Rival Schools Smash in CSL Qualifiers


by | Feb 19, 2019, 11:00AM PDT

UCI players cheer on teammate Robert “PL” Martinez (sitting left.)

On February 16th, 2019, twelve collegiate teams across the Southern California region travelled to Saddleback College in Mission Viejo to compete in the Collegiate Star League (CSL) SoCal Local Qualifiers. This esports organization, which hosts collegiate tournaments for titles such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Rocket League, recently announced their second circuit for Super Smash Bros., switching the previous title on their roster, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate upon release. The February 16th local qualifier featured a five-on-five crew battle event for both Super Smash Bros. Melee and Ultimate. UCI Smash players formed three separate teams to enter the crew battle at Saddleback – two for Ultimate and one for Melee – where universities all over SoCal would compete to earn a spot at the divisional championships in spring.

The ‘crew battle’ is a competitive format unique to fighting games, and even then, the rules are even more fresh and exciting in Smash. Inspired by action anime such as Dragon Ball Z and Yu Yu Hakusho, where characters would participate in martial arts tournaments as a team, crew battles feature teams of up to five players playing in a one-on-one format. The format is such that when you defeat your opponent, you must now fight the next player on that team, and so on until you are defeated. In other words, if Player 1 from Crew A defeats Player 1 from Crew B, Player 1A must now fight Player 2B. In traditional fighting games, players face each other in games that are divided within the game rules by ‘rounds,’ but in Smash, ‘stocks’ and respawning after being knocked off the stage exist in lieu of the rounds format. Because of this, the stakes for Smash crew battles are different than that of traditional fighters: each crew gets a pool of stocks used to keep track of score, and once those stocks are taken, they’re gone for good. That is to say, if Player 1A defeats Player 1B at the beginning of a Melee crew battle, but they lose two of their stocks, Player 1A must now fight Player 2B with a two-stock deficit, while Player 2B begins the game with all four stocks. This can provide an element of depth, strategy, and sheer excitement while watching – and playing – Smash crew battles; while one crew may technically be in the lead by stocks, their current player must compete against any future opponents with a disadvantage. Furthermore, as in other fighting games with crew battle formats, there is also the innate strategy inherent in choosing which players will function as point, middle, or anchors for their team.

As previously reported, UCI’s Ultimate players have been proving themselves as forces to be reckoned with, both at on-campus weekly tournaments hosted at the UCI Esports Arena and at events held elsewhere in Orange County. After deliberating the day before the event, it was decided that the A-team for UCI would consist of the following players: Rafael “Rafi” Guadron, Jovanni Rivera, Dominic “T3Dome” Carone, Jason “Muskrat Catcher” Muscat, and new player Landon “SoulX” Stubblefield. A freshman both at UCI and on the Ultimate crew, SoulX is a skilled up-and-coming Daisy player, with notable recent placings being 9th/30 at the Valentine’s Day 2019 UCI weekly and 65th/408 at 2GGaming’s Heart of Battle regional event on February 9th, 2019.

The UCI Ultimate A-team does their best Daisy impression in honor of Landon “SoulX” Stubblefield (far left.) To his right, in order: Dominic “T3Dome” Carone, Jason “Muskrat Catcher” Muscat,” Rafael “Rafi” Guadron, Jovanni Rivera

UCI’s B-team was formed by players who had initially shown up as possible substitutes should any players from the A-team not be able to attend. However, when your author arrived at the event, initially solely intending to report on the crew battles, the substitute players realized that they had a second viable team of five. Thus, the B-team consisted of Sergio “Lt. Surge” Salas, Uyiosa “Uyi” Igbinigie, Cesar “Muffin” Martinez, Robert “PL” Martinez, and Nathan “Lite the Iron Man” Dhami. Apart from myself, every player on the B-team had respectable placements at UCI weeklies, as well as shifting spots on the UCI Smash 4 rankings prior to Ultimate’s release.

