UCI Esports to offer scholarships for top ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ players


by | Aug 7, 2019, 1:00PM PDT

Pilot team made possible by $50,000 gift from media publisher, video game enthusiast


Irvine, Calif., Aug. 7, 2019 — The University of California, Irvine esports program will host a pilot scholarship team for “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” during the 2019-20 academic year – thanks to a $50,000 gift from the owners of Street Media, which publishes Irvine Weekly and LA Weekly, led by CEO (and gamer) Brian Calle.

Players will be jointly selected by UCI Esports and the TAG Smash Ultimate Club at UCI, and the funds will be used to offer $6,000 scholarships to the top six as well as for administrative purposes. All current UCI students are eligible to try out for the new crew in October at the UCI Esports Arena. “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is a fighting game for up to eight people in which characters from Nintendo and third-party franchises try to knock each other off playing stages.

“The ‘Smash’ community at UCI is one of the biggest and most passionate gaming clubs on campus,” said Mark Deppe, director of UCI Esports. “We are fortunate to be able to offer scholarships to ‘League of Legends’ and ‘Overwatch’ players. When a donor emerged with a desire to support one of his favorite games, we knew this was something we had to pursue to create more opportunities for the ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ student gaming community.”

While there is no coach for the team, UCI Esports will provide staff to coordinate practice times, travel, social media, equipment needs and competitions. Players are expected to practice 10 to 15 hours per week, maintain a 2.0 cumulative GPA and follow the code of conduct to compete in tournaments and stay on scholarship.

“This is a huge deal for the UCI ‘Smash’ community, as we work very hard to grow the competitive scene and push it into the same spotlight that many other esports have,” said senior Justin Muscat, president of the TAG Smash Ultimate Club at UCI. “The university offering scholarships for ‘Smash’ is a major step forward and validates the work we’ve done.”

UCI is home to an esports arena with 72 custom PCs and computer monitors, headphones and gaming chairs, as well as a studio that broadcasts matches to hundreds of thousands of viewers. Opened in September 2016, it functions as a high-end recreational facility that’s also open to the public. In addition, the esports program has coaching and administrative staff, a team psychologist and an exercise physiologist.

“UCI Esports is the leader in gaming education and the yardstick by which other programs are measured,” Calle said. “We are thrilled to be able to support the development of top talent for the sport. As an avid gamer and ‘Smash’ player, it’s inspiring to see the dedication and commitment these students give to the game and to see them recognized as collegiate athletes.”

This month, UCI’s current “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” club team will compete for the national title at Shine 2019 in Worcester, Massachusetts. The crew won the Southern California qualifier and then the Western Regional to earn a spot in the college championship, hosted by the Collegiate Starleague. Players will battle winners of the other three regionals for the CSL trophy and part of the $15,000 prize.

“‘Smash’ has historically been an incredibly significant game to The Association of Gamers at UCI, with our community always brimming with passion, hosting tournament after tournament,” said senior Brandi Moy, president of TAG at UCI. “It’s extremely exciting that our students can now receive official support and pursue their competitive dreams through these scholarships.”

About UCI Esports: UCI is the first public university to create an official esports program, which is regarded as one of the best and most comprehensive in the world. With a successful computer game science major, an enthusiastic gaming community and a history of elite competition, UCI is a natural place for esports to thrive. A collaboration among student leaders, faculty, gamers and forward-thinking administrators, UCI’s esports program was announced in the spring of 2016. In September of that year, the UCI Esports Arena – powered by iBUYPOWER – opened. The pillars of UCI Esports are competition, academics and research, community, entertainment, and careers. In 2015, College Magazine ranked UCI the No. 1 school for gamers in North America. The campus’s esports program was featured in a four-part documentary on ESPN2 earlier this year.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit news.uci.edu. Additional resources for journalists may be found at communications.uci.edu/for-journalists.

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“The ‘Smash’ community at UCI is one of the biggest and most passionate gaming clubs on campus,” said Mark Deppe, director of UCI Esports. “When a donor emerged with a desire to support one of his favorite games, we knew this was something we had to pursue.”

