UCI Esports Wins the 2018 College League of Legends Championship!


by | Aug 13, 2018, 2:21PM PDT

This article was a collaborative effort with UCI Esports League of Legends coach, James “Dreamweaver” Bates.


From July 7th to the 10th, UCI watched its League of Legends team pack up their bags and make their way to the League of Legends Championship Series Arena in Santa Monica, where the team would participate in the North American division of the College League of Legends Championship. Recent losses for the Overwatch and Heroes of the Dorm teams just earlier this year meant that this tournament was the perfect opportunity to show that UCI Esports will still fight to call themselves the victor.

Although most expected British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University to enter the tournament, UCI Esports had defeated them in the West Conference Playoffs, earning the title of the number two seed and a ticket into the championships.

Round One: University of Ottawa

New to the collegiate scene, Ottawa started this season ranked 18th in North America, but quickly fought their way through to the seventh seed this tournament. Despite their rapid climb, however, UCI Esports put it to a swift end.

With the newest Anteater, Evan “Captain Nuke” Phu, executing powerful ganks (surprise attacks that outweigh numbers in the performer’s favor) and careful team-fight setups, it’s no shock that he took the MVP title of the first match. Even more impressive was James “Lattman” Lattman’s play during Game 2– no one would contest that a devastating Pentakill, let alone the only Pentakill the entire tournament, would make him UCI Esports’ first series MVP during the championship. UCI Esports’ performance that day was a only a small prelude to what would come the rest of the weekend. Fans both at home and at the event had plenty to look forward to.

Lattman (right), alongside hostess Ovilee May (left), as he holds a blown-up cut-out of his face brought in by the UCI crowd.

Round Two: University of Maryland

The next day, UCI Esports faced their most consistent scrimmage partner and champion of the Eastern Conference, University of Maryland.

Working late into the night, UCI Esports had busied themselves carefully studying and predicting any of the wild picks that Maryland might try throwing at them. While the first two games of this series were quickly under UCI’s belt, Game Three suddenly put a bump into the road. The first twenty minutes of the game were dictated by Maryland jungler Winston “Wezi” Zhou playing Lee Sin, barring UCI from their usual early game jungle lead and eventually taking Game Three from the Anteaters.

Youngbin “Youngbin” Jung, however, wasn’t going down without a fight. With a newfound fervor, the jungler lead UCI Esports to victory in Game Four, winning their second series of the tournament.

Final Round: Columbia College

As Riot’s marching band lead the crowd in a spectacle of roaring cheers, UCI Esports and Columbia College prepared for the final series ahead of them. Columbia, an all-star roster put together in 2017, was one of UCI’s practice partners and a favorite to win the entire event.

The Anteaters capitalized on every chance they received, banning all of Columbia mid laner Julien “Juliens” Gelinas’ best picks every game as well as Youngbin counterpicking his jungler-counterpart Zachary “BukZach” Lapham, winning a solid Game One. And although Game Two began looking in favor of Columbia, Jeffrey “Descraton” Du’s miraculous Zoe plays reunited UCI for a victorious comeback. Game Three followed suit, Descraton on Zoe once again leading the charge until UCI Esports ganked Columbia’s solo lanes and choking out a win. The series, as well as the 2018 season of College League of Legends, ended soon after, with UCI Esports alone left standing victorious.

Lyubomir “Bloodwater” Spasov poses with UCI Esports, raising the College League of Legends 2018 Championship Trophy above him.

Road to China

After what seemed like a drought, UCI Esports was finally able to bring a championship trophy back home. Friends and family alike gathered from far and wide for support, with Descraton’s parents even assembling everyone together in the lobby to sing their son happy birthday. This only ushered in the beginning of a longstanding celebration. On June 14th, UC Irvine honored the team by hosting a party on campus, and California Congresswoman Mimi Walters even sent special congressional recognition certificates to the team.

The team’s victory lap is far from over, however, as they will now represent all of North America during the International Collegiate Championship taking place August 15-18th in Xi’an, China.