The Ultimate B-team roster, from right to left: Sergio “Lt. Surge” Salas, Uyiosa “Uyi” Igbinigie, Robert “PL” Martinez, Cesar “Muffin” Martinez, Nathan “Lite the Iron Man” “Your Author” Dhami

As previously stated, there were twelve crews total present for the tournament: UC Santa Barbara, Saddleback, CSU Northridge, CSU San Marcos, University of La Verne, CSU San Bernardino, Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Channel Islands, and two teams from USC were waiting to challenge UCI players. The CSL crew battle tournament was held in a single-elimination format – when one team was out, they were out for good. Unfortunately, the UCI B-team lost in the first round to CSUSB’s team. The A-team, on the other hand, had equal parts luck and skill on their side. Being the second seed of the tournament, the UCI A-team was given a bye, where they awaited ULV’s Ultimate crew. After defeating ULV, they moved on to avenge the B-team by defeating CSUSB with a four-stock lead, moving on to grand finals against Cal Poly Pomona.

The first seed of the bracket, Cal Poly Pomona’s team boasted an impressive roster, with players like Ken “ShiNe” Huang and Enrique “Nano” Garcia placing well at local SoCal events, and Quinton “ImHip” Goodman being ranked 18th in the all-time Socal Smash 4 Power Rankings as Olimar. These stats did nothing to deter the A-team, however, as all five UCI players were talented in their own right. After T3Dome’s Richter fell to Samuel “Arkistor” Weinger’s Inkling, having already respectably earned three stocks for UCI, Rafi’s Bowser began putting in work. Rafi cleanly defeated Arkistor, only losing a single stock, and proceeded to take two more stocks off of Derek “Deck” Wongso’s Ken before finally being taken down himself. Muskrat Catcher then followed Rafi, finishing off Deck with his King Dedede, and took another two stocks off ShiNe’s Pokémon Trainer before he was felled. At this point, it was down to SoulX and Jovanni’s six stocks and ShiNe and ImHip’s four. The UCI A-team sent out SoulX, who promptly cleaned up ShiNe’s final stock and moved on to fight ImHip. In what will surely be considered a historic match by SoCal Ultimate players, SoulX’s smart Daisy play managed to outmaneuver ImHip’s Olimar and eliminate him, securing UCI’s win with four stocks remaining to none. The decision to add SoulX to the A-team crew after long deliberation paid off, with him taking a game off of a top-ranked SoCal player in order to guarantee UCI’s spot in the CSL divisional qualifiers.

The UCI Melee crew and alternates strike a pose, huddling around Griffin “Captain Faceroll” Williams (crouching center.) From left to right, Alex L., Maruf Mamun, Eric “Woosh” Chagoya, Bryant “Nixqn” Nguyen, Jake “Rig” Song, John “KoDoRin” Ko.

After Ultimate crew battles ended, the Melee crew battle bracket began. The Melee bracket was smaller, with only three schools attending the event – UCI, UC San Diego, and Saddleback. Due to the small bracket, the tournament was ran in a round robin format instead of the single elimination style used for Ultimate. In the round robin format, every team is made to play against each other once to see who can earn the most wins. UCI Melee was represented by the following players: Jake “Rig” Song, Maruf Mamun, Eric “Woosh” Chagoya, Bryant “Nixqn” Nguyen, and John “KoDoRin” Ko.

UCI and UCSD’s Melee teams absolutely dominated Saddleback’s crew in their respective battles, with UCI’s Woosh even taking a whopping fifteen stocks from Saddleback’s players by himself. Now, with one point each, the winner of UCI versus UCSD would earn their spot in the Melee CSL divisional qualifier. Towards the end of their battle, UCSD was unable to reconcile the wide lead that UCI had earned, and UCI’s Melee team was able to close it out cleanly, with three stocks to none. The UCI Melee team is already well-recognized for Griffin “Captain Faceroll” Williams, a UCI graduate ranked 33rd in the world on the Melee Panda Global Rankings. Their win at the CSL qualifiers is just another notable victory for an already prolific crew.

In the end, both UCI teams won the CSL SoCal local qualifiers, earning the right to represent SoCal at the divisional qualifiers, held at a to-be-determined date and location this spring. From there, the winner of the divisional qualifiers will be invited to the national CSL championships, held at Smash supermajor tournament Shine 2019 in late August. The winning teams will also be awarded travel stipends for the purpose of assisting them in traveling to the divisional qualifiers.

More information about CSL Smash can be found on their website and social media. ( CSL Twitter / CSL Smash Twitter ) VODs and livestreams for their Smash events can be found on their Twitch channel. Brackets for the CSL SoCal Local Qualifiers can be found on Challonge. ( Melee / Ultimate )

Photos appear courtesy of Aaron “Ghostzy” Mariconda. ( Twitter )

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.

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.