Steve Zylius / UCI

Visiting DreamHack 2020 with NASEF (and the Anaheim Ducks!)


by | Feb 26, 2020, 12:00PM PDT

This past weekend, UCI Esports teamed up with our partner NASEF to booth at DreamHack Anaheim, providing information about high school and collegiate esports programs to thousands of attendees during the three-day event held at the Anaheim Convention Center. 

For those unaware, DreamHack is a series of festivals—the largest of their kind, in fact—that celebrate digital culture. They’re held all over the world, from Dallas to Rotterdam, and run for three consecutive days.

Though every DreamHack is different, tournaments remain the events’ central draws, with more than half a million dollars in prize money up for grabs at Anaheim alone. This year’s most lucrative titles? Fortnite and CS:GO, with prize pools of $250,000 and $100,000, respectively. 

From February 21st-23rd, 1,200 attendees competed for their share of a $250,000 prize pool in Dreamhack Anaheim’s bring-your-own-computer (BYOC) Fortnite open.  

While Fortnite and CS:GO took center stage this DreamHack, smaller tournaments abounded across the convention center, with NASEF’s NHL ‘20 finals no small force among them. As the culminating match in a month-long series held in partnership with the Anaheim Ducks, LA Kings, Vegas Golden Knights, and Florida Panthers, the finals offered more than $50,000 in grants, scholarships, and prizes to participating teams, with $2,000 going to each member of the team finishing first overall.

As might be expected, the tournament drew spectators from all corners of the convention center, who watched the games unfold with growing excitement. Between plays, they visited nearby exhibitions, including UCI Esports’ Health in Gaming booth, where they learned about the initiatives we’re undertaking to improve mental, physical, and social health in esports.

At UCI Esports’ Health in Gaming booth, Dreamhack attendees learned about our program’s commitment to helping UCI’s scholarship players maintain healthy lifestyles in and out of the competitive season. 

Judging from the amazing response we received over the weekend from parents, students, and the esports community at large, it’s safe to say that our first visit to DreamHack was a success. Thank you to everyone who helped make things possible—and here’s to another great showing next year.

Twitch Streamer Pokimane Announces $50,000 Donation to UCI Esports


by | Feb 13, 2020, 2:49PM PDT

Imane “Pokimane” Anys, 23, is a Moroccan-Canadian streamer with more than 8.5 million followers across her Twitch and YouTube channels. 

UCI Esports has received a $50,000 endowment from Twitch streamer Imane Anys, known as Pokimane online, to fund an annual scholarship for students involved in gaming and esports.

The endowment, which will sit for perpetuity in an investment account accruing 4-5% annually, ensures one qualified student per year an award—the Pokimane Scholarship—between $2,000 and $2,500. The scholarship is the first of its kind in our program’s history.


Anys rose to fame as a content creator on Twitch, where she livestreams her gameplay of popular titles, such as League of Legends and Fortnite, under the pseudonym Pokimane. Since starting her channel, Anys has amassed more than 3,800,000 followers on the platform, with more than 9,000 premium subscribers in January. Her YouTube channel, where she posts vlogs and assorted gaming content, is equally popular. 

Despite the success Anys has found in the online community, she remains grounded by the memory of her hard-won climb to industry prominence.

“I love being able to share my experience of how I got to where I am today in hopes that it will help others who are on their way,” she announced in a press release regarding her donation, which may entail future involvement in a mentorship role with scholarship winners. “I’m also especially happy to be supporting UCI’s esports program because their students are focusing on gaming in addition to pursuing their college degree–which, I can say from experience, isn’t easy!”

Anys, who studied chemical engineering in university while growing her Twitch and YouTube channels, sees her endowment as a way to show support for students pursuing degrees as they develop their careers in esports. 

In donating such a significant amount to our program, Anys wishes to institute a merit-based scholarship that will last for many generations to come. 

