UCI Esports and NASEF host the 2018 Girls in Gaming Summer Camp


by | Jul 24, 2018, 3:00PM PDT
Paving the way for the next generation of industry professionals

As the industry continues to grow larger than life, many organizations are taking a critical look at the esports ecosystem and their own shortcomings in diversity, especially in gender. Today, more groups are offering events and programs catered toward women, equipping them with tools for navigating esports opportunities and careers.

Playing squads, not solos

UCI Esports held its inaugural Girls in Gaming camp in Summer of 2017, including 15 young gamers looking to get a head start on their esports journey. For 2018, UCI Esports had great hopes to deepen the camp curriculum. With esteemed partner in high school esports and title sponsor, North America Scholastic Esports Federation (hereafter referred to as NASEF), the camp curriculum was revisited with the lens of social emotional learning and STEM career opportunities.

This year’s curriculum continued to provide a snapshot of the esports ecology, featuring sessions in the subjects of journalism, event planning and content creation. With support from academic partners at the UCI Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Science, the camps included activities on improving mechanical skills, using game analytics for self-assessments, and addressing safety in online spaces.

Gaming and growing

With each day of the week-long camp came a variety of activities, lessons and guest speakers. On Monday, the focus was healthy gaming, featuring guest speakers Dr. Julie Holt and Cole Pocock from the Integrative Core Energy Coaching Network. This gave our campers the solid foundation to game throughout the week strategically.

One of our campers checking out all of the games in the arena!

Tuesday, the campers learned all about content creation, starting off with journalist Tatjana “Digital_Vix3n” Vejnovic. Tatjana currently writes for USA Today and taught our campers how to get started and set themselves up for success. In the afternoon, NASEF League Operations Coordinator Jessamyn Acebes and camp staff Brandi Moy walked campers through the ins and outs of graphic design, later leaving campers to create event flyers of their own.

Wednesday started off with an overview of stream basics, leading into a Q-and-A session with HeroesHype stream team manager Maaike “ShinobiHaruka” Tirtarahardja. Campers were extra excited later in the day, when Counterstrike: Global Offensive players Emmalee “EMUHLEET” Garrido, Lynnie “artStar” Noquez and Kiara “milk” Makua from Team Dignitas walked them through team chemistry during competition. They were also joined by a few of our own CS:GO club’s competitive team.

Thursday was star-studded with some of Blizzard’s most influential women. In the morning, campers designed their dream event with Sabrina Wong (LA Valiant, Events) who had signed goodies to share with everyone. In the afternoon, campers participated in a round table discussion with Blizzard employees Nicki Quinn (PM Esports), Stelanie Tsirlis (Esports Coordinator), Ania Wietski (Lead PM Esports), and Keikei Day (Esports Coordinator).

Our camper presenting her event ideas to LA Valiant’s Sabrina Wong.

Friday was set up for celebrations and fun! Ovilee May, most famously known for her interviews with LCS and ESPN Esports, started everyone (including Overwatch caster James “Jamerson” Lee) off with her typical vocal warm ups. Ovilee and James both gave plenty of helpful tips to mentally prepare them for what was to come. In the afternoon, our campers participated in a mock tournament with several casting live on Twitch.

Jessamyn, who also served as one of the camp coordinators for the inaugural Girls’ Camp, was excited to see how the second year came about. “It brought me great pride and joy to see old and new faces this summer,” she reflected. “A few of the main things we wanted to improve on were camper engagement, increased activity time, and better curated speakers and topics. Thanks to this huge collaborative effort of camp counselors, support staff, community members and guest speakers, we were able to make this happen. We’re constantly striving to improve and provide a better experience year after year.”

The camp came to a bittersweet end with the awards ceremony, which was streamed on Twitch, recognizing each camper with their accomplishments for the week and sending them off with lots of goodies from additional sponsors.

Hope for the future

As Morgan “Rhoulette” Romine, Director of Initiatives for AnyKey.org, covered during her session at the week’s end, toxicity is still apparent within the esports community. As campers are equipped with the tools to kickstart their esports journey, they are advised to be mindful of how their actions online influence others and how to deal with unsafe or toxic spaces.

