Esports Lab Spotlight: Craig G. Anderson


by | May 1, 2019, 11:00AM PDT

This is part 2 of a mini-series on the UCI Esports Lab and their research topics.

This article features Craig G. Anderson, a doctoral candidate at the Esports Lab. His research topics focus on the cognitive influences of games, including the roles of failure and persistence in gaming. More information, including contact information, can be found at https://www.uciesportslab.org/.

What led you to become involved in esports research? What is your educational background?

I’ve been working with Profs. Constance Steinkuehler and Kurt Squire for about five years;  we started in Madison, Wisconsin where we were initially researching educational games. It wasn’t until we moved to Irvine when our research started to change gears toward esports. I still study single player commercial games, but I can now start looking at the area of multiplayer competitive environments as well.

What questions are you looking to answer through your research?

My masters work was on “what makes video games engaging.” To that end, I made a low-fidelity version of Peggle and had people play it to find out if they still enjoyed playing and if they learned the core skills about the game (they only played half as much, and reported less engagement). There’s something about having success just out of reach that keeps players coming.  I then started to think about how failure is so common in games, and how games construct failure as something expected. I’m interested in looking at games like Dark Souls and Cuphead, notoriously difficult games that have a huge fanbase. Do playing these types change the way we think about failure, both in and outside of the game as well?

Today, my research focuses on how players react to failure in games. I come from a psychology background, so I’m interested in how video games make people think, and especially how they frame failure in comparison to other environments. One reason why esports is so interesting is because there are teammates that are relying on you to succeed with them as well — any failure can affect the whole team. Another interesting aspect as well is the spectators; do players react to failure differently when people are watching? If so, how?  

I am currently looking to watch testers play Cuphead and try to map the places where players are most likely to fail. I’m particularly interested in seeing if they persist, and also the reorientation strategies they use. What’s difficult about this is that the methodology hasn’t been done before. Researchers usually just survey their testers about their experiences, but I plan to actually observe the testers play the game. How long do players persist through failure? How many times do they fail, and how do they react to those failures? How many times do they try before they give up?

Who do you work with on a regular basis at the lab?

The lab was designed on purpose to encourage open, constant collaboration. Everyone talks across the table and gets the chance to collaborate with others on topics they find interesting. There are all kinds of people that work in the lab, from professors to graduate students, and even undergraduate and high school interns.

Outside the lab, our biggest project is NASEF, the high school esports league that also facilitates academic research. We work with the high school players to get gameplay footage that we might be able to refer to in our research, such as League of Legends mid lane players.

What is one of the most important things you’ve done in your time researching esports?

I am the co-chair for UCI’s Esports Conference (ESC). It was a huge amount of work, especially since ESC 2018 was the first-ever instance of it. The team spent a whole year planning the whole event, but it paid off! I’m happy that many people enjoyed it and want to go again next year, so even now we’re working on ESC 2019.

Where do you see esports (and/or research in the area) in five years?

As esports becomes more mainstream, I see it growing in popularity until it is on par with regular, traditional sports. Similarly, esports research will continue to grow, especially at UCI where the Informatics department and games studies is growing. I want to see UCI become the premier game studies university. Before Profs. Steinkuehler and Squire came, there were only three or four professors in the department studying anything games-related. Now that there are a lot of big names doing research here, the school is now attracting more and more games scholars.

Our League of Legends: UCI Esports 2021-22 Roster


by | Nov 2, 2021, 7:37PM PDT

The UCI Esports program formally announces our League of Legends scholarship team rosters today in anticipation of the College League of Legends (CLOL) national championship, coming off the heels of the team’s victory in the RSAA Fall Warmup as the Shurima Division champions.

Your Irvine anteaters are a formidable team, composed of several challenger players, many promising new additions, and a lively spirit coming into this year reinvigorated to fight for the trophy once again, last hoisted by the team in 2018. 

Today, we proudly unveil our official varsity and junior varsity rosters for the year of 2021-22.

Varsity
Top – Erik “Berik” Kim
Jungle – Duong “Duong Pro” Tran 
Mid – Ben “Cinnamon Bread” Chang
Bot – John “Sahori” Vu 
Support – Ethan “Kim Down” Song

Junior Varsity:
Top – Dylan “Dongha” Chen
Jungle – Lan jie “TacoVaco” Tsai
Mid – Danny “Somesort” Yi
Bot – Andrew “Misterdot” Liu
Support – Dylan “dtro18” Tran

“Our return to campus comes paired with new faces and talent. And we have amazing chemistry between the players and rosters, which I think is our strongest asset in contesting the championship this year. Our players are hard-working, resilient and handle adversity together head on. We aim to represent the best that the school has to offer and hope to make the UCI community proud. ” – David “Hermes” Tu, League of Legends Head Coach

Our League of Legends teams have been playing in a handful of leagues and tournaments in practice for Riot Games’ official first-party North American collegiate circuit, and our Junior Varsity team currently competing in the NACE Starleague JV West Playoffs. Having come together less than 2 months ago, the team is growing quickly, full of promise, and eager to make UCI proud as one of the premier teams in the league, and as the pride of the west coast.

