2018-2019 Scholarship Team Tryouts

by | Jul 19, 2018, 3:00PM PDT

Competition is one of the program’s five pillars, and we want to compete against the best collegiate teams in the world. We’re excited to announce that we’ll have varsity and junior varsity teams for both of our games: Overwatch and League of Legends. Compensation will be $6,000 for members of the varsity team and $1,000 for members of the junior varsity team. Tryouts will include both scrims and out-of-game team building and communication exercises.

Overwatch: August 24-26
League of Legends: August 31-September 2

Here are the tryout signup forms for League of Legends and Overwatch. For League, the minimum rank to apply is Diamond 1. For Overwatch, the minimum SR is 3500. Exceptions may be made if you have previous experience on a team! Please fill this out by 11:59 PM on August 19th. We’ll contact you if we think you might be a good fit for our teams.

UCI Esports’ New Jerseys Revealed!

by | Mar 22, 2019, 6:00AM PDT

As our scholarship teams enter playoffs, we are excited to unveil our new jerseys for the current season. The new 2019 jerseys feature two variants – one for home games and one for away. Design efforts were headed by our Digital Marketing Intern, Nick Gasparyan, with support from fellow intern Allison Le (League of Legends and graphic design team manager) and design help from Dishanth Shankar Reddy (student graphic designer).

Together, Nick and Allison brainstormed ideas for the new jersey using a Pinterest board to correlate ideas, taking inspiration from other esports jerseys and experimenting color swatches. These ideas were then passed around to multiple people and some minor alterations were made – most notably from the input of Sebastian “Selectt” Vasquez, UCI Esport’s very own Overwatch scholarship team player. At the end of the brainstorming process, all was taken to Dishanth, who then brought the initial designs and their variations to the drawing board.

In an interview with Nick, he revealed that he wanted to create a new jersey that was “cool, innovative, and different”. He noted that as of now, there are few jersey companies that specifically cater towards esports collegiate programs. As a result, there is little room for more innovative designs to be produced by the companies themselves. Seeking to alter this trend, Nick decided to take action to move UCI Esports in a direction that would make us stand out from the rest.

One of the main issues Nick encountered was the actual rendering of the jersey design onto a feasible print file. As a solution, he worked with Archon Clothing (our current jersey sponsor) to bring the designs to life.

Moving from the 2018 design to the new, Nick noted that an aspect of the previous design he enjoyed was the sponsor logos being displayed on the sleeves. This element was reimplemented into the new design, albeit on a smaller scale. This was done to make it easier to capture the logos on camera during events, as compared to stretching out the logos, which would make them harder to recognize from a distance. “[This way] our sponsors can get the attention they need.”

Another choice detail on the new design worth mentioning is the new strip on the jersey that displays the in-game name of the player. Compared to previous designs that only displayed in-game names on the back, the design now boasts the names in front as well. This gives even more attention to the players’ identities, as cameras can easily capture both the players’ faces as well as their in-game names. Nick notes that the main inspiration for this change was the designs of Overwatch League/Contenders jerseys. “It gives them more of an identity of where they are on the team. You don’t only know their name, you know how they play, and what to expect.”

Next time you visit the UCI Esports Arena, be sure to check out the jersey wall and see for yourself how the designs have transformed over the years. You might even see the newest design being sported by our very own scholarship teams!

UCI Esports’ Summer Camps 2019

by , Alice Lee, Kathy Chiang | Mar 14, 2019, 11:00AM PDT

We are excited to bring back our Youth Summer Camps for this upcoming summer! Our camps are fun and educational events in which campers will receive in-depth knowledge about the esports industry or how to improve their gameplay.

Our target audience consists of high school students in their junior or senior years interested in pursuing a career in the ever-expanding esports industry. However, we still encourage anyone who is interested to apply, as we may make exceptions based on qualifications and circumstances.

There will be three summer programs in total, each with a specific focus in mind: Girls in Gaming Camp, League of Legends Bootcamp, and Overwatch Bootcamp.

