Interview Matt Akhavan: “I’m very fond of collegiate esports, Overwatch, Tespa, and everyone involved with the collegiate scene”


by | Feb 2, 2018, 9:33PM PDT

After requesting an interview with Matt Akhavan, we met at the Blizzard Arena and discussed what the responsibilities are as a team manager, thoughts on collegiate Overwatch, and what college students can do to become involved in esports.

Greeted with an ecstatic “UCI Esports!” we quickly noticed how cold the room was. We joked, “They don’t call it the Blizzard Arena for nothing.”

Matt Akhavan is currently a manager for Misfits Gaming and UCI Esports.


Whose idea was it for the entrance today (1/31/18) ?

Today’s entrance was the Naruto run with the rasengan. We all knew that we wanted to do the Naruto run. It was one of the ideas that had been floating around over the weeks, but it was somewhat hard to do. There’s the camera man in front of you, so you can’t be running too fast. It’d look weird and they’d already be on the stage, and then the viewers would think “what are they doing?” So, we added the rasengan because we thought it would be funny and more recognizable. We really just want to be entertaining and have people enjoy our team coming on stage, and eventually when the wins start coming up, we’ll be a team that everyone loves to watch all of the time.

General thoughts on collegiate Overwatch

Collegiate Overwatch is something that I’m excited for. There are more schools that are investing into building infrastructure like professional teams. Schools are taking more interests in esports so that students have an easier pathway as competitors to showcase their talents and pursue a career. It makes it easier for parents to be more accepting of the idea that students can go to school possibly getting a scholarship for playing games and getting a degree. While esports may be a student’s plan A, the degree is also available if esports doesn’t work out or going pro doesn’t work out. So, I’m very fond of collegiate esports, Overwatch, Tespa, and everyone involved with the collegiate scene.

The Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate Championship is happening February 17th. UC Irvine, UC San Diego, University of Toronto, and UC Berkeley will be competing. Who will you be rooting for?

UCI! I think we came out really strong. We’re completely undefeated. I’ve seen the other schools play, they’re all really good. We’ve gone to UCSD a couple of times. They always have LANs and other tournaments that happen throughout the school year. They’ll be a fun team to watch. West coast best coast by the way.

We recently had LA Valiant come to our school and host an awesome viewing party. Are there any chances of Florida Mayhem doing something similar in the future?

I would love for an event like that to happen especially since I go to UCI. Although, I believe there are marketing guidelines which wouldn’t allow Florida Mayhem to have such an event because its Gladiators/Valiant territory. We are going to be doing events in Florida.  We’ll be doing viewing parties, sending cool merchandise, and making it as fun as possible for the fans in Florida. As far as doing stuff in LA, we’re a bit restricted.

LA Gladiators is hosting a college night at the Guildhall tonight and fans will get to play board and card games against the Gladiators team. Do you think that you could beat Surefour in Connect 4?

I’m actually really good at Connect 4. Ever since I was a kid I was always three or four steps ahead. If I don’t win, I at least tie. If I’m about to lose …

*Matt makes a motion of releasing the Connect 4 discs from the grid and we both laugh about it*

All of the pieces drop and it’s a draw.

What are the general responsibilities that you have as a manager for Florida Mayhem?

As a manager, I manage all of the day-to-day. This includes anything that happens at the studio and any gear that the players need I can purchase. I work with the Overwatch League operations team, the IT department, anything related to game day, practice structure, practice culture, infrastructure, and acquisitions for both players and staff. As you know, Florida Mayhem only has 6 players. I’m assisting in acquisition of players and we have a handful of people on the team working with that as well. Those are my main responsibilities as of right now.

Any advice for someone looking to become a manager?

I would say that you need a degree, which is why I’m getting a degree. Having experience is the most important aspect of becoming a manager. It’s really hard to trust somebody to manage all of the day-to-day and make sure you’re getting everything in on time such as paperwork, contracts,  and visa acquisitions. You’re doing the business as well as the day-to-day for the players. Becoming more dependable and learning how to communicate effectively is something that you learn in college just through interacting with your peers. You also learn time management and meet deadlines. Just the fact of you having a degree signifies that you put in effort through a 4-year program that’s pretty intensive for most students. I think that says a lot about your character if you finish your degree.

Any advice for someone looking to become a coach?

