Matt Stetler wants you to leave the house for once.
As a member of local band Sight Unseen, as well as a trivia night host around town, Stetler is used to bringing people together for a good time. Two months ago, Stetler launched a new venture to highlight his lifetime love of video games in the form of The Gamer's Guild, a weekly video game challenge held at Meduseld Meadery. Games range from cherished favorites like "Donkey Kong" to recently released gems such as "Mortal Kombat 11" and "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate."
We sat down with Stetler to get the lowdown on his own gaming history, the potential of the Gamer's Guild and why people hate notorious gamer Billy Mitchell so much.
Where did the idea for the Gamer's Guild first come from?
I always had an idea that I wanted to do something to kind of bring back the whole notion of competitive gaming because everything is online. I feel like that whole aspect of gamers getting together to talk games, and a sense of one-on-one connection is slowly disappearing. And it's such a shame, because, you know, I'm an old, decrepit, 40-year-old man. I remember actually having to physically walk across the street to a friend's house to play games with him. Now you just click on a button online, and you have some 10-year-old kid saying you're a noob.
A friend of mine helped me mod an old Xbox and put all of these old games on it. Then I just had this idea of, what if I could hook this up to a TV at a bar or something? I started hosting trivia nights at [Meduseld] Meadery about a year ago, and I thought it might work there. After a week or two of trying to convince them, they finally gave in. I mean, I'm bringing the TV and the systems, I'm literally doing everything, they are just providing the venue. It's been going alright; I think sometimes it comes down to the game we're doing that week. The first one was the "Mario Bros." speed run which was fairly well attended, and this past weekend was the new "Super Smash Bros.," which was really successful.
In the two months you've been doing this, has it been difficult balancing the games that you might want to play with ones that you know will draw a lot of people in?
Yes and no. The nice thing is that I have two TVs, which helps me be a little creative in how I approach it. I have the Xbox, but then I also have my daughter's Switch, so I have a limited set of games that I can try to make into a challenge. Take "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out," initially the challenge was going to be how long a person could go without getting knocked out. But the problem with it only being three hours is, if you have a person who is great at that game, they're going to play for an hour and no one else is going to get a chance. So we ended up doing a time trial with the first three boxers, and then I went as far as saying that if you get knocked down, you're out.
It's good to have games that pass through all generations. Like, "Mario Bros." came out in '84 and my 11-year-old daughter knows it. And I think a lot of that is also because Nintendo doesn't shy away from their past, which I think makes them such a great company. They embrace it by continuing to bring these older games back all the time and change the way they look. So luckily, there's a large enough library there of classics that anybody can kind of come in and play. But then with the old Xbox, what's cool there is I can pick three or four games and advertise them on social media. For example, when Cinco de Mayo was coming up, I tried to think of a game that involved alcohol, and there weren't many. We ended up doing "Tapper" and it kind of blew up. That's what's been fun about playing these older games and sparking memories in people.
You've been able to give away prizes by partnering with local folks like Just Press Play and Sweetish Candy. I have to ask about the most notable prize you've offered thus far, though, which was a phone call with Billy Mitchell from "The King of Kong..."
Wow, that was like, my 15 minutes of internet notoriety that I never wanted. That probably went the most south that I could ever imagine it going. I was sitting in a movie theater with my daughter watching "Detective Pikachu" and not midway through the movie, my phone just starts vibrating like crazy, like I would have thought it was going to blow up. I see all these notifications of people I don't know, commenting on posts. It wasn't so much on my page, it was on the shared post that Just Press Play put up. People were like, "I'm never going to go to your store if this is the type of person you're going to promote." [Just Press Play] had to add an addendum to the post saying that they in no way supported him, they were just helping promote the event. It got so nasty, and I've never dealt with anything like that. I mean, there were people on the other side of the country that wouldn't have come anyway, arguing in a Facebook post about this guy. And at the end of the day, the guy who won [the "Donkey Kong" competition] was the guy who had hooked up the call from Billy in the first place, so he just got to talk to his friend for a little bit on the phone. And you know what? Billy was really nice!
Along with the Gamer's Guild, you also host weekly trivia nights and perform with Sight Unseen. Are there any tips or tricks to getting people to come out to events on a constant basis?
You just have to be creative. You have to keep hitting people over the head with it. To the point where they get annoyed, and literally tell you to stop. I try to announce the challenges early in the week, but not so early that people will forget. I really hate doing the Facebook and Instagram side of things, but it's something you just have to do. You can't rely on a venue that has 30 other things going on to do it for you, because at the end of the day, it's your thing, you know? People have such short attention spans, so you have to sort of contend with that. It's the same with the band, you'll have dozens of people say they're showing up, and then five people actually go.
Aside from the Guild events, what are you personally playing now?
I just finished "Red Dead Redemption 2," which was awesome. I play a lot of "WWE 2K19," the newest one. I never should have taken a break from that series because the submission system has changed so much that if I get locked into a submission move in the first 10 seconds of a match, I'm tapping out [laughs].
You'll be off this weekend for Memorial Day, but what can people look forward to on Sunday, June 1?
I think it's going to end up being some sort of "Sonic the Hedgehog" challenge, because that perked some ears up at the last "Smash" tournament. I've got "Sonic Mania" for the Switch, and I think there's a pretty solid recreation of that classic first "Sonic" level. As long as it's fairly close to the original Genesis version, we'll probably do that.
The Gamer's Guild meets for weekly gaming challenges weekly on Sundays from 2-5 p.m. and will be off this weekend for Memorial Day. Follow the page here for announcements and updates.