Stony Brook is a school full of character. If you spend enough time there, you are likely to run into people doing unique and interesting things around campus. They could be unicyclists, dancers or members of the marching band. For Samuel Buzby, being a world-class “Super Smash Bros.” player is what sets him apart from his peers.
Buzby, who goes by “Dabuz” in the gaming community, is a Long Island native and economics major who transferred from Baruch to Stony Brook this year to shorten his commute. Buzby is a self-proclaimed “standard nerd” and, opting for slacks and a long-sleeved shirt most days, his clothes match the part. But not all nerds are a contender for the spot of second or third best “Super Smash Bros. 4 player” in the world.
Buzby earned international recognition when he won the Nintendo of America National Open Tournament celebrating the game’s release in October 2014.
Although it was his most publicized win-to-date in the game, it was not his first. Buzby has been competing in tournaments since 2010, when he was a notable player on the scene of the game’s prequel, “Super Smash Bros. Brawl.”
“My family wasn’t the richest so my parents wouldn’t let me buy every game I wanted,” Buzby said. “But I saved my lunch money for a while so that I could buy ‘Brawl.’ ”
Today, the fact that he won $2,242.57 for his second place finish at the Genesis 3 tournament is nothing surprising to him. This sum — though much less than payouts at “League of Legends” and other eSports — is hefty considering that the pot was crowdfunded by the tournament entrants.
After purchasing the game and honing his skills, Buzby became interested in competing with others, which led him to attend tournaments. Following the release of “Super Smash Bros. 4,” Buzby went from a notable player to a dominant force. He became one of the most successful and dangerous opponents to face, netting dozens of first-, second- and third-place finishes at tournaments across the country.
Despite his record, he has fallen time and again to rival Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, the Chilean-born, top-ranked player who has had an all-but-unbreakable hold over the game’s tournament scene since November of 2014. Barrios lost a tournament only once in October 2015 after a 56-event win streak, netting over $65,000 dollars in the process.
In spite of his inability to defeat Barrios, Buzby has continued to challenge him for a first place title. In January, he faced Barrios in the grand finals at Genesis 3 in California, coming through the loser’s bracket of the game’s second largest tournament ever, with attendees from Mexico, Europe and even Japan. Buzby was not able to reset the bracket. But many, including Buzby himself, consider it one of — if not his strongest — performances ever.
“It was an extremely tough weekend,” Buzby said, with a smirk.
Playing video games professionally is not all fun and games. For Buzby, it can be quite challenging. Balancing school, practice and tournaments leaves little time for anything else.
“I often study and do homework on planes, in hotel rooms and even in between tournament matches,” Buzby said.
Buzby continues a personal quest to be the best. In some ways, he already is, being the undisputed best New York player and perhaps even the best in the Tri-State region, although his other rival Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada lives in New Jersey and is often regarded as second-best in the world. But if Buzby has his way, “ZeRo” and “Nairo” will not keep their spots for much longer.
“I didn’t have talent for sports, but I have ‘Smash,’ ” Buzby said. “I’ll be the best in the world.”