The UCI Esports Twitch channel will be the sole official English broadcast for the event this upcoming week. Be sure to tune in for a local time schedule to catch our team prove that not only can they be the best in the West, but the best in the world as well!

BlizzCon 2018… BEGINS! How You Can Join the Celebration


by | Nov 2, 2018, 11:32PM PDT

 

If you’re a fan of Blizzard Entertainment and its many intellectual properties (read, games and their multimedia incarnations) you already know that the Anaheim Convention Center this weekend is home to the biggest, ‘bluest’ event of the year! If not, we still love you, so read on to find out WHAT ALL THE HYPE IS ABOUT!

 

Esports! Esports! Esports!

Five (that’s right, FIVE) world championships are fast-approaching their thrilling conclusions! After a year of sweat and tears from all around the world, Overwatch (OW), Heroes of the Storm (Heroes/HotS), StarCraft II (SC2), Hearthstone (HS), and World of WarCraft (WoW) are all in their final stretches.  Whether you play Blizzard’s first-person shooter (FPS), multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), real-time strategy (RTS), digital card game (DCG) or massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG), world-class competition awaits you! Spectate live or online (see Virtual Ticket link below).  You can checkout the full esports schedule here.

Never played these games? Come to the UCI Esports Arena and try them out!

 

Huge Surprises, Big Announcements

Do you like being the first to know anything and everything about your passions and hobbies? In the past, BlizzCon has debuted all the Azeroth-shaking news, from new expansions for existing games to major changes, and on rare occasion even a brand new intellectual property or title. We’d tell you more, but *SPOILERS*! Panels for every game are the place to be or stream to drink in.

 

Cosplay for Days!

Some might consider BlizzCon the world championships of Cosplay (even if LA Comic-Con just held their National Cosplay Championships). A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a peek at this 2017 Blizzcon Costume Contest photo gallery over at Wowhead to save me from hundreds of thousands of words.

 

Peanut Butter Jelly Time! (AKA PARTY TIME!)

Where you at? Where you at? There may be no peanut butter, nor jelly, and DEFINITELY NO BASEBALL BATS, but you can still have a great time in the neighboring hotel lobbies every night with hundreds of your best friends you have not met yet. The plaza between the Anaheim Convention Center, Hilton, and Marriott hotels plus their lobbies are the place to be. Blow off some midterms steam, drink (legally and responsibly), and dance the night away with more nerds and geeks than your local Roleplaying/Tabletop Games Club!

 

Fame and Glory (In-Game Exclusives)

Few things elicit awe and envy like having something cool that few others possess. Whether you attend BlizzCon in-person* or purchase a Virtual Ticket upon reading this article, you will receive all the same in-game rewards. A legendary Overwatch skin (Demon Hunter Sombra, a Diablo mash-up/tribute) as well as 10 free packs from 5 different sets of Hearthstone (and an exclusive cardback) are just some of the attendee rewards for 2018. There is usually a WoW pet and there has been a cool banner or other cosmetic buff for Diablo III.

Also, a debut perk this year for Virtual Ticket holders: join show attendees as the first people to play the World of Warcraft Classic BlizzCon Demo at home. Previously only available on the show floor, the Virtual Ticket brings this content straight to your home for a limited time!

 

Whichever way you choose to do it, HAVE A HAPPY BLIZZCON 2018, EVERYONE!

Players & Professionals Talk Future of Esports at UCIESC 2018


by | Oct 31, 2018, 10:12AM PDT

On Thursday, October 11th, and Friday, October 12th, 2018, UC Irvine’s Student Center hosted UC Irvine Esports Conference (UCIESC), where games industry experts, esports professionals, and university esports representatives gathered to discuss the rapidly growing phenomenon of video game competition.

UCI students got the opportunity to experience part MOBA, part beat-’em-up Hyper Universe inside the UCI Esports Arena.