It is our hope that the Pokimane Scholarship will encourage others to give back to the community. We are inspired by Pokimane’s generous commitment to furthering excellence in collegiate esports.

UCI Esports Unveils Partnership with Vite Ramen


by | Feb 12, 2020, 8:00AM PDT

For most of our scholarship players, performing well is as much a physical game as it is a mental one. Just ask Haylesh Patel, their personal trainer, who keeps them in tip-top shape during the competitive season as part of our esports fitness program. 

For all Patel’s guidance, however, it’s easy for our players to fall prey to the vice that that ensnares millions of college students worldwide: Poor nutritional choices. 

Chief among those choices? Consuming instant noodles. With nearly one-thousand milligrams of salt per serving, and only trace amounts of protein, the typical cup of microwave ramen is a case study in empty calories. While safe to eat in moderation, most name-brand noodles fail to provide the nutrients most essential to top performance. 

Enter Vite Ramen. The startup, headed by power duo Tim and Tom Zheng—twins with a knack for wholesome, tasty food—offers a variety of nutrient-packed noodles that put a light spin on traditional instant ramen. Instead of the salt and fat you’ll find in store-bought varieties, Vite noodles rely on a blend of herbs and spices to bring out their signature flavor. In addition, they pack a whopping 25 grams of protein per serving, more than half the FDA’s recommended daily value. In short, Vite’s noodles are a nutritional powerhouse—the Soylent of ramen, some might say. 

Vite Ramen comes in three flavors: Vegan Miso, Soy Sauce Chicken, and Garlic Pork. 

As gamers themselves, Tim and Tom understand how difficult it is to make good nutritional choices when pressed for time. Indeed, their decision to found Vite Ramen was driven in part by a desire to save fellow gamers the trouble of having to pick between playing consistently and eating well.

“One of the things … that influenced us to make this ramen [was] just esports in general,” Tim elaborated in a video interview published on Vite Ramen’s website. “We wanted to eat good food that helped us play better.” A simple motive, but undeniably genuine.

Tim and Tom Zheng, right and left, respectively, founded Vite Ramen to fill a niche that left much to be desired in their undergraduate years: Quick, yet healthy, meals for student gamers to eat on-the-go.

As our newest sponsor, Vite Ramen will supply our scholarship teams with the healthy, filling food they need to fuel their best performance. They’ll also provision us with top-of-the-line cooking equipment so our players can make authentic noodles without leaving their practice stations at the UCI Esports Arena.

“We believe that everything you eat should have everything you need,” said James Vuong, outreach coordinator at Vite Ramen. “We made these noodles to give players a healthy, nutritious meal in the shortest amount of time possible so they can get back to practicing, get back to scrimming—get back to performing at 120%.”

On The Scene at NASEF’s 2020 High School Overwatch Finals


by | Jan 29, 2020, 12:00PM PDT

Last Saturday, January 18th, 2020, students from four high schools across the United States met in Orange County’s Esports Arena to compete in NASEF’s 2020 High School Scholastic Overwatch Finals. 

The one-day tournament concluded NASEF’s Fall Overwatch season, which began in September. NASEF has sponsored the competition for two years running, and with more than 100 teams participating in 2019–up from 46 the year prior—it’s proven a great success. 

This season, four regional brackets competed for a spot in the finals, pitting school against school in eight weeks of constructive competition. Teams across the nation, vying for the title of NASEF’s 2019-2020 High School Scholastic Overwatch Champions, dedicated countless hours of practice to honing their game—developing teamwork, management, and communication skills along the way.

And for four teams from Naperville North, Portola, Xavier, and Rocklin high schools, those hours paid off with a trip to the national finals. 

Parents, coaches, and fellow competitors spectate a match between Naperville North and Xavier High at the Orange County Esports Arena. All images courtesy of NASEF. 

Although two of the finalist schools—Rocklin and Portola—are local to California, the teams representing Naperville North and Xavier high schools caught flights from the East Coast to attend the event.

