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.

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.

UCI’s Super Smash Brothers Club Shines at CSL’s National Finals in Worcester


by | Aug 29, 2019, 2:30PM PDT

This time last week, members of UC Irvine’s Super Smash Brothers club, Smash at UCI, were 35,000 feet above the ground, traveling by plane to Worcester, Massachusetts, to participate in Boston’s largest esports festival.

The festival, dubbed Shine, is event planner Big Blue Esports’ most popular program, attracting 3,000 players to Worcester each year and netting more than a quarter of a million unique online viewers across three days of competition.

In addition to Shine’s spotlight events—tournaments in Melee, Ultimate, 64, and Brawlhalla—the Collegiate Star League (CSL) held its US Smash finals for four teams representing universities across the country.

With a prize pool of $15,000, the stakes were high—but nothing the members of Smash at UCI hadn’t seen before. As second-time qualifiers for the collegiate finals (they’d taken second place in 2018), the team was looking forward to bringing Shine another stellar performance.

“We had competed last year and really enjoyed it,” said Rafael Guadron, team captain and one of two players in Smash at UCI sponsored by Carnage Gaming, “so it only made sense to compete again.”

In preparation for their trip to Worcester, the members of Smash at UCI trained rigorously, attending tournaments throughout SoCal and practicing in mock tourneys at each other’s houses.

“We strive to do more and become more than before,” Guadron said, referencing the team’s motivation to train as hard as they did for Shine. “We of course love watching the top players of the world succeed, but what makes us inspired to improve are our own achievements.”

The team’s first match was against the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), whom they beat 3-0 to advance from semis to winners finals. Despite the match’s intensity, Guadron and his teammates kept level heads:

“While competing, we focused on the task at hand and tried to beat every opponent we came across. At times when we were in a deficit, it was hard to not think about it, but we have dealt with such things before, so it was nothing new.”

In the winner’s finals, UCI faced off against UT Dallas (UTD), dropping into the losers bracket after a tough set that ended 0-2. Down—but not out—the team brought their best game to the losers finals, and came out on top with a score of 2-0 against NJIT.

After nearly three hours of competition, Guadron and his teammates had earned the chance to compete, once more, against UTD—only this time, $6,000 was on the line.


One might describe the grand finals that followed as intense, but that would be selling them short. Having battled their way out from losers, UCI stood in ample position to reset the bracket and take the collegiate title. All they needed to do was beat UTD twice consecutively.

A challenge, to be sure, but not impossible.

In the hours that followed, Guadron and his team fought harder than they ever had before, recognizing the stakes but not permitting pressure to break their stride. And their efforts paid off: They beat UTD 2-0, resetting the bracket and pushing the tournament into one, final round.

After a thrilling 15-stock bout that ended 4-0 in favor of UTD, Guadron and his teammates walked away with another second-place win, securing $3,000 in prize money for Smash at UCI.

Reflecting on the experience, Guadron says,

“This event definitely taught us that we need to do more than just compete: We need to study our opponents, learn their stats, and talk to each other about the strategies we’ll use to win.”

Guadron notes, specifically, that UT Dallas made use of coaches, spreadsheets, and data they’d compiled about other teams’ players.

“As a team comprised solely of players, we definitely were the underdogs, but we will take that knowledge into account and put in more time to research our opponents in the future.”

Now that this year’s collegiate circuit has drawn to a close, the team won’t be competing until next October, when CSL qualifiers open for the 2019-2020 season. But, Guadron says, he and his crew will be competing in the singles tournaments hosted by UCI every Thursday in the UCI Esports Arena—be sure to stop in if you want to see the team in action!

(Or, of course, if you want to congratulate them on their amazing performance at this year’s CSL finals.)

From left to right: Sergio “Lt. Serge” Salas, Daniel “Mega” Nguyen, Rafael “Rafi” Guadron, Dominic “T3Dome” Carone, Justin “Muskrat Catcher” Muskat, Landon “Soulx” Stubblefield, and Jovanni “Jovanni” Rivera.

A Look into UCI Esports’ Annual Summer Overwatch Bootcamp


by | Aug 26, 2019, 12:00PM PDT

True to our mission of providing professional support for young gamers looking to break into the world of esports, UCI Esports recently welcomed 16 high school gamers to our second annual Overwatch summer bootcamp for a week of high-octane, no-holds-barred training.

From June 30th to July 6th, participants worked under the guidance of coaches Ronald Ly and Michael Kuhns to hone their skills in teamwork, communication, and—of course—Overwatch.

Supporting Ly and Kuhns were Brenden Alvarez and Zuhair Taleb, previous members of UCI’s scholarship Overwatch team. Both students acted as junior coaches and mentors to campers seeking, perhaps, to attend UCI in future years as scholarship players themselves.

“The experience was honestly pretty unforgettable,” says Alvarez, a Computer Science major and flex tank on the scholarship team. “Watching the players improve so rapidly within the scrim session felt really satisfying … the campers were all super passionate as well, and I think I found that to be really inspiring, which motivated me to work as hard as I could for them so that they could achieve their goals.”

Alvarez, Ly, and a team of dedicated staff provided campers one-on-one coaching to help them optimize their gameplay.

Although I wasn’t around to view the training sessions in person, Coach Ly was gracious enough to regale me with a snapshot of his experience as a first-time mentor for the students in attendance this year. Following is our interview, conducted online.


What were your general impressions about this year’s camp?

Being my first year running the camp, I came in with the goal to make sure that every camper walked away being able to say that they’ve been greatly armed for future competition and created fond, lifelong memories spending their week here at UCI Esports. I firmly believe we’ve managed to accomplish that, and I’m so proud—and relieved—that the campers earnestly enjoyed their time with us.

