Why Gamers Should Read Black Authors


by | Sep 24, 2020, 7:30AM PDT

Years from now when people ask “where were you in 2020?” I will respond, “online, and I hated every second of it.”

2020 was a year filled with strife and changes, as many of the country’s issues were placed under the microscope of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were made privy to the fragility of our healthcare system, made to grapple with the mistreatment of our workers, and we saw just how little our government was ready to deal with the unseen threat of a virus. As buildings and campuses became unsafe for congregations, schools and businesses quickly transitioned from physical interaction to remote operations, trading desks for couches, and cubicles for bedrooms. As an academic I soon saw myself writing grants, hosting calls, and meeting with colleagues all through the screen of my computer. Just like that my and many other lives became mediated through digital platforms.

But then came May and the US caught fire as major cities around America erupted in protest after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of George Perry Floyd Jr. for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, killing him on camera. The act was such a clear show of police misconduct and brutality that not only did protest emerge in Minneapolis but in cities like Los Angeles and New York. People across America took to the streets to protest what was a vile and malicious act of policing and unfortunately (and ironically) were subsequently met with the very force they went out there to speak against. Agitations flared, peaceful protest turned into physical confrontation, and long-ignored anger and sorrow became the fuel for the flames which burned signs, buildings, and coincidentally an NYPD van.

Yet, still, for many, the most heated moments of the protest were not experienced in person but rather were witnessed second hand through their television or through social media online. As the protest raged on, Twitter threads became battlegrounds, YouTube videos spun narratives, and the internet yet again became the hotbed for information and dialogue around the events many were experiencing. With #BlackLivesMatter trending yet again in response to the death of ANOTHER Black person at the hands of the police, the online blurred yet again with the physical. So much so, that social media became the key place where I, a Black man, kept up with the news, contacted friends and family who were near protest areas, and was made to relive the trauma of watching Floyd lose his life again and again as it was shared on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter both as both a form of awareness and as jokes from those craven enough to mock a man posthumously. And, while I donated to BLM initiatives, honked my horn in-vehicle protest, and showed up physically where I could, I—like so many—experienced the brunt of this protest online.

So, it should not come as a surprise when I say that it was not in person or even on Twitter where I got into my harshest debates, but instead, it was within video games like Overwatch and League of Legends where I found the most abuse. In fact, it was gaming spaces like these that became the hardest to occupy during the time of the protest. In an attempt to find some semblance of peace while the world burned, I decided to turn on Overwatch (a hero first-person shooter from the company Blizzard) to try to take the edge off. After some time, I was eventually placed with 11 other players and dropped into a starting zone to wait. However, instead of the typical banter of roles and positions, I was met with a “hello my fellow African Americans, let’s go burn and loot some stores because BLACK LIVES MATTER!” from one of my teammates. Reminded that video games seldom work as escapism for black people, I contemplated whether to let the comment go or to make a scene. I chose the latter.

I responded with “do you think that’s funny?” which prompted him to say “of course! Because they should not be out there at all, because ALL LIVES MATTER!” and quickly an argument ensued. Shouting in a way I am not all too proud of, I went back and forth with the player, I shouted the names of those killed—George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin—only to have him respond with conspiracies like the FBI started BLM and comments like “slavery didn’t matter.” It didn’t take long for our remaining teammates to mute us with one going as far as to exclaim, “I don’t play this for politics.” In hindsight I think I would have been better off ignoring the troll—I must admit I was perturbed, livid in fact. Livid that a player used the game as his platform for racism and livid at the apathy of the other players viewing the deaths of Black men and women as simple politics. While the game’s very company (Blizzard) was tweeting in support of Black Lives, its players continued to disparage them. With each engagement I grew colder and angrier, each bout of racism striking deeper than the last until eventually, I arrived at simply telling people to shut the… well you can finish the rest.

Unfortunately, what I experienced is nothing new, as scholars such as Kishonna Gray, Andre Brock, Anna Everett, Samantha Blackmon, TreaAndrea Russworm, and many others have written extensively on the experiences of Black players similar to my own. However, as more and more games become spaces for online interaction, I and many others are yet again forced to acknowledge that games and the many who play them are not always aware of the struggles non-white gamers may go through. But, in writing this piece and sharing my experience I do not want this to come off as an accusation of gamers and gaming practices (there are other avenues for such), but instead as an opportunity to engage with perspectives that have been ignored or overlooked.

