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!

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.