NASEF and UCI Esports will continue to create and support safe spaces for gaming. For more information on their inclusivity efforts, visit their websites at esportsfed.org and esports.uci.edu.

We would also like to thank our other camp sponsors iBUYPOWER, NVIDIA, Mountain Dew Kickstart, EVGA, Tespa, Logitech, Vertagear, and Linksys for helping make this possible!

Thank you also to all campers and speakers. See you in 2019!

See You Next Mission! Farewell to UCI Esports’ Graduating Players


by , Gianeen Almaria | Jun 13, 2019, 11:00AM PDT

As 2019’s spring quarter comes to a close, graduating UCI students are packing their bags and venturing off to parts unknown. Whether it’s finding work in their field of study, heading off to grad school, or taking a break at home to plan their next move, senior Anteater undergrads are dotting the final period on one chapter of their lives and flipping over to the next clean page.

The players on UCI Esports League of Legends and Overwatch teams are no exception. After making semi-finals in the League of Legends College Championships, and placing top 16 in the National League of the Tespa Overwatch Collegiate Championships, the players at UCI Esports are putting an action-packed, nail-biting season behind them. A handful of our players are also finishing their studies and completing their bachelor’s degrees at UCI. We are extremely proud of our collegiate players and their performances, whether it be on the Rift, on the control point, or in the classroom.

We want to thank the following players for their time with our program and congratulate them on an excellent season of gameplay and their stellar academic performance at UCI:

From the League of Legends team:
Lyubomir “BloodWater” Spasov (support; Business Economics major)
Parsa “Frostalicious” Baghai (bot sub; Computer Science major)

From the Overwatch team:
Brendan “tildae” Alvarez (flex tank, Computer Science major)
Isaac “IzakBirdie” Jimenez (main support, Education major)
Patrick “Pat” Phan (flex support, Business Economics major)
Sebastian “Selectt” Vasquez (flex support, Art major)

Between the rush of sorting everything out for the spring 2019 quarter (including my own graduation!) and the busy lifestyles of the players, I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to interview a few of them before they finally leave the team. I interviewed BloodWater, tildae, and IzakBirdie and asked them questions about their experiences at school, both in and out of UCI Esports.

ND: What has been the best part of being a college student on an esports team?

tildae:  I don’t know if I can say there’s any best part, cause they’re all pretty equally good — okay, I just said there’s no best part, but I was just about to say the part I liked the most! I think the part I do like the most, though, is meeting people with similar interests, because back home I didn’t know anybody that liked esports at all, or even knew about it, so now I come here and there’s a whole freakin’ program of like, people who wanna talk about esports and play in esports, and that’s awesome. So I think that’s my favorite part. I’ve found a lot of people with similar interests I never expected to find.

IzakBirdie: I feel like the uniqueness, like how it’s something I get to say, something my family gets to share. I get to go out in the field, the special education field, or like, I’m also an RA (Resident Advisor) so whenever I get to share that, they’re like, “Wow, I’ve never heard of that, I never thought that existed.” “How can I get involved?” Something like that. Even high schoolers are like, “Woah, what is that,” and I have to say “Hold up, don’t throw your education away!” So that’s what I really enjoy about it, that it’s something I can talk about […] The UCI Esports program a very well-known name to it, with a positive atmosphere that rubs off the right way. Not just in the collegiate community, but in the gaming community as a whole, and also outside that. All the people involved with research, all the people who want to sponsor us, it’s a really cool image that I get to represent.

BloodWater: For me, what has made my experience at UCI Esports so memorable is honestly the community. The people I’m surrounded by. The UCI Esports Arena, for me, this is gonna sound a little cliche, honestly, but it’s become like a second home. After I’m done with classes I come here, spend the rest of my time here, hang out with my friends here, my teammates, you know. So honestly it’s just a place, a community that I feel really comfortable in, and I’m really grateful to be a part of it.

Isaac “Izakbirdie” Jimenez, prompted to display anguish by our photographer.

ND: In general, what has been your favorite moment in your collegiate career?

