Bay Area-born gaming competition brings convention, crowds to Downtown SJ

Genesis 8 is billed as the largest grassroots, community-run, Super Smash Bros. tournament in the world, with Bay Area roots.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The San Jose McEnery Convention Center opened its doors to thousands of visitors on Friday for the Genesis 8 gaming convention.

Competitors, video game consoles, and crowds signaled the long-awaited comeback for large events.

Genesis 8 is billed as the largest grassroots, community-run, Super Smash Bros. tournament in the world, with Bay Area roots.

"We started in 2009, in a barn in the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds in Antioch," Genesis Gaming co-founder, Sheridan Zalewski said. "Because that was the only place we can figure out where to put 600 people that came to our first event."

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From 600 then, to an estimated 5,000 people descending upon Downtown San Jose on Friday. He said 4,600 registered on website.

Zalewski said he and a group of friends who created the competition, initially gamed together in 2004-2005. Today, he and co-founder Boback Vakili are the main organizers.

The tournament, which lasts through Sunday, is bringing back convention center staff after a tough two years of cancelled events. It's also reconnecting people with shared interests, once again, in-person.

Typical at many conventions, ABC7 News found someone in a costume.

"Definitely gonna be out this weekend," Jim Norris said. "Yeah, going out to restaurants, bars and stuff."

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Welcome words for Michelin-starred Chef David Costa. During Friday's lunch rush at Petiscos on South First Street, he explained he wasn't only busy cooking, but bussing tables between orders.

"The people that's coming for the event in the convention center- it's coming a lot of people at the same time," Chef Costa shared. "Which, maybe it's the same hours for the lunch. It's very good."

Friday evening, ABC7 News spotted crowds across the downtown core.

Frances Wong with Visit San Jose said large conventions also keep surrounding businesses busy, bringing in more hotel bookings and creating jobs.

"We have so many employees back at the convention center," Wong told ABC7 News. "In the kitchen, doing refreshments, doing the food and beverage service and stuff. People on the floor. We have our IT department, we have our security."

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"The more conventions, more business, more support we have as an organization and as a city to bring these conferences and these meetings to San Jose, the better it is for the entire community," she said.

Wong emphasized that tourism is the economic driver for the entire city of San Jose.

Back at the convention center, site selection and contract negotiator, Rhanee Palma anticipates more events to come back online. Still, remembering what challenges were faced to get to Friday.

"Starting from November 2021 up until February 2022, we had six city ordinance changes," Palma shared. "And with those six ordinance changes, we also had different protocols for each one."

Having had a hand in Genesis 8, Palma said the pandemic has forced organizers to find a way to incorporate nostalgia and the new normal.

She added, "This is one of those moments where you can kind of step back and reevaluate and pause and say, 'What do we really want from this?'"

For more information on Genesis 8, click here.
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