Honestly, it nearly brought a tear to my eye to see the power of video games used to cultivate close community and future competitors.

What parts of the week did you enjoy most?

For me, I enjoyed seeing the growth happen daily. It invigorates the fire within myself and my team to see these young athletes level-up in real time, loud and proud about their passion both in game and out.

How did this year’s schedule and events differ from previous years? Do you believe these changes contributed positively to the camp’s success?

I believe a large reason this year was so successful was that we implemented a daily goal with an accompanying lesson for the campers to focus on every day. There was always a tall task ahead of them, and every day the were challenged to meet those expectations, and carry them over to the next. We didn’t make it easy, we really made sure that our big ideas would be difficult to dent, and really played to the gamer’s nature of fighting challenges head on. I think the campers really enjoyed us pushing them to fight for these accomplishments, helping them along the way, but letting them work together to meet their goals and make their teammates friends along the way.

Campers prepped for an afternoon of scrims with light exercise.

In your opinion, what’s the main purpose of the Overwatch Bootcamp? What skills do campers develop during their time in the program?

The primary purpose of the camp is to equip our attendees with valuable, measurable, and transferable skills that they can take with them wherever they go.

All of the players at the camp had a competitive drive to play and improve, and that was a big focal point for us—we wanted to make sure they were learning about how to better play the game itself, but also to give them personal skills apart from the game that contribute to their success both in the virtual world and their future careers.

How do you and the other coaches accommodate campers’ varying levels of skill in the game?

Both I and my assistant coach, Michael Kuhns, worked plenty of long nights to create a curriculum that accommodates players at all levels. We decided that our lesson plans should be focused on high-end fundamentals that all of our campers will be able to work towards. Many of these players have strong mechanical ability, or some light team experience, and many others had little or none. What we looked to do was make sure that the topics we were talking about focused on both theory and pragmatic exercises that you wouldn’t be able to work on unless you attended our camp specifically.

All of the players at the camp knew that communication was vital to success. But that’s a vague statement that leads to many questions—and we looked to answer those. What does good communication sound like? Who is responsible for saying what? When should and shouldn’t I be speaking up? How should be communicating exactly? All of the campers learned what bad communication sounded like, all of them worked on their own communication skills to make them better. Things like tone, volume, and repetition, clarity, succinctness—all of our campers needed to work on that regardless if they were a “Gold” player or a “Grandmaster” player.

Campers exercised their communication skills to complete projects both ingame and out.

Did all the teams formed this year seem to work well together? Were there any major hurdles the players had to overcome as a team?

The campers all got along very well. It was evident as the days rolled by that they made good friends with one another, and that the daily activities and practices had ushered them closer together. The hurdles that the players had to overcome were intentional ones that the coaches had put into place to better round out all of our campers skillsets, and build on their understanding of the game and how to work as a team. We aimed to further polish their more outstanding capabilities, but also put them in a place where they weren’t able to hide from their shortcomings.

We opted to create two teams this year and implement a mandatory substitution rule. Many of our campers were stuck in their comfort zones—locked in the bubbles of their specific roles—and we wanted to give them a semblance of the experience that a professional player has. We made sure they had to work with others, work to solve problems together, be willing to bend and compromise together, strategize to their unique strengths, and compensate for their unique weaknesses.

We had one team that was highly versatile, but less experienced and polished on any given specific team composition. On the other, we had one that was highly specialized and very potent in one composition, but very lackluster when playing others or being forced to shift outside of their comfort picks.

Over the course of the week, we saw one team gain an edge one day, and the other bring it back the next. One day Team A would have the advantage, and then a major turnaround for Turn B would happen the day after. By the end of the week, both teams were extremely competitive, way stronger, and much tighter-knit—it couldn’t have turned out better for us.

What was the most meaningful interaction you had with the group?

The most meaningful interaction with the campers for me was the ending of the finals of our tournament on the last day. It came down to the wire, and I could see the fruits of their labor plain as day. The match came down the wire, really, and the words of thanks and gratitude to the staff and coaches—as well as the kind words shared between opposing teams—was extremely heartwarming.

Did the players teach you anything (about the game, or more generally)?

The players provide insights and reasoning to their thinking in ways that our staff may not have considered before. Good or bad, the sharing of these ideas and the thought-process behind certain decisions made in the game is something you can only expand your knowledge of from interacting with others. I’ve seen certain campers here utilizing their abilities and characters in ways that I hadn’t considered effective prior, but would be forced to meet my own biases and opinions, and inform my own view of the game.

Campers and camp staff exchanged ideas regularly—here, Coach Ly advises a group about their progress on a team-based project.

Looking ahead, what more would you like to see included in UCI Esports’ summer programs?

Looking ahead, I would love to continue growing our curriculum. There’s a lot of what I teach that I believe could be invaluable insights to coaches and players of various other titles. There’s a lot of overlap and transferable fundamental skills that you can carry over into different games, even different genres. What we focus on in the UCI Esports program is building up our players as people first and foremost, and it’s this foundational focus that sets us apart from the competition.

I would love to get more campers in and continue to explore what we can accomplish as the camp attendants become more diverse in skill, age, gender, race, and creed. I believe everyone has something to offer and teach others—I want to fill our arena, build another, and fill that one up too! Honestly, I learn as much from these campers as they do from me and my extraordinary staff. I’d personally love to do this more than just once a year.

The interview concluded with several corroborating remarks from Assistant Coach Kuhns, who witnessed the campers’ growth as both players and people alongside Ly.

“Many of the players that attended the camp have a lot of potential to do great things in Overwatch or competitive games in general,” he said. “It was a special treat being able to work with campers that always had a positive attitude and worked to lift their teammates up, whether they were celebrating in wins or encouraging in losses.”