A Valley of Gamers

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The Rio Grande Valley is home to a vibrant gaming community, with numerous gaming stores spread across the region. Stores such as Kaboom Games in McAllen, Olympus Cards and Comics in Harlingen, Press Start Gaming, and StarBase Gaming in Edinburg contribute to the gaming culture in South Texas. These stores host weekly competitions where local players gather to compete in a variety of popular games, including Super Smash Bros. The gaming scene in the Valley is diverse and inclusive, welcoming players of all ages to come together and compete with camaraderie and skill.

This is where 17-year-old SHADIC (Ethan Xavier San Miguel) comes in. Currently, he is ranked 44 on LumiRank, the definitive global ranking of Super Smash Bros players, and he’s ranked number two in Texas. Between November 2023 and May 2024, he won first place at four out of 11 national events, placing in the top ten in all but two. He’s widely expected to be ranked in the top ten when the next LumiRank is released. The young man has earned the respect and admiration that few achieve, even with years of hard work and determination.

The name SHADIC combines his first two favorite characters, Shadow and Sonic. SHADIC is one of the most down-to-earth high-level players you’ll ever meet. When asked about his goals in esports, he shrugs and says, “I used to want to be the best player in the world, but it’s not really what I want anymore.” His goals now are to play and have fun, and it’s a bonus if he’s making friends in the process. He said the Genesis X tournament in February 2023 was probably the best time of his life. “I didn’t win, but I’m totally happy with it,” he said with a modesty beyond his years. “It has a special place in my heart; it’s probably the happiest I’ve ever been.”

He is also an A student who gets special permission to attend tournaments around the US during the school year due to his good grades and strong work ethic. He says he prioritizes schoolwork over gaming. “I don’t like slacking. It would be nice if I didn’t have a mountain of homework to do after a big tournament, but it’s fine.”

His biggest hero is his father, who is also his biggest fan and even goes by the screen name “DADIC.” “He hasn’t been blessed with the easiest life,” SHADIC said. “But he’s worked with what he’s had, and, well, here we are. I want to be like that.”

SHADIC and his father are well-known and respected in the RGV gaming community. His favorite place to play is StarBase Gaming in Edinburg, where he participates in the occasional Tuesday night Smash Tournament. Although the local crowd is smaller than the national tournaments, he still feels most comfortable there. Shop owners also appreciate his presence, as Lalo Cortez of Press Start Gaming says he attracts players who want to challenge a champion.

The local gaming scene experiences fluctuations in its numbers, with shops opening and closing and players joining and leaving as they take on new responsibilities and life changes. In the RGV gaming community, live and online tournaments are thriving, attracting more young people to local game shops where they receive guidance from experienced players. The strong sense of community and sportsmanship evident across the scene is a testament to its lasting appeal and indicates that it will continue to thrive in the foreseeable future.