Girls in Gaming Camp

The Girls in Gaming Camp was created for young women who have a strong passion for gaming and will explore a variety of gaming-related topics such as streaming, game development, competition, and more! We will be joined by guest experts from all across the gaming scene to share their own story and insight – with a focus on professional women and their day to day lives in the currently male dominated industry.

This is a day camp run from Monday through Friday with unique talks and activities planned for each day in our very own esports arena.

League of Legends Bootcamp & Overwatch Bootcamp

Both of these camps are geared towards players who hope to play at the collegiate or professional level. They will be led by our UCI Esports scholarship players and coaching staff. Campers will not only receive strategic coaching throughout the duration of the camp, but they will also have the opportunity to learn about team play, communication, and VOD review at a professional standard. If you want to take your game to the next level, this is the place to start!

Unlike the Girls in Gaming camp, our bootcamps are a 7-day overnight program that comes with on-campus housing, meals, and unlimited access to our esports arena.

Applications are open TODAY in our Camps section! Camp prices and deadlines are located on each camp’s page. You can also reference our schedules from past camps.

As the dates draw closer, stay on the lookout for future updates as we finish inviting this year’s guests and developing the 2019 curriculum.

A Look into the UCI Esports Fitness Program with Haylesh Patel!

by | Mar 10, 2019, 6:00PM PDT

In a recent article we touched upon UCI Esport’s fitness program as part of a series on how our scholarship players use the program to stay fit and active. Here, we will explore the program in depth and learn exactly how it is run! Haylesh Patel, the man behind the UCI Esports fitness program, was kind enough to give us the inside scoop on what his role entails and how he helps our scholarship players achieve their fitness goals!

Originally from New Zealand, Patel studied at the University of Auckland and holds a Masters in Exercise Science. He is also a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine and currently works in the Cardiac Rehabilitation department at Hoag Hospital. Beyond his duties at Hoag, he also works for UCI Campus Recreation at the Anteater Recreation Center (ARC), functioning as a personal trainer for staff and students. To round it all off, Patel is also the UCI Esports scholarship teams’ designated Exercise Physiologist.

“One of my key aims with UCI Esports is to improve our players overall health, wellness and improve their performance (physical and mental).  I have designed and created a health and wellness program for the two scholarship teams that looks to improve all aspects of health.”

Haylesh Patel, Exercise Physiologist

Based on his current set of occupations alone, it is clear that Patel works with a wide variety of people and has great experience in doing so. We inquired how Patel and his fitness program cater specifically to scholarship esports players. Due to their practice hours and the strain on certain muscles during gaming, scholarship players requires careful attention. “The last thing we want to do is overload the players and place any undue stress and strain on their muscles and joints,” Patel notes. In order to avoid overexertion, the practice hours of the players are constantly monitored throughout the year. Their workouts are then adjusted based on their current physical state. According to Patel, “the scholarship players must balance school, gaming, and other personal commitments in order to be successful in all aspects”. With this in mind, he has crafted a specialized health and wellness program for them – both manageable and effective.

“We are using a holistic approach to health and wellness with a heavy emphasis on strength and conditioning specific to improving their physical fitness and trying to enhance cognition,” says Patel. Among the scholarship players, there is already a rift between their current statuses in physical fitness (referencing aerobic fitness and strength in particular). While some players partake in regular exercise, others were unfamiliar with it. Patel notes that this renders prescribing exercise routines a little tricky. Even so, he works hard to craft both challenging yet doable workouts for each individual player.

Every week, the scholarship players (in groups of 2-3) meet directly with Patel at the local gym. From there, they first workout altogether under Patel’s guidance, averaging from an hour to an hour and a half. In addition to working out together, each player has their own individualized exercise program to carry out by themselves between meetups. This allows Patel to help players on a more personal level. These individualized exercise programs are personalized to what the player in question wants to improve on – whether it be weight loss, building muscle, or even stress relief. Based on their preferences, Patel creates a regimen and works closely with the players to ensure success in achieving their goals. In addition, he also provides for other aspects of health, such as sleep and nutrition, by providing tools and resources for the players to use in their daily lives. While the fitness program is by no means mandatory for the scholarship players, many have chosen to take advantage of Patel’s professional expertise.