As many of us face yet another crisis in our communities, where Black life is threatened for simply existing (under the blanket of COVID no less), it is important to remember that games, as peripheral as they may seem, work as powerful sites of cultural creation and expression. I could not escape my pain through games because the same rhetoric, behavior, and trauma that took place in the physical informed and shaped the virtual. That is why this piece is less of an accusation and simply a call to action.

In a time where Black players face constant racial abuse both inside and outside of games, I propose that gamers engage with the history of this country and the writings of Black scholars, activists, and people. In wanting to see a healthier gaming community, I have curated a list of books, short readings, and articles to read in hopes that gamers and the gaming community at large will pick up the call and accept this challenge. While by no means extensive, the list provided will offer introductory reading to familiarize oneself with Black history in the US and the Black experience in areas such as school, healthcare, and most apropos, online spaces. While seemingly unrelated, there is much to be gained by engaging with past and current writers, and only when we have an informed gaming population can we hope to see change.


Akil Fletcher grew up in New York where he received a B.A in Anthropology from the City College of New York. Currently, he is a Ph.D student in the anthropology department at the University of California Irvine, where he researches the navigation of Black video game players online. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Akil researches how Black players form and manage communities in spaces that are often hostile to Black participants.

If you would like to join in on discussing any of the readings from Akil Fletcher’s list, you are welcome to the UCI Esports Discord server‘s #book-club channel.

UCI Esports Introduces Valorant Head Coach: CurryShot!


by | Nov 22, 2022, 11:37PM PDT

This year UCI Esports is proud to announce our very own Valorant team, the latest addition to our existing esports scholarship program! As excited as we were to venture into the inaugural collegiate Valorant season, we knew we needed a coach to do it right. Hence why we proudly present Rohit “CurryShot” Nathani as our latest hire as Valorant Head Coach! 

You may recognize CurryShot for his time coaching Overwatch as the former Strategic Coach from Mayhem Academy, Guangzhou Charge, and the Los Angeles Gladiators. More recently, CurryShot has been embracing Valorant and worked with multiple teams to find their footing in the fresh title.

“I’m very excited for the opportunity to coach the UCI Valorant team. Valorant is a game I’m really passionate about and I think our team can go far this season. I can’t wait to get started and I want to cultivate a culture that’s healthy and brings wins. I want us to work hard to surpass expectations and thrive in this title like UCI does in all their titles.”

Rohit “CurryShot” Nathani

The season has already started and the UCI Esports’ Valorant team currently stands in the Top 16 in the Western Conference. Make sure to support Curryshot and the players by tuning in to our UCI Esports Twitch to watch our Valorant games on Saturdays at 3:00pm PT!

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.

Our League of Legends: UCI Esports 2021-22 Roster


by | Nov 2, 2021, 7:37PM PDT

The UCI Esports program formally announces our League of Legends scholarship team rosters today in anticipation of the College League of Legends (CLOL) national championship, coming off the heels of the team’s victory in the RSAA Fall Warmup as the Shurima Division champions.

Your Irvine anteaters are a formidable team, composed of several challenger players, many promising new additions, and a lively spirit coming into this year reinvigorated to fight for the trophy once again, last hoisted by the team in 2018. 

Today, we proudly unveil our official varsity and junior varsity rosters for the year of 2021-22.

Varsity
Top – Erik “Berik” Kim
Jungle – Duong “Duong Pro” Tran 
Mid – Ben “Cinnamon Bread” Chang
Bot – John “Sahori” Vu 
Support – Ethan “Kim Down” Song

Junior Varsity:
Top – Dylan “Dongha” Chen
Jungle – Lan jie “TacoVaco” Tsai
Mid – Danny “Somesort” Yi
Bot – Andrew “Misterdot” Liu
Support – Dylan “dtro18” Tran

“Our return to campus comes paired with new faces and talent. And we have amazing chemistry between the players and rosters, which I think is our strongest asset in contesting the championship this year. Our players are hard-working, resilient and handle adversity together head on. We aim to represent the best that the school has to offer and hope to make the UCI community proud. ” – David “Hermes” Tu, League of Legends Head Coach

Our League of Legends teams have been playing in a handful of leagues and tournaments in practice for Riot Games’ official first-party North American collegiate circuit, and our Junior Varsity team currently competing in the NACE Starleague JV West Playoffs. Having come together less than 2 months ago, the team is growing quickly, full of promise, and eager to make UCI proud as one of the premier teams in the league, and as the pride of the west coast.

