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.

Heroes Never Die: Recognizing UCI Esports’ Outstanding Staff Graduates


by | Jun 12, 2019, 11:00AM PDT

It’s that time of year. Temperatures are rising, classes are winding down, and freshmen are selling swipes at prices that would bring Maruchan to shame. For most, it’s a time of relaxation. Of fun. The calm before the storm of finals.

For graduating seniors, however, the end of the year strikes a bittersweet note. It marks the culmination of a lengthy academic commitment—one filled with hard classes, good memories, and Anteater pride. For UCI’s class of 2019, finals week really is the final week.

That said, we’d like to take a moment to acknowledge our graduating staff and their contributions to UCI Esports. Each and every one of them has played an important role in making the program what it is today, from overseeing our scholarship teams to managing the Arena in its day-to-day operations.

UCI Esports Arena Staff

Damian Rosiak

Damian started at UCI Esports as an intern during the summer of 2016. Within five months, he’d earned a promotion to Stream Lead, where he managed and produced streams for the program’s Twitch account.

Damian graduates with a degree in sociology.

Patrick Tran

Patrick has worked with UCI Esports since 2016, entering the program as a member of the UCI Esports Arena floor staff. After a year of exceptional work, he took on the role of Student Supervisor.

When he’s not overseeing the Arena, Patrick is applying the skills he’s acquired as an Informatics major to problems in UX and UI.

Patrick Mok

Like Patrick Tran, Patrick Mok has been a member of the UCI Esports Arena floor staff since 2016. As a Student Supervisor, Patrick trains junior staff and keeps the Arena running smoothly.

In his spare time, Patrick studies business economics and manages money as The Association of Gamers at UCI’s Resource and Finance Director.

Jeffrey Huang

Jeffrey is an aerospace engineering major with experience in 3D modeling and information technology. He’s been working with UCI Esports since fall quarter as part of the Arena’s floor staff.

Joshua Coss

Joshua joined UC Irvine as a transfer student in 2017, where he quickly found his place as a staff member at the UCI Esports Arena. Now, soon to be equipped with a Bachelor’s in psychology, Joshua aims to secure a career as an esports psychologist.

Lance Chi

Lance has worked as a member of the UCI Esports Arena staff since 2018. As a student of business economics, his interests include supply chain operations and financial management.

In addition to his work with UCI Esports, Lance has served as a peer advisor for the School of Social Sciences since 2018, guiding fellow undergrads to success in their chosen fields.

Katherine Jiang

Katherine has worked diligently as a member of the UCI Esports Arena floor staff since 2018. On the side, she’s pursued a degree in business economics (and, on the side of that, a minor in accounting).

Willy Saronamihardja

Willy is a software engineering major with a penchant for Spotify and cheap boba.

An avid gamer (there’s a non-zero chance you’ll find him in the Arena playing Fortnite when he’s off shift), Willy plans to spend the year after his graduation enjoying his favorite titles as he hunts for jobs in the tech sector.

Overwatch Team

Angie Batth

As the manager of UCI’s Overwatch team, Angie Batth knows what it means to keep an operation running smoothly. From organizing training sessions to setting up interviews for the players she oversees, Angie is always on the move—it’s just a testament to her stellar work ethic that she’s managed to balance the workload of a business economics major with the responsibilities of supervising the Overwatch team.

Shoutcasters

Anthony “The Last Mehican” Ortega

For the majority of the 2018-2019 academic year, Anthony has casted League of Legends play-by-plays for UCI Esports.

After wrapping up a successful undergraduate career with a degree in business economics—and playing plenty of Magic: the Gathering in the meantime—Anthony plans to return to UCI next year to pursue his Master’s in finance.

Daniel Barke

Daniel has worked professionally as a shoutcaster since 2018, when Team Liquid recruited him to cast for the NALCS Academy Summer Split. His knack for gaming commentary led him to his current role with UCI Esports; you might recognize him as the personality behind our popular League of Legends streams.

Content Creators

Nathan Dhami

For much of the year, Nathan has put his skills as an English major to the test creating written content for UCI Esports’ blog. In his spare time, Nathan games–like many undergraduates, he’s obsessed with Smash Ultimate and other fighting games.


Whatever their role, every one of our graduating staff has been vital in upholding UCI Esports’ mission of nurturing a strong, inclusive on-campus gaming community. Though words are insufficient to describe the gratitude we hold for our departing staff, Marke Deppe, the program’s director, voices our collective sentiment well:

“Since our founding, UCI Esports has relied on the passion and talent of our students to help us build the program into what it is today. I cannot be more thankful for the efforts of our graduating seniors as they take the next steps in their life journeys. We will miss them greatly and will be cheering them on as they join our alumni family.”

We wish you only the best in your future endeavors—from all of us in the UCI Esports family, GL HF!

Jumping forward into the next stage of their lives.