“It’s a whole ‘nother ball game when you get to something like this,” said Chris Neumann, Naperville North’s team captain, in regard to his team’s weekend in Irvine, which included a tour of Blizzard Entertainment’s headquarters the Friday prior to the finals. “Once we joined this national team, started winning our division, started coming here—once this happened, our school got tons of people from inside and outside our [NASEF] club to join up in the school and watch us play … I think it’s cool how something like this can provide such a wide-reaching effect.” 


The tournament’s first match, scheduled for 10 AM, put Portola and Rocklin in a best-of-five set on the maps Dorado, King’s Row, and Lijiang Tower. Rocklin took the match with a score of 3-0, in no small part due to its captain, Dash’s, unrelenting offense with Genji, McCree, and Pharah. 

Dash, of Rocklin High’s Thunder Esports, netted 50 eliminations and participated in 70% of his teams’ kills in the second round of their match against Portola High.

After a short break, Naperville and Xavier’s match, which would determine Rocklin’s opponent in the grand finals, began. The series was played with the same map order as that of Portola and Rocklin, and ended similarly one-sided, with a final score of 3-0 favoring Naperville. Without a doubt, the team’s star player was its DPS Hanzo, Found, whose clean play and consistent headshots overwhelmed the competition.

“I’m feeling pretty confident [about the upcoming match against Rocklin], but also nervous,” Found said in an interview following the semis. “The other teams here are very good and they’ve earned their place, so good luck to them.”

Parents of Naperville North’s players flew in from Illinois to support the team in its matches against Xavier and Rocklin High School. Behind them, Naperville’s head coach, Chris Terpstra (pictured mid-right), rallies his players from the sidelines. 

With both preliminary matches decided, only one series remained between the teams left standing and NASEF’s championship title. With friends, parents, and coaches cheering from the sidelines, Rocklin and Naperville North’s players took to the stage, settling in for the best-of-five set on Dorado, Eichenwalde, and Busan.

As might be expected, the match was more balanced than its predecessors, with no star players emerging to steal the show as Dash and Found had earlier. The play, while not conservative, was more measured than usual, with Dash taking the Mei and exchanging blows with Naperville’s Yaressi, playing Doomfist. While their competition raged, the teams’ other DPSs, Leonin and Found, came into the spotlight, fostering broad, team-based strategies on both sides.

In the end, after a close match in Busan, the set’s final map, Rocklin emerged victorious with a closing score of 3-0. They celebrated their victory in an awards ceremony after the match, receiving medals, a trophy for their school, and recognition as NASEF’s 2020 High School Scholastic Overwatch champions.

Thunder Esports, of Rocklin High School, poses with Samantha Anton, NASEF’s COO, and Mark Deppe, its commissioner, after taking the 2020 OW High School Scholastic championship.

“NASEF is really proud to support the growth of scholastic esports, and giving students the opportunity to come out to California with their parents and teachers to be a part of something bigger than themselves has been incredibly rewarding,” Samantha Anton, NASEF’s COO, said of the fall OW season. “A huge congratulations to all the clubs that participated in this year’s high school scholastic tournament—we’re excited to see you at the next one!”

UCI Esports Welcomes the 2019-2020 Academic Year with Our Annual Fall Kickoff


by | Oct 4, 2019, 8:00PM PDT

Last Friday, UCI Esports ushered in the 2019-2020 academic year with our annual Fall Kickoff, inviting several hundred new and continuing students to the UCI Esports Arena from 4-8 PM for an evening of games, giveaways, and good old fashioned fun.

As part of Welcome Week, Fall Kickoff aims to introduce the student community to UCI’s esports program, which has grown in recent years to encompass three scholarship teams, more than half a dozen student-run clubs, and a multi-thousand-dollar gaming setup in the UCI Esports Arena. 

“We see Fall Kickoff as a way to welcome everyone (back) to the Arena,” said Kathy Chiang, UCI Esports’ assistant director. “By showcasing what we have to offer—our PCs, our clubs, and our teams—we can hopefully encourage more students to come back during the school year to learn more about our program or get involved.”

