I’m Luke Snyder, a senior Interactive Multimedia major and aspiring content producer/video editor. I’ve been helping behind the scenes for Lions Gaming’s Super Smash Bros. scene since freshman year (I also compete! You may know me as Chemistry, Vantablack, or Luke Snywalker). I joined Lions Gaming’s executive board as its Historian in my junior year, and this year I became a Production Committee member. I switched from Biology to Interactive Multimedia in my junior year and haven’t looked back.
Smashing the Stronghold is a multi-part documentary consisting of interviews with some of TCNJ’s most notable Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players and guests. Episode 1, “The Stronghold Mentality,” focuses on Chris “Strawhat” Reubel, the current 7th-ranked player in New Jersey, and how he uses his positive mentality and work ethic to dominate the TCNJ Smash scene.
What was the overarching problem or challenge and how did you solve it?
I have edited videos of game footage before, and I have worked on some large projects such as TCNJ’s Super Smash Bros. power ranking videos, but I have never worked with real life footage before, let alone create a large-scale documentary like this. My challenge was determining how to best present the footage and narratives in a way that was visually interesting and kept the viewer engaged. I also had to study other documentaries to get an idea of the style and pacing I needed.
Your development process and tools
I shot all of the footage at TCNJ’s Smash Ultimate tournaments, including the Stronghold: The Siege biweekly series, our charity event Queen, and our paid biweekly series, Japes. I conducted interviews with players in a separate room during or after the tournament. The footage was shot on Canon DSLR cameras rented from the AIMM Cage, and it was edited using Adobe Premiere Pro. Some other footage was collected from Lions Gaming’s Twitch streams as well as other YouTube channels like Xzax and Master Hand Gaming.
How is this work likely to impact the world beyond TCNJ?
Prospective TCNJ students may find this documentary and be more interested in joining Lions Gaming. I hope I can also inspire others to pursue similar projects for their schools.
Your personal inspiration/interest
I knew before my senior year that I wanted my thesis project to present the TCNJ Smash community in a new way, and I felt that a documentary was the perfect way to do that. I’ve been part of the community for four years, and this documentary is my way of saying “thank you” to all the players I’ve gotten to know over that time. Hopefully with this project I can give exposure to players who might be under the radar in the New Jersey scene.
My biggest inspirations in terms of the documentary format are The Smash Brothers, an episodic documentary about the history of Super Smash Bros. Melee, and “there will Never Ever be another Melee player like Hungrybox” by EmpLemon, which centers on one of Melee’s “Five Gods,” Juan DeBiedma. These two documentaries gave me a good idea of how to present Smash narratives in this format. I also learned from watching The Smash Brothers’s creator Samox’s streams that I had to intentionally omit or move around information in order to present a specific story.
How does this play into your professional/creative goals?
I am fairly new to creating video content, but I know that I want to pursue a career in it. I’d love to create more content like this for esports or gaming journalism organizations, or potentially organize a team to create a larger-scale project like The Smash Brothers.
If the first few episodes of Smashing The Stronghold are successful enough, I will create more episodes featuring other TCNJ players, and I could possibly extend my reach to New Jersey players who do not attend TCNJ to create another series.
Biggest challenge/hurdle you overcame and how?
One of my biggest challenges was determining how much of this documentary I’d be able to feasibly get done during only one semester. I knew I had to shoot lots of B-roll, but I also needed to do interviews and edit it all before the May show. As the deadline got closer, I decided I’d need to focus on only one interviewee, and so I chose Strawhat as the subject of my first episode.
How you adapted to the COVID situation
Unfortunately, going home in March due to COVID-19 meant that I couldn’t shoot any more footage. Luckily, this didn’t pose a problem for me since I determined I would only be able to get one episode done before the show anyway. Being at home also gave me more time to focus on the project. Any interviews I want to do in the future could easily be done over Zoom, Discord, or other video call services.
Did you collaborate with others? How?
This project was inherently collaborative in the sense that as a documentary, it involved nearly everyone who attended TCNJ’s tournaments, and it required the cooperation of a few players who were willing to be interviewed. The filming and editing were all done myself.