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.

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

Goodbye and Good Luck: Cheers to Our New Graduates


by | Jun 18, 2021, 12:00PM PDT

At UCI Esports, we are most proud of our students who enter our university curious, motivated, and ready for their new chapter. In our short time together, we are honored to provide mentorship and watch them learn and grow before they are sent out into the world.

While we are not able to cheer them on in person as they cross the commencement stage, we offer this tribute to the incredible Anteaters who have generously shared their special gifts with us.

Please join us in congratulating our graduating seniors as they level up and prepare for their next adventure!

Arena Staff

Yonael Taye

I have met few people as charismatic as Yonael, who has always been one of the most supportive and encouraging members of our stellar team of arena staff! I remain impressed and inspired by his involvement and passion in his various campus communities, from hip-hop dance to gaming. I know with confidence that no matter where he’s headed, he’ll leave a trail of friendships and positive energy.

Kathy Chiang

Marcus Wong

It’s been a pleasure to get to know Marcus through his involvement in our arena, the VR club, and the fighting game community. I admire his knack for coming up with creative solutions and working with technology, helping him stand out while making all of our lives a bit easier. I look forward to witnessing more of his innovations and the mark he will leave on his various communities as he moves on to his next adventure!

Kathy Chiang

Tony Wu

Who doesn’t love Tony? Even when he could be considered a newcomer to our staff team, he was always looking for ways to help and improve the experience of our visitors and other team members. As more staff joined our ranks, Tony was constantly recognized as a terrific role model, demonstrating a certain leadership style that resonated well with everyone in the Esports family. I’ll never forget the dedication and care with which he works, and I’m sure he will be successful wherever he lands.

Kathy Chiang

Casters

Spencer Kammerman

Spencer was one of the most energetic casters the program has ever had the pleasure of working with. His knowledge of the professional and collegiate League of Legends scene gave everyone of his casts a professional look and feel. On top of that, his memes and jokes made every viewer omegalul in chat. The value he brought to each stream will not be forgotten and I hope to see Spencer casting in the big leagues one day if he so chooses.

Damian Rosiak

Michelle Tran

Michelle consistently brought great analysis about the meta in overwatch to our streams. Her friendship with the other casters brought a friendly tone to each stream that all spectators took note of. It’s safe to say that she had a huge impact on our stream team over the years and we wish her all the best of luck in her future endeavors.

Damian Rosiak

Interns

Nick Gasparyan — Digital Marketing

Few have given as much to the program as Nick has. Since the beginning, Nick has helped shape the foundation for the program’s media presence and branding. Fulfilling a myriad of roles, Nick took his vision for the program and led us with his endless well of passion and ambition. Always willing to go above and beyond, we’re so grateful to Nick and his years of dedication. The growth he’s shown here is only the beginning of his adventure, and I eagerly await news of his next accomplishments.

Hillary Phan

Vivian (Vi) Lam — Social Media

It’s difficult to name someone more driven than Vi. With her wealth of experience and go-getter attitude, Vi helped us keep afloat on our social media during our fully remote school year. She’s a natural at staying organized and professional, and it’s been a pleasure watching her grow from arena staff member to accomplished intern. She’s always hungry for improvement, be it in her work or the many creative hobbies she’s got in her back pocket. We appreciate all she’s done for us and will always be cheering her on.

Hillary Phan

Allison Le — Team Manager

Allison appeared right as we needed a new team manager in October 2018 and quickly blew us away with her leadership and drive. She quickly became an indispensable part of the team, streamlining workflows and solving problems before they arose. Allison is a consistent source of good cheer in the arena, breaking out into song or cracking a joke. It’s been an honor to work alongside her and watch her develop into the unstoppable force she is today. I’m so proud of her and will miss her dearly, but can’t wait to watch her take the world by storm.

Hillary Phan

Anny Tran — Graphic Design

Anny joined us a year ago, dazzling us with her graphic design style and expertise. During a time where we relied on our graphics department more than ever, Anny rose to the challenge and produced flawless designs, supporting us as we adjusted to operating completely online. Our crispy graphics and media are thanks in large part to Anny and her consistently professional quality work. She’s a joy to have around, and we’ll miss having her on our graphics team. Wherever she lands next will be lucky to have her – congrats!

Hillary Phan

Yigu Yu and William Poon — Partnerships

Yigu and William came to us in the spring of 2020, looking to help our program and get additional esports experience. As we shut down for COVID, they did an incredible amount of work analyzing arena use, building out our sponsor relation strategy, and building out additional products for the program. They brought energy, initiative, professionalism, and warm personalities to the role. They will leave a lasting legacy and we could not be more thankful for their time with us.

Mark Deppe

Scholarship Players

Youngbin Chung — League of Legends

Youngbin’s graduation is incredibly meaningful to our program. Arriving at UCI in the fall of 2016, he was one of our original recruits. He grew from a talented athlete to an incredible student, leader, and mentor. It has been such a pleasure to watch him grow competitively, academically, and personally over the past five years. He has taught me an incredible amount and I am eternally thankful for his contributions and friendship.

Mark Deppe

Daniel Mishkanian — Overwatch

We’re going to miss Dani! In many ways, he was the heart and soul of our Overwatch team. He led by example, grinding out solo queue, and keeping up with Overwatch, even when it wasn’t fun. His energy and humor motivated his teammates and coaches and we’re very sad to see him go. He was the foundation of a wonderful team culture and we are so thankful for his contributions. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Mark Deppe

Evan Phu — League of Legends

Evan joined our JV team in 2016 during his first year and quickly made a name for himself in the top lane. In his sophomore year, he stepped into a starting role for the varsity team and quickly became a star. His growth – from inexperienced rookie to a dominant force – is a major reason why we won the 2018 LoL championship. Aside from competing, Evan was a stellar student with a great sense of humor. We’re going to miss seeing him on campus and in the arena.

Mark Deppe

Sean Uehara — League of Legends

Sean was an awesome member of the League team and a great contributor to our program overall. Not only was he a dominant mid Rumble, he was an excellent student and helped tutor teammates and other UCI students. After hearing about a time-intensive data challenge, he wrote up a script to automate the process and saved many hours of staff time. Despite all his talents, he remained friendly and humble. He’s got a great future in front of him.

Mark Deppe