Official CLOL matches will be streamed early next year when competition kicks-off in February of 2022 and local watch parties will commence then for local community members and students to come out in support. For more information on our teams, follow our social medias to keep up with the action on and off Summoner’s Rift.

Changing of the Guard


by | Oct 19, 2021, 3:06PM PDT

Greetings from UCI Esports,

We have been incredibly fortunate to have phenomenal people walk through our doors and contribute to the creation of our program.  As we begin our sixth year, we want to thank the following folks who have left us in the past year, and acknowledge their work and legacy.

Jess Acebes: Original student staff, intern, Girls in Gaming camp co-founder, streaming class teacher, NASEF tournament ops, meat lover.

Erik Bleitz:  Strategic planning lead, leadership board administrator, marketing guru, main tank, text-based game entrepreneur.

Milo Dodson: Team psychologist, the Milo of Milo meetings, speaker, celebrity, travel buddy and roommate in China.

Samantha Anton: OCHSEL tournament coordinator, NASEF COO, admissions expert, tour guide, emcee, kombucha advocate, mortal enemy of all Scorpios.

Hillary Phan: Player Support Coordinator, Intern, Girls in Gaming camp co-founder, multi-award winning Animal Crossing island designer, bean.

Damian Rosiak: Original Arena Supervisor, intern, streaming lead, special projects coordinator, Smash Ultimate overseer, NHL tournament overlord, Breakaway world champion.

Kathy Chiang: Fastest typist on the west coast, original Arena Coordinator, TAG founder, role model, collegiate leader, mentor, friend, cat mom.

As we close our chapters with these superstars, we are making a few changes to our current team.  

Ronald Ly is transitioning from Overwatch Head Coach to Acting Assistant Director.

“To my mentors and colleagues that have taught, inspired, and encouraged me these last 3 years, know that it has been a privilege to cross paths with such inspiring teammates. Our program has been enriched and made strong by your work, and I’m excited to see what we’ll all accomplish in the future, whether it be at UCI Esports, elsewhere, or beyond.”

  • Ronald “Renanthera” Ly

Michael Kuhns has moved from Assistant Coach to Head Coach of Overwatch to replace Ronald.

“I am excited to take on this new role and to lead our Overwatch team heading into the new year.  We have the most talent we have ever had and I am excited for our future.”

  • Michael “The” Kuhns

In other positive news, UCI leadership is ramping up support for esports and we will have several full-time and part-time jobs available in the coming months. We will be looking for the next generation of hard carries for our small, but mighty, department.  

We just opened up the Arena Coordinator Position which will be filled in the coming weeks.  Additionally, we are planning to hire an Assistant Director, a Communications Manager, and two part-time assistant coaches in the next six months.  

We will miss all of our colleagues who have left and will cheer them on in their next adventures.  Please join us in thanking our departed staff and stay tuned for some of the exciting things coming soon.

Mark Deppe
Director, UCI Esports

Back in Person, Back in Action: UCI’s Overwatch 2021-2022 Roster


by | Oct 2, 2021, 2:42PM PDT

Today, UCI Esports is proud to announce our collegiate scholarship team to the public. After an arduous deliberation process, our varsity team this year is composed of 11 members, some old, some new, to play for us in Activision Blizzard’s official collegiate circuit.

Formally unveiling the roster for this year, the UCI Esports Overwatch team is composed of:

Tank: Arthur “Mashiro” Tang, Phillip “PG1” Rodriguez, and Sean “Románi” Cook.

DPS: Jonathan “Light” Chao, Eugene “Dash” Tai, Juanwei “Fade” Hu, and Michael “Excal” Kim

Support: Mitsutoshi “Supreme” Sato, Tianyi “Helljudge” Chen, Victoria “Saffrona” Winn, and Bruno “KapGod” Moebest.

Overwatch games start October 1st, as UCI Esports begins the Overwatch Collegiate Homecoming 2021 preseason.

“This year’s team is one of mixed experiences, perspectives, and diversities. Some players have played professionally, others have come from high school scouting grounds, some are pick-ups straight from the competitive ladder. But every player has been ranked amongst the top 500 in North America, every player here has had some sort of overachiever, leader, or exemplar. Our team this year has been the best it has ever been, and we’re really excited to show the world how deep their potential goes. We want to make our community proud, so please follow us on our journeys, watch, and root for us as we compete.” – Ronald Ly, Player Support Coordinator