Learn Popular Games with UCI Esports Affiliate, Connected Camps


by | Jun 6, 2019, 12:00PM PDT

UCI Esports is very excited to support Connected Camps! A non-profit organization, Connected Camps began in 2015 and is focused on fostering creativity, problem solving, collaboration, and interest-driven learning for kids who want to get into coding and game design.

Connected Camps is a series of online education programs for students ages eight and up who are interested in learning how to develop their own games, as well as how to improve their skills in popular esports titles.

As the premiere US collegiate esports program, we are very enthusiastic about lending our support to a program that encourages students to develop their learning ability alongside games and esports while also encouraging their special interests.

Connected Camps has also partnered with NASEF in order to provide virtual coaching support for up to 120 high school teams. NASEF is also UCI Esports’ high school outreach partner organization, so the relationship with Connected Camps means that young players at nearly any point in their education will be able to receive virtual coaching while developing their interest in game design.

Within the scope of esports, Connected Camps is offering two specialized programs directed towards young players who want to train and evolve their gameplay. With the support of UCI Esports, Connected Camps is offering online camps for four different popular esports titles:

Fortnite
Overwatch
League of Legends
Rocket League

Furthermore, Connected Camps is also offering an online Fortnite club program, an online Fortnite workshop, and two other esports workshops focused on drills that improve reaction time and lessons on analyzing professional and personal gameplay footage. During these week-long camps, players will learn how to strategize for different maps and take advantage of unique layouts, team composition and character counterplay, personal exercises for achieving in-game goals, the functions of particular roles, and how to learn new characters in order to fulfill multiple roles while also staying true to favored playstyles.

Connected Camps has also begun featuring 1:1 coaching support, where young players can practice popular esports with specialized coaches at their own pace. Players of all experience levels can improve their skills in a game they already play, learn healthy performance strategies, develop their teamwork, or even get started in a brand new game. Connected Camps is offering coaching for the following titles:

Fortnite
Overwatch
League of Legends
Rocket League
Apex Legends
Super Smash Bros.

UCI Esports is proud to be supporting Connected Camps in its endeavors to empower young students’ learning capabilities through esports! The organization is a perfect fit for our mission to bolster competition, academics and research, player community, entertainment, and career options by using esports and games as powerful tools.

Please follow the provided links for more information about Connected Camps and their programs.

Championship Bound: The Return to Glory


by | May 16, 2019, 11:00AM PDT

With the conclusion of the Group Stage, UCI Esports’ varsity League of Legends (LoL) team—the defending national champions—is moving onto the live finals in Los Angeles, CA for the second consecutive year!

The 2019 West Conference semifinal match against Cal (UC Berkeley) could have been a thrilling match to watch, but unfortunately a family emergency for one of their starting players forced the team to forfeit for failing to field a full roster. (Wish our sister campus luck in the Pacific Esports (PAC-E) League of Legends Invitational, hosted by UCLA Esports!) The final match against Cal Poly Pomona resulted in another UCI win, taking the top spot in the West conference.

As the West is one of the top four conferences, we receive an auto-berth into the College Championship where eight teams will play a three-round single elimination tournament. The first round is best-of-three and all other rounds are best-of-five. So a UCI repeat championship could entail as few as eight more matches, or as many as thirteen!

Maryville University, University of Ontario, and University of Illinois also won their conferences and joined us in the auto-berths. University of Waterloo, Michigan State University, Columbia College, and North Carolina State University battled their way through the remaining teams to complete the “great eight” of the Championship Finals. (You can see the Round 1 brackets here.)

Our Round 1 bout will be an intensely noteworthy rematch against Columbia College, our grand final match opponents from last year whom we defeated 3-0 to become the 2018 League of Legends College Champions. Tune in to catch our quarterfinals match on Friday, May 24th at 6pm Pacific Time on Riot’s Twitch channel.

Once again, your 2018-2019 UCI LoL varsity team is:

Evan “Captain Nuke” Phu (Top Laner),
Avi “Im Avi” Behar (Jungle),
Jeffrey “Descraton” Du (Mid Laner),
Youngbin “Youngbin” Chung (Bot Laner)
Lyubomir “BloodWater” Spasov (Support),
and Ethan “Kim Down” Song (Support, Substitute).

We must not forget the amazing support staff behind the team:

James “Coachman” Bates (Head Coach),
James “Lattman” Lattman (Assistant Coach),
Allison “Shoogle” Le (Team Manager),
Milo “PhDodson” Dodson (Team Psychologist),
Haylesh “Haylo” Patel (Team Physiologist),
and Hillary “Hillabeans” Phan (Player Support Coordinator).

Don’t forget to tune in May 23rd – May 26th for the College Championship matches!

Follow UCIEsports and College League of Legends on Twitter for updates.

Update: Riot recently posted an official announcement and information page with the schedule of matches.