T: Hmm. There’s a lot of moments. I think I would say going to Arizona for the Tespa championship last year, that was really fun. Like, nobody thinks “I wanna go to Arizona,” right? But that was the first time I’ve traveled out of state, and it was really fun, all the stuff they had us do. Like, I felt like a ‘pro gamer,’ even though we’re just collegiate. The way they treated us, the events they had us do with some other charities, the media exposure was fun… Even though we didn’t win overall, the experience was very positive, and so I had a lot of fun with that.

IB: I make friends here and there, so I have some friends in other schools […] through my experience as peaking as a top player, that helped me become well-known for my personality and my behavior. Not only amongst my team but to the Overwatch community as well, to some extent. Like, when I go into games, they say, “Oh, I know you’re on a collegiate team.” They recognize who you are. Even though we didn’t make it to finals, they recognize, “I know who Izakbirdie is, because of the rank, level of play, and the positivity.” What I do a lot is defuse toxicity, or high intense situations, and I feel like not only was that shown a lot in the team, but also in the community. I really liked working with my team and being like how the coaches pushed me into being in the management role, and that spilled over into outside of the game. And that’s what I enjoy most about, kind of keeping track of management, like tracking ultimates for instance in the game, and then keeping track of each other outside the game, making friends and talking to each other. It was something I really enjoyed. And then also peaking Top 500 [on the Overwatch ranked ladder.] Like, as soon as we lost, I did not want my Overwatch career to peak, so I played rank for really long the same day we lost, and I reached my overall peak of all time, with Orisa, a hero that’s not really well-known.

BW: So the first one that comes to mind is winning Nationals last year. That was the highlight for the competitive aspect of the UCI Esports program in general, and for the League of Legends team. We were the first team in the program to secure a national title, and that’s just big. And this year we’re gonna be defending that title… [Author’s note: this interview was conducted before League Collegiate Championship finals.]

ND: What are you going to take away from your college experience?

T: So the things I learned, were, apply yourself and put yourself out there, cause I was kind of a shut-in… Kind of. I was social, but I always preferred to stay home and play games all day, but then I put myself out to the Blizzard club team, and then I put myself out to this program, and that has been like, the biggest change in my life. […] What else did I learn…? I learned that sleep is really important! I don’t know what it was, but I had really poor sleeping habits the first three years, and then this year, I was like, “alright, no matter what, I’m getting eight hours of sleep.” And that has been amazing. I feel good every day now. That’s probably also because of the exercise, which I like, but eight hours of sleep, guaranteed, no matter how much I wanna stay up and play games, I just get that eight hours, and it’s so nice. I feel so much better.

IB: Something I always take away from the program is that I’m representative of the program. That moment where I played in the program is something I will leave behind for others. I came onto the team wanting to leave an impact not only on a gaming level, but on the people. And that’s what I’m going to take away, that next year things will improve because of my feedback, my skill, my everything. Because I wanna give back to other people, that’s why I’m an RA too, and it ties into stuff like that. That’s what my goals in the future are in relation to esports and everything.

BW: Being a part of this program for three years, I came in lacking a lot of skills, especially a lot of social skills. […] So some of the things that I’ve been able to gain from my college experience and the experience as a collegiate player, is just like, being able to manage my time better, being more open minded to a lot of things I wouldn’t normally do, being a more adeptly social creature overall. […] Looking at myself now, I can see that I’ve grown so much in so many ways. If I didn’t choose to go to this university, I’m not so sure a lot of those things would’ve happened, because my other option was going to Cal Poly (Pomona) and I’m not sure that I would’ve found the same community there that I had here. They do have a League of Legends team, but it’s just a club, and I probably would’ve been part of the club, but I wouldn’t have been exposed to so many of the different things that I’ve had here.

Brenden “tildae” Alvarez at the Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship.

ND: Are there any highlights from a particular game or set that you’re proud of?