This concludes this week’s Fitness Program series. Up next, we will be featuring interviews with two scholarship players and will go into depth on their own fitness journey, and how the program has impacted their lives!

Interview by Gianeen Almaria and Nathan Dhami.

Opinion: In the era of esports, Evo is still grassroots

by | Mar 4, 2019, 6:00AM PDT

Well, that title may not be wholly accurate – there’s still a lot of money being thrown around – but I’ll explain what I mean as I continue. (Also, there’s only so much one can explain in the title of an article while remaining succinct anyway.)

The following is an op-ed by Nathan Dhami, a student journalist for UCI Esports.

On Tuesday, February 26th, Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar and Mark “MarkMan” Julio revealed the Evolution Championship Series title lineup live on twitch.tv/evo from the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Also known more colloquially as Evo, the largest fighting game tournament in the world will be held this year at the Mandalay Bay venue from August 2nd to the 4th. There were nine fighting games announced for the main stage lineup this year– the maximum number of titles that can be afforded to run at an Evo event, due to expenses and logistics and such. The full roster, in order of announcement, is as follows:

Tekken 7 (T7)
Street Figher V Arcade Edition (SFVAE)
BlazBlue CrossTag Battle (BBTAG)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (SSBU)
Dragon Ball FighterZ (DBFZ)
Soul Calibur 6 (SC6)
Mortal Kombat 11 (MK11)
Samurai Shodown (Samsho)
Under Night In-birth Exe:late [st] (UNIST)

Las Vegas is about to E-X-P-L-O-D-E with this stacked roster of Evo titles.

Anyone who follows Evo will recognize that only four of these titles are returning titles from last year’s Evo 2018. T7 at Evo is the next stop for players throwing down in the Tekken World Tour, an official circuit being run by Bandai Namco (Bamco.) Likewise, SFVAE at Evo is being run as an official Capcom Cup event, and BBTAG is a part of the Arc System Works (ASW) official ArcRevo World Tour circuit. [There will also be side events for Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 (GGXrd) and BlazBlue Central Fiction (BBCF) at Evo, also being sponsored by the ArcRevo World Tour.] DBFZ is also making its triumphant return after breaking entrant and viewer records at Evo 2018– with over 2500 players, it was the first time a non-Street Fighter title had more entrants than the main Street Fighter title being run at Evo. Meanwhile, SSBU replaces Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Smash 4) as the latest entry in the Smash franchise, and MK11 likewise replaces Injustice 2 (I2) as the newest NetherRealm Studios (NRS) title. SC6, Samsho, and UNIST are completely new to the Evo roster, with GGXrd and Super Smash Bros. Melee being dropped from the event.

I don’t want to make any snap judgments, but I also feel like it’s safe to say that, beyond the readers of my articles on the UCI Smash scene, a lot of the folks following what we’ve been putting out for UCI Esports mainly follow PC titles, like League of Legends and Overwatch. This isn’t the fault of the reader, of course, since UCI Esports prides itself on its scholarship teams, especially considering our League team’s historic win in the 2018 Collegiate League of Legends Championship, and our Overwatch team’s dominance at events such as the California Collegiate Clash. Having said that, this likely means that most readers are unaware of the history of the fighting game community (hereafter FGC) and its role in the esports community. Beyond that, the history of Evo is also likely lost on the reader base, so the significance of the event and these titles may be difficult to understand.

