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.

Community Engagement Coordinator: Jamel Hopkins!


by | Aug 1, 2022, 12:18PM PDT

Whether you’re sieging towers, rushing sites, or pushing payloads, it’s your teammates that largely determine the course of the game. The community with which you surround yourself with is central to the gaming experience, in-game and out. Therefore, it is with great excitement that we announce Jamel “Aespirin” Hopkins, former shoutcaster and student staffer, will be joining the program full-time as our first-ever Community Engagement Coordinator.

Jamel will play an essential role for the program by connecting UCI Esports to the greater gaming community. As a primary liaison of the program, they will help to encourage and foster relations with other gaming spaces of all scopes, high school students, local UCI clubs, UCI alumni, and the national college esports community as a whole.

“As we have evolved as a program and adjusted to a world with COVID-19, we see a tremendous opportunity to use games and esports to re-engage our communities as we come back together in person. Our new Community Coordinator will play a vital role, connecting us more closely with UCI clubs, high school students, and our local community.”

– Mark Deppe, UCI Esports Director

“I’m ecstatic for this opportunity to give back to UCI Esports and the gaming community! In stepping into the role, my goal is to make our program a central hub on campus for students to call home like I have for years. I want our arena to brighten campus. Every student should feel safe and welcome here. I want everyone on campus to come here and get to know us, know each other.”

– Jamel Hopkins, Community Engagement Coordinator

The establishment of this new position at UCI Esports marks an exciting venture in the program’s ongoing commitment to building bridges between our local campus community and beyond. We are more than excited to have Jamel on board once more and look forward to witnessing his continued impact on the program!

First Ever Pokimane Scholarship Recipient: Nyah Beck!


by | Jul 22, 2022, 12:30PM PDT

Two years ago, UCI Esports was excited to announce the upcoming launch of the Pokimane Scholarship. A generous donation of $50,000 was given to the program by the famous gaming personality Imane “Pokimane” Anys herself to fund tuition and fees for student gamers for years to come via accrued interest. Over this summer, the program has chosen one lucky undergraduate to receive $2500 for the 2022 school year ahead, officially beginning the Pokimane Scholarship! 

The first ever recipient of this scholarship will be Nyah Beck, a founder of the Black Gxming Society as well as a Community Leader of The Association of Gamers, both being local campus organizations at UCI. Beck emphasizes the importance of gaming in her life as a conduit for making life-lasting connections and fostering community. 

“I believe the greatest thing [about gaming] has been being able to connect with others who live all over the world and have diverse backgrounds that differ from my own. Even times that the community has not been so great or positive to be around, this often serves as a learning experience, but also makes the great friendships stand out even more. Finding these peers has allowed me to grow and embrace my geekiness and be my most authentic self.”

– Nyah Beck

UCI Esports would like to extend a joyful congratulations to Beck! We are excited to see her impact on the gaming community moving forward!

Welcome Tildae!


by | Dec 9, 2021, 4:17PM PDT

A New Challenger Has Arrived

We are incredibly excited to share that Brenden “Tildae” Alvarez has come back home to UCI and will be joining UCI Esports as our new Arena Coordinator.  Brenden graduated from UCI in 2019 with a degree in Computer Science.  Tildae also played on our Overwatch team for two years, leading the squad to the Fiesta Bowl in 2018 and a berth in the National Championship match.

Since graduating, Brenden has been working as a counselor for Connected Camps and a coach for NASEF.  We are thrilled to have him back on campus and to help us engage the UCI gaming community as we return to campus.

Please join us in welcoming back home and congratulating him on his new position.