UCI is the first public university to form a collegiate esports program. As such, the campus’s UCI Esports Arena, which first opened in September of 2016, was both the subject of many panels and host to many of the conference’s festivities. Exhibition matches for Nintendo’s premiere platform fighter, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, were held and streamed outside the Arena. The up-and-coming Korean mobile game Destiny Child also hosted a cosplay contest on the outdoor stage. Inside the arena, veteran players and UCI students got to experience Hyper Universe, a new game for PC and Xbox One that revamps the popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre so prominent in modern esports such as League of Legends. Hyper Universe adds a twist to the genre by pitting the characters against each other in two-dimensional sidescroller combat, invoking the gameplay of arcade beat-’em-ups like Streets of Rage.

Exhibition matches and tournaments were also held for several esports games: Blizzard’s online trading card game Hearthstone, Overwatch matches between Overwatch League team LA Valiant and UCI’s own collegiate team, and of course, League of Legends. UCI’s collegiate League team were presented with twenty-two championship rings at an awards ceremony held outside of the UCI Esports Arena, commemorating their win at the 2018 League of Legends College Championships.

The Emerald Bay and Crescent Room conference rooms of the Student Center also hosted various talks and panels on the state of esports. These discussions focused on the culture of esports both in and out of the game, as well as its budding relationship with universities. Panelists and speakers discussed how esports interacts with the student body, collegiate teams and staff, college bureaucracy and academia, esports education, and the organizations that allow each of these facets to exist and grow. Graduate student research from several universities with esports programs of their own was also displayed in the Student Center.

UCIESC attendees at Michael Sherman and Adam Rosen’s talk, “Esports history and the development of esports as a cultural practice.”

A very common subject of different panels was the ecosystem on campus which allows both casual students and players on collegiate teams to perform and thrive. Riot Games’ Michael Sherman and Team Tespa’s Adam Rosen gave a talk on how Tespa and similar campus support programs could help by organizing clubs, leagues, and providing the space and equipment to play. Another important recurring topic at the conference was inclusivity and diversity in esports- that is, promoting the presence of women and other marginalized groups in games while also reducing toxicity, harassment, and gatekeeping. Morgan Romine of AnyKey, Eunice Chen from Cloud9, and Leena Xu of Team Solomid hosted a panel that called for alternative paths to becoming a pro player that would allow those with fewer opportunities to ‘go pro’ and play on the same stage as everyone else. The panelists also discussed the role women already play in different areas of the esports industry besides pro play, such as marketing, recruitment, and other behind-the-scenes work.

Aguilar’s research was just one of many pieces of university esports studies on display. (research by Stephen J. Aguilar, Ph.D)

Meanwhile, a piece of research by Stephen Aguilar, Ph.D., of USC Rossier, titled “Examining Players’ Sense-Making of Representation, Gender, and Race(ism) in Overwatch,” honed its lens on a particular part of the competitive gaming community- in this case, the Overwatch subreddits. Aguilar’s research was concerned with how this demographic responded to discussions regarding sensitive, controversial issues, and bigotry towards other players and members of the community.

Other conversations were about how esports has developed in universities and predicting the future of where it would go, as research becomes reputable and the reputation of games as pro sports becomes mainstream. Drs. Seth Jenny, Peggy Keiper, Joey Gawrysiak, and R. Douglas Manning, all representing different universities with budding esports programs, discussed the proliferation of esports with regards to sports science, higher education, esports law, and branding.

The panels and research topics discussed at the UCI Esports Conference all raised important questions: What was being done to curb toxic culture in-game? Would collegiate esports programs make themselves affordable and accessible to community colleges or lower-income schools? How do we navigate university bureaucracy and colleagues who dismiss esports and video game research as having little value? How do we convince these same individuals that providing funding, space, equipment, etcetera, is worth it? Some of these questions had multiple, complex solutions, while others, due to the nature of esports as a new, rapidly booming field, didn’t even have answers yet. For instance, when discussing toxic behavior, steps like monitoring voice and text chats and doling out suspensions for offensive players are already in place. However, when it came to dealing with college bureaucracy, it was clear that even some of the professional speakers still faced adversity in that respect. Ultimately, the conference brought together people from many different parts of the competitive gaming industry to begin a dialogue and find solutions to these problems, in order for esports to become an important, reputable, and fun community, both for universities and the rest of the world.

Article and photos by Nathan Dhami