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


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

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

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


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

Haylesh Patel, Exercise Physiologist

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

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

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

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

Interview by Gianeen Almaria and Nathan Dhami.

Esports Lab Spotlight: Craig G. Anderson


by | May 1, 2019, 11:00AM PDT

This is part 2 of a mini-series on the UCI Esports Lab and their research topics.

This article features Craig G. Anderson, a doctoral candidate at the Esports Lab. His research topics focus on the cognitive influences of games, including the roles of failure and persistence in gaming. More information, including contact information, can be found at https://www.uciesportslab.org/.

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

I’ve been working with Profs. Constance Steinkuehler and Kurt Squire for about five years;  we started in Madison, Wisconsin where we were initially researching educational games. It wasn’t until we moved to Irvine when our research started to change gears toward esports. I still study single player commercial games, but I can now start looking at the area of multiplayer competitive environments as well.

What questions are you looking to answer through your research?

My masters work was on “what makes video games engaging.” To that end, I made a low-fidelity version of Peggle and had people play it to find out if they still enjoyed playing and if they learned the core skills about the game (they only played half as much, and reported less engagement). There’s something about having success just out of reach that keeps players coming.  I then started to think about how failure is so common in games, and how games construct failure as something expected. I’m interested in looking at games like Dark Souls and Cuphead, notoriously difficult games that have a huge fanbase. Do playing these types change the way we think about failure, both in and outside of the game as well?

Today, my research focuses on how players react to failure in games. I come from a psychology background, so I’m interested in how video games make people think, and especially how they frame failure in comparison to other environments. One reason why esports is so interesting is because there are teammates that are relying on you to succeed with them as well — any failure can affect the whole team. Another interesting aspect as well is the spectators; do players react to failure differently when people are watching? If so, how?  

I am currently looking to watch testers play Cuphead and try to map the places where players are most likely to fail. I’m particularly interested in seeing if they persist, and also the reorientation strategies they use. What’s difficult about this is that the methodology hasn’t been done before. Researchers usually just survey their testers about their experiences, but I plan to actually observe the testers play the game. How long do players persist through failure? How many times do they fail, and how do they react to those failures? How many times do they try before they give up?

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

The lab was designed on purpose to encourage open, constant collaboration. Everyone talks across the table and gets the chance to collaborate with others on topics they find interesting. There are all kinds of people that work in the lab, from professors to graduate students, and even undergraduate and high school interns.

Outside the lab, our biggest project is NASEF, the high school esports league that also facilitates academic research. We work with the high school players to get gameplay footage that we might be able to refer to in our research, such as League of Legends mid lane players.

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

I am the co-chair for UCI’s Esports Conference (ESC). It was a huge amount of work, especially since ESC 2018 was the first-ever instance of it. The team spent a whole year planning the whole event, but it paid off! I’m happy that many people enjoyed it and want to go again next year, so even now we’re working on ESC 2019.

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

As esports becomes more mainstream, I see it growing in popularity until it is on par with regular, traditional sports. Similarly, esports research will continue to grow, especially at UCI where the Informatics department and games studies is growing. I want to see UCI become the premier game studies university. Before Profs. Steinkuehler and Squire came, there were only three or four professors in the department studying anything games-related. Now that there are a lot of big names doing research here, the school is now attracting more and more games scholars.