Official CLOL matches will be streamed early next year when competition kicks-off in February of 2022 and local watch parties will commence then for local community members and students to come out in support. For more information on our teams, follow our social medias to keep up with the action on and off Summoner’s Rift.

Changing of the Guard


by | Oct 19, 2021, 3:06PM PDT

Greetings from UCI Esports,

We have been incredibly fortunate to have phenomenal people walk through our doors and contribute to the creation of our program.  As we begin our sixth year, we want to thank the following folks who have left us in the past year, and acknowledge their work and legacy.

Jess Acebes: Original student staff, intern, Girls in Gaming camp co-founder, streaming class teacher, NASEF tournament ops, meat lover.

Erik Bleitz:  Strategic planning lead, leadership board administrator, marketing guru, main tank, text-based game entrepreneur.

Milo Dodson: Team psychologist, the Milo of Milo meetings, speaker, celebrity, travel buddy and roommate in China.

Samantha Anton: OCHSEL tournament coordinator, NASEF COO, admissions expert, tour guide, emcee, kombucha advocate, mortal enemy of all Scorpios.

Hillary Phan: Player Support Coordinator, Intern, Girls in Gaming camp co-founder, multi-award winning Animal Crossing island designer, bean.

Damian Rosiak: Original Arena Supervisor, intern, streaming lead, special projects coordinator, Smash Ultimate overseer, NHL tournament overlord, Breakaway world champion.

Kathy Chiang: Fastest typist on the west coast, original Arena Coordinator, TAG founder, role model, collegiate leader, mentor, friend, cat mom.

As we close our chapters with these superstars, we are making a few changes to our current team.  

Ronald Ly is transitioning from Overwatch Head Coach to Acting Assistant Director.

“To my mentors and colleagues that have taught, inspired, and encouraged me these last 3 years, know that it has been a privilege to cross paths with such inspiring teammates. Our program has been enriched and made strong by your work, and I’m excited to see what we’ll all accomplish in the future, whether it be at UCI Esports, elsewhere, or beyond.”

  • Ronald “Renanthera” Ly

Michael Kuhns has moved from Assistant Coach to Head Coach of Overwatch to replace Ronald.

“I am excited to take on this new role and to lead our Overwatch team heading into the new year.  We have the most talent we have ever had and I am excited for our future.”

  • Michael “The” Kuhns

In other positive news, UCI leadership is ramping up support for esports and we will have several full-time and part-time jobs available in the coming months. We will be looking for the next generation of hard carries for our small, but mighty, department.  

We just opened up the Arena Coordinator Position which will be filled in the coming weeks.  Additionally, we are planning to hire an Assistant Director, a Communications Manager, and two part-time assistant coaches in the next six months.  

We will miss all of our colleagues who have left and will cheer them on in their next adventures.  Please join us in thanking our departed staff and stay tuned for some of the exciting things coming soon.

Mark Deppe
Director, UCI Esports

Back in Person, Back in Action: UCI’s Overwatch 2021-2022 Roster


by | Oct 2, 2021, 2:42PM PDT

Today, UCI Esports is proud to announce our collegiate scholarship team to the public. After an arduous deliberation process, our varsity team this year is composed of 11 members, some old, some new, to play for us in Activision Blizzard’s official collegiate circuit.

Formally unveiling the roster for this year, the UCI Esports Overwatch team is composed of:

Tank: Arthur “Mashiro” Tang, Phillip “PG1” Rodriguez, and Sean “Románi” Cook.

DPS: Jonathan “Light” Chao, Eugene “Dash” Tai, Juanwei “Fade” Hu, and Michael “Excal” Kim

Support: Mitsutoshi “Supreme” Sato, Tianyi “Helljudge” Chen, Victoria “Saffrona” Winn, and Bruno “KapGod” Moebest.

Overwatch games start October 1st, as UCI Esports begins the Overwatch Collegiate Homecoming 2021 preseason.

“This year’s team is one of mixed experiences, perspectives, and diversities. Some players have played professionally, others have come from high school scouting grounds, some are pick-ups straight from the competitive ladder. But every player has been ranked amongst the top 500 in North America, every player here has had some sort of overachiever, leader, or exemplar. Our team this year has been the best it has ever been, and we’re really excited to show the world how deep their potential goes. We want to make our community proud, so please follow us on our journeys, watch, and root for us as we compete.” – Ronald Ly, Player Support Coordinator