Super Smash Bros. tournament is bringing in dogs to help players calm their nerves

Competitive gaming tournaments can be a stressful experience for competitors. This is perhaps more intense for fighting games like Super Smash Bros. where competitors may not have a team to rely on. To address this issue, one Smash tournament is bringing in a fluffy new weapon to combat performance anxiety — therapy dogs.

At this year’s running of The Big House, an annual Super Smash Bros. tournament in Detroit, five therapy dogs will be on-hand to help players deal with anxiety both before and after matches. The idea came from Laura Rall, who volunteers at the tournament. Rall, a University of Michigan student working on her master’s degree in social work, personally experienced the benefits of therapy animals in the past, leading her to pitch the idea to tournament organizer Robin Harn.

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“A few months back I was discussing with a friend who competitively plays Melee about performance anxiety and I jokingly mentioned therapy dogs coming to tournaments, since the friend loved dogs,” stated Rall in an interview with Eurogamer. “The thought stuck with me and when I suggested it to Robin, he loved it as well. After that, I started to get the ball rolling on making this happen.”

Go Team Therapy Dogs Detroit will be providing the animals for The Big House. The organization previously worked at the Cobo Center in Detroit, where the tournament is being held, before. According to Rall, the group was very enthusiastic about the concept and volunteers quickly signed up.

“I think at these national tournaments a lot of competitors can have performance anxiety, so the dogs could help relieve some of that stress and pressure beforehand,” explained Rall. “I’ve also witnessed the heartbreak and frustration players can have after losing, and I think hanging with a dog could be very beneficial to de-stress in a healthy way.”

With The Big House still a couple of months away in October, Rall has yet to work out the specific details of how the dogs will be at the event. However, she mentioned “celebratory petting-sessions” as one possible concept. In addition to this, she also thinks that the dogs can help with matters outside of competition, such as people in the crowd suffering from social anxiety.

One possible issue that Rall sees with the dogs concerns any participants who may be allergic to dogs, or have a phobia of them. Go Team Therapy Dogs and Rall are currently working out possible solutions to this. In the meantime, she’s assured people that all the dogs will have undergone vaccinations, and their handlers will come with proper paperwork indicating that the dogs are qualified to work as therapy dogs. Additionally, the organizers may opt to confine the dogs to a specific area so that anyone with allergies or a phobia can avoid them.