John Goldberg doesn’t remember when he first started playing video games but Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo was always one of his favorites.
The years of playing the game paid off on June 14, when Goldberg beat 15 other contestants during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles to be crowned the Nintendo World Champion, a title that was last awarded 25 years ago before the competition went on hiatus.
Goldberg, a Stony Brook University graduate who lives in Ozone Park, learned that Nintendo was holding a qualifying round for the championships at a Best Buy near his house and thought it would be fun to participate, he said.
“Being an avid Mario fan and an advanced player at most puzzle games, especially Dr. Mario, I was even more determined to attend, and make it to the Nintendo World Championships,” Goldberg said in an email.
After qualifying for the championship, Goldberg said he wasn’t planning on doing any “special practicing” until the gaming company announced that contestants would play “The Legend of Zelda,” a game Goldberg was not familiar with. He played the game and used an online guide to gain experience before competing with other contestants but only had to beat level 1 to advance to the winner’s round.
“We would later find out that we only had to defeat the first boss as the challenge, and I didn’t even have to play it during the competition,” Goldberg said. “What a letdown.”
In addition to The Legend of Zelda, contestants played Splatoon, Blast Ball, Super Metroid, Mario Kart 8, Balloon Fight, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Super Mario Maker. Goldberg competed with around 2,500 people in the audience and even more watching online. The large audience did not distract him, he said.
I actually wasn’t nervous at all during the event,” Goldberg said. “Coming from a competitive history of playing in tournaments for Super Smash Bros. games for years now, I have become very acclimated to nerves in cases of big events or large crowds. If anything, it was really exciting.”
During the last challenge, Super Mario Maker, Goldberg thought he would experience a “fake-out,” where he would be tricked into playing more challenges after thinking he won. He was shocked and relieved when the announcer called out his name. Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong and others presented Goldberg with a trophy in the shape of Mario.
“It was an amazing feeling, and it was really great to meet Shigeru Miyamoto in person, too,” Goldberg said. “It was really something to accomplish something of this caliber simply from playing and enjoying video games.”
Though no dates have been announced for the next Nintendo World Championships, Goldberg said he will “throw his hat in the ring again” if Nintendo or any other gaming company decides to host a similar event.