If you want to be a coach, the biggest thing is to create content or to get experience. I’m very weird about this and I’ll say that you should be willing to work for free, but I also don’t think that anyone should work for free. If you’re an organization, you should pay your interns. This is my opinion, but I also think that if you’re not willing to work a job for a free and donate your time for the experience, then you don’t really want it. For being a coach, you have to make content. Put your content on YouTube. Refine your skills. Someone sees your YouTube video, it hits Reddit a couple of times, and that’s when you get people interested in what you’re doing. You then have a portfolio to show people when you’re applying for a position. Overall, it’s about networking, experience, and having a portfolio to show.

As a student, what advice or tips would you give to other students or people in college who would like to get involved with esports

Try to do something locally with your school. At UCI, we have our esports program along with TAG. Other schools have clubs related to gaming and esports as well. Try to do as much as you can. You need as much experience as you can get. Work hard and network. I would say I was very fortunate for getting involved. I lived in LA and I volunteered for teams and at events. My volunteer work was approached with “Hey, you’re really good at this, let’s offer you something more full time.” Then you continue building on top of experiences like that.

Shoutouts

Shoutouts to UCI Esports! My favorite school! Thank you to all of the Florida Mayhem fans that have been sticking with us. I know that it’s been tough to watch our team falter but, we take every loss harder than you guys do and we practice so hard. Everyone wants to win, and we try to stay light-hearted and have some fun when we go on stage for the fans.


Follow Matt on Twitter.  Entrance and interview photos taken by Oshin Tudayan.

 

Triumphs and Trials: Our Competitive Year in Review


by | May 7, 2021, 7:00AM PDT

College League of Legends

The UCI Esports League of Legends team ended their 2021 collegiate season early with a 4-2 record in the regular season, unable to qualify for the Western Conference Playoffs.

This year’s Western Conference consisted of 49 collegiate teams, with the top two teams qualifying for the national championship.

UCI Esports fell to 5th seed Cal State Fullerton during week 3 of the six-week regular season and to 1st seed University of British Columbia during week 6. This marks UCI Esports’ first time not qualifying for the Western Conference playoffs since 2016.

The League of Legends roster underwent a significant overhaul this year, bidding farewell to graduating players Avi Behar and Jeffrey Du and welcoming four new rookies.

“We’re going through a building year right now,” stated David “Hermes” Tu, head coach of League of Legends. “There are big shoes left to fill considering the legacy we have here at UCI. But I’m confident that with our rookies gaining more experience, we can reclaim the throne as leaders in the Western Conference.”

UCI’s League of Legends team will continue to develop its new talent for the remainder of the 2021 academic year. After the season, they recently competed in the Upsurge Premier League against rival collegiate teams Maryville University and the University of Texas, Dallas.

Overwatch Collegiate Championship

On April 10th and 11th of this year, the UCI Esports Overwatch team ended their 2021 competitive season, finishing strong in the top 4, making it to the semifinals.

The Overwatch Collegiate Championship is Activision Blizzard’s official tournament circuit designed and purposed for college teams to compete against each other through a multi-layered tournament spanning the academic year.

In 2021, the tournament had a whopping 304 teams, 2500+ players, and 227 unique schools across the United States and Canada duking it out for their slice of the $48,000 scholarship prize and recognition as the best in North America.

Our team practiced, studied, and competed fiercely from start to end, leaving national swiss with an impressive score of 9-1 and seeding 6th nationally.

During the playoffs, UCI Esports bested 27th seed GMU, 11th seed Boise State, and 3rd seed Bellevue University on their way to the top, meeting 2nd seed Maryville University in the semifinals. Maryville would proceed to play in the finals against Northwood University and win, cementing themselves as the champions of this year.

Concerning the team, their performance, and the season as a whole, this is what UCI Esports’ coaches had to say.

I am so privileged to have been able to work alongside such hardworking and tenacious student-athletes. Our players this year truly gave it their best, their hearts were truly in the game and with each other, and that’s all we ask for. With a sample of victory, our team was so close to the precipice, and they’re hungry to give it another go next year with renewed confidence and the solid foundation we’ve built this year.

Ronald “Renanthera” Ly

I’m incredibly proud of our players for the resilience they’ve shown throughout the season. Like any other team this year, life has thrown a lot at us, and we’ve persevered to be able to deal with it and still push towards being a top collegiate team. I’m thankful for all of their hard work and especially the environment they all help to create. I look forward to every practice and match knowing we’re all in it together and propping each other up to succeed as a team.

Michael “The” Kuhns

UCI Esports closed out the season as the #1 school on the West Coast and 3rd-4th across all of North America.