Students lined up to join Fall Kickoff’s main raffle, whose prizes included Logitech gaming mice, keyboards, and speakers. The grand prize was a graphics card from NVIDIA and solid state hard drive from Western Digital. iBUYPOWER and The Association of Gamers at UCI held similar raffles at the far end of the patio.

Well before 4 PM, students had grouped up around tables outside the UCI Esports Arena, armed to the teeth with consoles, controllers, and extension cords. While most of the players had ventured outside to practice Smash Melee, one group played FIFA on a flat-screen TV, leaping to their feet at intervals to celebrate—or bemoan—pivotal moments ingame.


Indoors, the scene was no less lively. From wall to wall, students packed the Arena, weaving between rows of softly-humming computers to spectate the day’s events, which ranged from free-for-all play in Teamfight Tactics to structured tournaments in League of Legends, Overwatch, and Rainbow Six Siege. On either side of the room, volunteers dispensed cans of Mountain Dew Amp Game Fuel, free of charge, to visitors in need of a boost.

As might be expected, scholarship players—denoted by the white anteater sown onto the arm of their jerseys—participated in the tournaments, providing other players a worthwhile challenge as they clashed in teams of five (or six in Overwatch). Though the tournaments had no official prize pool, participants who stuck through to the final round received goodie bags as a show of appreciation for their diligence.

Jeffrey Du, one of our scholarship players, competed against fellow students in League of Legends from 4-6 PM.

All said, the event was a great success, drawing hundreds of students together in a show of community spirit that, with any luck, will continue to shine throughout the academic year.

To all of our attendees and sponsors, thank you—Your support is what makes our programs truly special.

Tryouts for our Scholarship League of Legends Teams Are On–But Only Until October 8th


by | Sep 26, 2019, 8:00PM PDT

The month of September marks an especially busy time for Allison Le. Between prepping for fall quarter classes and settling into life as a senior in the School of Physical Sciences, she’s got a lot on her plate–but, as UCI Esports’ League of Legends Team Manager, her work doesn’t end there. Indeed, for the last three weeks, Allison has been sifting through applications for one of ten spots on UCI Esports’ scholarship League of Legends teams, working closely with coaches David Tu and Geoff Wang to find top talent for both varsity and JV positions.

Although the application period for spots on our League of Legends teams opened on September 3rd, Le encourages students to apply until the October 8th deadline. Following that date, the most qualified candidates–as determined by Tu, Wang, and a host of junior analysts-will be asked to attend live tryouts at the UCI Esports Arena, where their skills will be put to the test in real time.

The first stage of the application process, conducted entirely online, consists of a short interest form requesting applicants’ rank, champion pool, and preferred team position. It might seem sparse, but this information gives the recruitment team an idea of players’ standing ingame and allows them to determine which open roles each might best fill. 

During live tryouts, which start mid-October, applicants will be sorted into groups and pitted against other collegiate teams in matchups resembling those of the College League of Legends (CLoL) series. As they play, Tu and Wang will watch from the sidelines, noting each player’s quirks, proficiencies, and–inevitably–the areas in which they stand to improve. 

By day’s end, they’ll have made their decisions.


Of the applicants sent through to live trials, only ten will land a spot on a scholarship team, with five slotted for varsity and five for JV. Those selected for varsity positions will receive up to $6,000 in scholarship aid for the 2019-2020 academic year, while those who qualify for JV positions will receive up to $1,000. 

In addition to financial aid, scholarship players gain access to a variety of personal and academic wellness programs courtesy of UCI Esports, including biweekly meetings with a team psychologist, advice from professional esports coaches, and one-on-one training from exercise physiologist Haylesh Patel.

Also up for grabs–cool trophies.

With live tryouts two and a half weeks away, there’s still time to apply for a spot on one of our League of Legends teams–but not much. If you have a knack for gaming, and are at all interested in joining our esports family, take two minutes to complete an online application. It might just change your life.