T: Not really. Cause like, to be honest like, the highlights have never been a big part of me. I think uh, in terms of how I play, I don’t think I’m bursty and have a lot of highlights. I’m more like consistent, but obviously if there’s a line I’m staying at it and not going above and beyond. I think that’s an accurate assessment of my gameplay. Uh, I will say though, there was a game where I Pulse Bombed myself a few times… like, one game it happened two or three times, and all of them managed to be caught on stream… So there was one time that someone was near the wall, and I Pulse Bombed them and it hit the wall, so I immediately Recalled, cause that’s usually the safe thing, but I ended up right there. So I Pulse Bombed myself! And another time, the map was Oasis, someone was on the stairs and I Pulse Bombed, I stuck them, but they ran right into me and somehow they didn’t die and I died. And the cameraman, I don’t know if they knew me, but they immediately turned to my body, and just zoomed in on it! That’s been like a meme, that’s been following me this whole time, so obviously it’s slightly embarrassing, but it’s also really funny that everyone, including people in the collegiate community that aren’t from UCI, always meme me about it.

IB: We got broadcasted a lot on our very first year of Overwatch, and I used to just love messing around and trolling. Not in a negative way, but I remember we were playing against Berkeley, and I didn’t know the camera was on me, and I made a very unique play where I blocked someone and they couldn’t get out, and I teabagged them, because before you could crouch really fast. Not like for BM [bad manners] right? But just a funny thing! Especially for my team, in those high intensity situations, I like being the comic relief. Even in our final match, one of my teammates got hooked, and when you get hooked that’s a big thing. Like, you’re basically dead, and you have to reset, and the whole team has to back up, but like, he got hooked and he didn’t die, and I was like, “Damn, that person’s so bad! You’re so good!” Really hyping them up.

BW: So, one of my favorite moments that happened in my own gameplay, would be, something that happened in the semi finals in Nationals last year. In one of our games, the enemy team was picking really unorthodox picks, stuff we weren’t used to playing against or seeing. And the first game caught us off guard- we actually lost the first game, but it was a best of three. The second game, we were able to match their pace and picks. It kind of felt like solo queuing, but in that game, I was able to just move in an interesting way, in a way that I haven’t moved my character in a long time since I was a pro pro player, playing fifteen hours a day. So, to me that was really inspirational, that I could play like that again, that well. I was caught by three people, and it was just me, and I was juking all of their abilities and skillshots, and then my team just comes in clutch after ten seconds to save me. It was the perfect bait, I didn’t die either. Oh my God, it was so magnificent! I felt so good after that. It was a good moment for me, because it reminds me that I can still be really good at this game if I put in the time for it. So that’s a really good reminder to have.

Lyubomir “BloodWater” Spasov shares a moment with Peter outside the UCI Esports Arena.

ND: What are your plans for the future, either in your chosen field, esports, or both?

T: Obviously CS can work in game dev, but I don’t wanna do regular coding, I guess. I wanna code games, not apps and stuff. Just because I like the mechanics of games, one of my favorite parts of games, and honestly gaming is the one passion I’ve always had. I’ve never not had it, so I can’t imagine — I don’t like doing stuff I don’t wanna do, I’m very direct about it, so if I’m like “I don’t wanna do this,” then I’m gonna stand my ground and not gonna do it. So, I already know if I try doing a job that I don’t wanna do, I’m not gonna enjoy myself and it’s gonna suck. So I wanna make sure that I do something that I wanna do, which is either esports or video games.

IB: […] UCI does a lot of stuff with high school, right? And the program that puts on the collegiate Overwatch, Tespa, I’m really gearing towards trying to work with them. I have an interview with them soon so I’m hoping that all goes well, but I really wanna push myself, because I enjoy esports and gaming, and as a teacher I feel like there’s an opportunity to do that, like start a club and help my students. But I feel like now I have options, because as an Education major I want to be a teacher because I want to help out and give back, but I also started to lean into, “Now there’s a way I can help out through gaming.”

BW: I am a business economics major, but that’s not where my passion lies at the moment. I think I’m a lot more suited for hands-on things, that involve me handling equipment and things like that. I am considering going into IT, and then transitioning from the IT world into some kind of block-based programming. HVAC controllers and stuff like that, onsite stuff. […] Overall I’m pretty open to doing a lot of different things because I’ve gained so much insider knowledge of the esports industry over the past several years. I have so much experience as a player, as well as support staff and event planning, and I wouldn’t be opposed to transitioning to a role within the esports industry.

Photos courtesy of Riley Okumura and Blizzard Entertainment/Tespa.