Final Words

Regarding the program’s competitive year as a whole, we asked our director for a few words.

I am very proud of the program and our work during this very strange year. All of our coaches have worked tirelessly this year to cultivate a community and a culture focused on caring for one another, playing for their teams, and making those connections palpable despite the global pandemic. Our League of Legends team has gone through a tough rebuilding year, and we’ve crafted a strong foundation for the next. Our Overwatch team ended the best in the west, but I know our players and staff aren’t going to be satisfied with just that either. We’re already planning and plotting for what comes next, and it’s beautiful to see the teams already hard at work preparing for success next year.

Mark Deppe

UCI Learns New Gaming Terms in Different Languages With Gen.G


by | Mar 30, 2021, 12:00PM PDT

Esports can still be considered a young and fledgling global industry. At UCI, we understand the necessity of building cross-cultural tools to address problems of inclusion, communication, and cultural diversity.

On January 27, 2021, UCI International Center, UCI Esports, and Gen.G Global Academy partnered up to run their first International Gamer’s Language Workshop. We welcomed 57 registrants in addition to dozens of Gen.G students watching together from their classrooms overseas.

This workshop welcomed students and players from across the globe to share perspectives from their experiences both online and offline in relation to esports. Participants learned Korean, Mandarin, and English terminology from games like League of Legends and Overwatch, engaged with professional coaches and student athletes in a Q&A panel, and learned from each other at this unique international networking opportunity.

Attendees worked together to create a “gamer’s dictionary” — defining, translating, and quizzing each other on various words and phrases to bridge a cultural gap together during this 2-hour event.

By the end of the night, it was evident from coaches, students, and panelists that diversity is key to both education and competitive performance. May it be through language, skills, or new perspectives, the International Gamer’s Language Workshop showed us that we all have more to gain by working together than apart.

New Year, Same Values: Meet UCI’s Overwatch Heroes


by | Nov 13, 2020, 7:00AM PDT

Greetings, everyone!

This is Renanthera, Head Coach for UCI Esports’ Overwatch team, and today I am here to personally announce our competitive roster for the 2020-2021 collegiate season.

Last year, UCI Esports was one of two collegiate teams to make Open Division playoffs for the first time ever. We were semi-finalists (or top 4) in Tespa’s Championship Series. And we did all that with a roster primarily composed of rookies.

This year, we could not be more excited to work with our team composed of some hungry tenacious veterans and new frighteningly talented fresh faces. You may recognize a few of our players from the competitive ladder, maybe from some streams, but we want you all to keep an eye on them as they fight for UCI and that end-of-season trophy.

So let’s meet the players!

First up, Stadium, PG1, and Ago are our reliable and experienced tanks who will be leading us on the battlefield. Our tanks last year were arguably our brightest spot, and we’ve clinched so many important games and series off the back of 4-man shatters, a crucial Matrix eat, or a perfectly executed Sigma Flux.

With Stadium and Ago returning, we keep that mechanical playmaking and clutch-factor while PG1 will be compounding on this strength and lending us even greater depth. No matter what the meta may be—may it call for a genius hamster piloting a war-machine or an astrophysicist gone mad—we will always have the direction we seek with these three players.

Next up, Fade and Danichee make up our inseparable DPS duo, both in and out of game. They became fast friends last year, and with their joined hero pool coverage, excellent synergy, individual aim, and game sense, they won us over again this year. Sometimes, coaches just want to see that our opponents will die over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. These two do that really well, may it be with a bullet (or several), an arrow, a rocket, or even an icicle.

And lastly, our supports: Helljudge, Saffrona, and KapGod. A lot of teams will settle for supports that heal and execute the bare minimum. They make a few calls, and they stay alive. Well, every explorer has a compass; every team has a backbone. But every conqueror carries a weapon, and every champion has an ace up their sleeve. Most supports will make sure we don’t get lost and that we keep getting back up—but ours also make sure that our enemies don’t.

Our student athletes are amongst the best in the world, and we want to showcase their skills, abilities, and hard work this season. Here at UCI, we are so blessed and privileged to be able to work with such an abundance of talented, motivated, and skilled players each and every year. We take pride in being the first public university to create an official esports program. We have continued to defend our title as the premier esports program on the West Coast and remain the team to beat. You cannot have a conversation about the best esports collegiate programs or teams without us.

Despite a world that has changed drastically over the past year, UCI Esports is equipped, we are prepared, and we will always remain the team to believe in.