Street Fighter II launched in arcades as the first real competitive fighting game in 1992. Evo began as a small, forty-man Street Fighter tournament in Sunnyvale, California called Battle of the Bay, four years after SFII made its debut. SF was the first game of its kind where players would compete head-to-head, rather than competing for a high score or completion. Ever since then, fighting games have been a largely grassroots endeavor– that is, events have been almost entirely ran by player support rather than being funded or organized by developers or sponsors. While that has shifted in recent years (Capcom Cup, esports organizations like EchoFox sponsoring players,) for the most part these events are still community efforts. Games like Smash, for instance, have very little developer support for major tournaments in the way of prize pools and official events, although Nintendo will promote events on their media channels and provide infrastructure such as actual hardware.

So, why is this important? Why does it matter that fighting games are grassroots efforts, unlike games like League where the developers themselves have a major hand in how the game is run and played at a professional competitive level?

Last Thursday, February 28th, TAG @ UCI ran another weekly Ultimate tournament. There were fifty players total and I was planning on participating as well, but for one reason or another I was feeling unwell. I grabbed In-N-Out at UTC and went home, instead opting to practice Ultimate while watching the stream. At some point in the night, while waiting for the next match, the stream commentators began talking about the Evo announcement. There were a few off-handed remarks about their surprise about certain titles being included. “Samurai Shodown? What even is that game?” They seemed to be shocked that Melee in particular got cut from the roster to make room for either Samsho or UNIST’s inclusion.

It’s almost like they’ve never been hit by an OHKO in an old-school fighter before. (CW blood)

They weren’t alone — Melee players from all walks of life made their discontent for Evo’s decision to cut their game widely known on social media. There were accusations of Samsho and UNIST being included due to their developers buying their way into Evo, at the expense of Melee’s community. Furthermore, there was also shock that Evo would cut a title from their roster that brought in over a thousand entrants last year (and thus made the Evo organizers a lot of money through entrant and venue fees.)

It’s important to understand, first of all, that the developers of Samsho and UNIST, SNK and French Bread respectively, don’t have the same weight to throw around as major fighting game developers like Capcom and Bamco. While SNK has had a history of developing polished fighting games, like their King of Fighters series, and are well known for their characters’ inclusion in titles like Capcom vs. SNK, the company remains a small but loved developer amongst other giants in the same industry. On the other hand, French Bread is a studio roughly equivalent to what the West might call an indie game developer, and UNIST may not have found the success it had if it hadn’t been published by ASW, a studio that likewise hasn’t had the same buying power as Capcom.

Spike speaks for both SNK and French Bread. (Cowboy Bebop, dir. Shinichiro Watanabe)

So how did they make it into Evo? Melee players and fans who recognize the twenty-year-old title as a prominent esport were baffled by this, even though the answer was right under their noses. Whether this confusion is due to an insular mindset- an inability to think outside of the context of their home game – or simply a lack of knowledge of the history of these titles, I wouldn’t personally be able to tell you, although I feel like it’s a mix of both.

Simply put, Samsho and UNIST earned a spot on the Evo main stage not through the power of their developer’s money, but through the power of their player base’s love for the games. Jason Moses wrote an article way back in 2014 on the significance of Samurai Shodown V Special for Shoryuken.com (SRK is incidentally the main organization responsible for Evo) that explains the passion that players have for lesser-known, niche titles better than I ever could. The inclusion of the latest Samsho title at Evo 2019 marks five years since Moses’s article, and six years since an SNK title has been on the Evo main stage (the game in question would be King of Fighters XIII at Evo 2013.) Anyone plugged in deep enough to the Twitter FGC can also tell you that players have been devotedly promoting UNIST since its US launch on PlayStation platforms last February. In spite of French Bread’s limited resources, the developer has managed to create what is arguably one of the most polished and technically precise 2D fighting games of its generation. Players posting to the #UNI_ST hashtag are discovering long, flashy combos, experimental mix-up situations, and unique character technology that make the game exciting and compelling to watch at a competitive level.

It’s interesting to point out that while Melee players express their discontent with their game being cut for titles that they believe don’t deserve a spot at Evo, Guilty Gear players are more than happy to pass on the torch of ‘technical, flashy anime fighter’ to their little brother UNIST. (That is, if the memes generated after the Evo lineup reveal are anything to go by.)

