best Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Rivals of Aether players. The event was hosted by Winthrop University and Visit York County.

The event featured three separate tournaments: a singles and doubles tournament in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and a single tournament in Rivals of Aether.

For the uninitiated, an esport tournament is an event where gamers compete head-to-head. Players give themselves gaming names. For example: Winthrop’s CJ Wiley, who participated in the event, goes by CJFrozen. That’s because he was always cold growing up, so he wore jackets every day -- even in summer.

Bharat (Lima) Chintapalli won the singles tournament. He also won the doubles tournament alongside Spencer (Scend) Garner.

Trevor (Codek) Young won the Rivals of Aether tournament.

It was fun to attend and watch the gamers.

“You go to these events at our skill level and you’re like, ‘Oh, I want to do really good,’” Curtis (Dietsoda) White said. “You know it’s a chance to like show yourself, but it is a rare opportunity to travel. You go three hours to something and if you do bad, then you can go ride a roller coaster. So at the end of the day, it’s a win-win.”

The event was at The Grove, one of Carowind’s a pavilion areas.

For some of the veteran gamers, the semi-outdoor setting was nostalgic: an ode to older gaming tournaments hosted at outdoor venues.

“It’s fun,” Griffin (Fatality) Miller said. “It reminds me a lot of the old days of tournaments, because we’ve had a certain kind of venue that’s a lot more common nowadays. These kinds of outdoor pavilion type events is something that you don’t really see too much anymore.”

Rock the Winds was labeled a “super-regional”, which is a step below a major tournament and a step above a regional tournament in the competitive gaming scene.

Most regional tournaments bring in heaps of top talent from the surrounding area. Regional tournaments in this area host a field of gamers mostly from the Carolinas and Georgia.

Rock the Winds was no different. A lot of the competitors there, like Gregory (iGreg) Aristilde, are active in the local competitive gaming scene, so there was an air of familiarity.

“It was nice meeting everyone from all these other regions,” said Aristilde, who is from Georgia. “Everyone was very polite. Everyone was very nice. I got some good games, had some good bracket sets against a lot of these out-of-state players. I had a great time.”

However, while the environment buzzed with local Super Smash Bros. Ultimate talent, there also were several players who rank among the best in the world.

One was Chintapalli. The Dallas, Tx.-native ranks 48th in the world according to UltRank, which is widely accepted as the official rankings for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

He won the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. singles tournament. However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

In some best-of-five sets, Chintapalli found himself staring at a 2-0 deficit and had win three straight matches. He chalked up his early shortcomings to fear.

“For nerves, everyone is scared,” Chintapalli said. “All the top players are scared. The winner is usually just the person who plays better while scared. So that kind of helps when you go into a set thinking, ‘Oh, man, this guy is so good, and I’m a scaredy cat.’ Everyone’s scared. There’s a lot on the line. I feel like the best advice is they’re scared too, so just play as best as you can.”

He won $4,225 ($4000 in singles, $225 in doubles). Chintapalli said he has a plan for where the money is going.

“I’ll probably just keep it there,” he said. “I’m going to Japan soon, so maybe I’ll splurge a little more than usual.”

Overall, Rock the Winds was a great time for the gamers. The level and intensity of competition matched the fun of the environment.

Even amid thunderstorms, the event made adjustments so things would progress without a major hitch.

“It’s gone exceptional,” said Jerry Fussell, CEO of the Modern Arcade in Rock Hill and adviser to the competitive gaming club at Winthrop University. “It’s gone really well. I know when we started doing the initial approach to planning and location, there were some things that we were worried about.

“Once we got here and got set up and everything, it’s been super smooth... It’s one of those high energy environments that I think we were looking for.”

For a full list of competitors and complete breakdown of the brackets, click here.