To celebrate Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Stony Brook University’s Division of Information Technology (DoIT) teamed up with The Super Smash Bros Club to throw a spirited Super Smash Bros Ultimate tournament for students.
The prize? A brand-new Nintendo Switch and a copy of the Super Smash Bros Ultimate video game.
Spectators cheered on 64 students competing in the event. Players were glued to their screens, mashing buttons and executing combos with ease while eating pizza, all in the hope of getting their hands on the grand prize.
“It shows you how good some events are when they listen to student input,” said Justin Ligasan, a player at the event.
But while gamers stood in line whispering to one another about which in-game characters were going to give them the fighting edge, DoIT staff were hard at work educating more one hundred attendees, players, and spectators alike, of the importance of cybersecurity.
Each sub-department under the DoIT umbrella had their own take on how to teach students online safety. Customer engagement, for example, focused on informing students to change their passwords frequently. Other topics included network security and username and password protection. One table was even set up to allow students to check if their email had been breached.
One DoIT staff member happy to educate the attendees on the importance of cyber-security was John Gianmugnai, a service desk technician at who saw the immense potential to keep attendees entertained with one of the most popular esports of the decade, while simultaneously teaching them a thing or two about cybersecurity.
How was DoIT supposed to pull off such throwing such a high-stakes tournament while bringing attention to cybersecurity while amid Cybersecurity Awareness month? That was the challenge that DoIT employees, staff, and interns had to solve.
“We started reaching out to the other areas. We got the Smash Brothers group involved because they have more experience running these types of things, and it kind of went from there,” Gianmugnai said.
Obviously, gaming and free food are big motivators to get students engaged. But to get in, DoIT wanted participants to have the little face time with the different areas and learn how DoIT’s work relates to them.
“This was the bait to get them to learn something,” exclaimed Mark Valazquez, a Stony Brook Information Security Analyst.
As battles took place between students, spectators surrounded eight screens – each equipped with a Nintendo Switch and a copy of Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Matches were intense; the players’ faces squeezed with determination as they frantically selected the exact button combinations they needed to win.
After all, a single mistake could cost them the game.
Yet the spirit of competition was not lost on the players. After each match ended and the next one began, players congratulated each other on their performances, casually laughing at their mistakes and discussing how they could get better. The losing player was often met with “good game” or a firm handshake.
“It was a lot of fun,” Patrick Wszeborowski, an information systems major who won the tourney. “I would definitely do this again.”