While Evo has grown larger and larger every year, from forty entrants in 1996 to tens of thousands in 2018, and as developers and sponsors have been jumping into the new era of esports, the brand and the tournament is still about the community first and foremost. UNIST and Samsho are in the same position now that Melee was in 2013 where it got crowdfunded into an Evo main stage spot through passionate player support. On a larger scale, only three of the nine main titles at Evo are being organized as part of a developer-supported circuit. As the FGC continues to grow, it stands apart from other esports communities as the games are played in spite of the low stakes relative to PC esports with six or seven figures in prize pools and circuits with major production value. As Melee departs the Evo roster, it will find a home at other events, whether they’re held in hotel ballrooms or a college student’s apartment. Meanwhile, games like UNIST are finally gaining recognition, allowing them to leave these humble venues and possibly ascend to greater heights.

Perhaps UNIST will be able to break free of the shackles of its ancestor, Melty Blood Actress Again. (“The Melee players can’t shower because we’re busy playing Melty!”)

Esports Lab Spotlight: Maria J. Anderson-Coto

by | Feb 28, 2019, 6:00AM PDT

This is part 1 of a mini-series on the UCI Esports Lab and their research topics.

Despite the field’s rapid growth in the past few years, academic research on the subject of esports is rare. The UCI Esports Lab’s aim, according to their website, is to “understand and enrich esports” through their student research. The faculty and graduate students there focus their study on methods to optimize esports teams, and they apply their findings to educational spaces like the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF). Such research often involves how players function in teams, particularly when they need to communicate and work together.

This article focuses on Maria J. Anderson-Coto, a first-year doctorate student at the Esports Lab. Her research topics include player performance, retirement in esports, and gender inclusion. More information, including contacts, can be found at https://www.uciesportslab.org/

What led you to become involved in esports research? What is your educational background?

I came into graduate school with a background in business,. My first exposure to esports was in the form of watching the advent of the Overwatch League and reading about gamification. I quickly realized that the business teams I worked with had problems that could be solved with games, and were very similar to esports teams. Today, I play games to study them and as a social activity, so I always try to make the time I spend playing games meaningful in some way.

What questions are you looking to answer through your research?

One of my research topics is team dynamics. How do esports teams work? How do players with different abilities, roles, and languages work together so well? How do the internal and external factors, such as physical activity, social relationships and mental health influence their teamwork? I try to see these players as high-performing athletes, playing a sport that demands precise communications and interactions in a stressful environment, requiring not only the body, but the brain.

One of my current projects is on player retirement. I am trying to figure out why players are retiring early on, since the body doesn’t give out in the same way that physical athletes do. Most esports players retire at around 25 years old – why? I’m also looking into a retrospective on their professional life – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Learning why a player retires can give me further insight into how the team works as well.

In the future, I plan to research gender inclusion in esports. There’s already many papers and articles about the need for more diversity. Why aren’t they here, though? What factors are preventing true diversity from happening? Why aren’t they doing it, and how can we make it more accessible?

Who do you work with on a regular basis at the lab?

I work with my advisor, Dr. Kurt Squire, Dr. Constance Steinkuehler, and other graduate students in the Esports Lab as well as the Participatory Learning Lab. I also collaborate with Mark Deppe at the Esports Arena, who is very supportive of our research.

What is one of the most important things you’ve done in your time researching esports?

I was on the board for planning UCI ESC 2018 and because of my business background, I was in charge of acquiring marketing materials like signage, t-shirts, bags and booklets. It was particularly difficult because this was the first-ever academic esports event, so there was no existing precedent for it. Getting everything together was extremely stressful, but it was gratifying getting to work with the team outside of research.

Where do you see esports (and/or research in the area) in five years?

Esports doesn’t have a rigid, centralized structure like traditional sports, but I expect to see the field grow just like it’s currently doing now in the next five years. One particular thing I am curious to see is some sort of regulatory body emerging – or any type of regulation being created, as well as a higher standard of esports professionalism.