The Big House, a large Super Smash Bros. Ultimate event held in Detriot, is trying something new with offering therapy dogs during the event, which are meant to soothe players with performance anxiety. Since The Big House is a fairly big event, anxiety can be a problem for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players, and the calming presence of the therapy dogs can help the competitors calm down and play their best during the tournament.
Event volunteer Laura Rall first thought of the idea of bringing on therapy dogs after a conversation with a friend. They were discussing performance anxiety when playing Super Smash Bros. Melee and jokingly brought up the therapy dogs. The conversation stuck with her, and when bringing up the possibility to The Big House management, they were immediately on board. The event is working with Go Team Therapy Dogs Detroit to bring five therapy dogs to the tournament.
Rall and The Big House hopes that the therapy dogs will not only help with performance anxiety but also help competitors de-stress after a match loss. Competitors do not always take losses well, lashing out at fellow players and fans, and the event managers think the calming presence of the dogs can help them calm down. While this may not help against the rampant bullying unfortunately present in the Super Smash Bros. community, making strides to provide a calm environment for competitors may help them set a better example for their fanbases.
It's no surprise that tournaments can be stressful events that can lead to all sorts of issues for the participants. Just last month a competitor passed away during a fighting game tournament, and while Krucial B's heart attack was spurred by family medical issues, there's still the fact that the stress of a competitive environment can exacerbate health issues. Granted, there are some issues with bringing therapy dogs to a public event, namely for those that have allergies or a fear of dogs, but The Big House is working with Go Team Therapy Dogs to help accommodate this.
If this goes well for The Big House, it's possible more therapy dogs may show up at other gaming competitions. Having therapy dogs can be one step to making the competitive fighting game scene more accessible to players that suffer from social or performance anxiety, so hopefully, this new idea gets picked up for other events. Perhaps they might even be seen at EVO 2020, if Super Smash Bros. 4's poor 2018 showing is anything to go by.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is out now on the Nintendo Switch.