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.

Introducing Our Virtual Summer Bootcamps


by | Jun 10, 2020, 12:00PM PDT

Since 2018, UCI Esports has been offering bootcamps to help students hone in on their gaming skills. Typically an overnight program held in Irvine, California (the freshman experience of dorms and dining halls included), we have been able to provide a truly unique week of gaming, training, friendship, and competition.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have needed to switch up the way we offer our programs. As no strangers to the online realm, we remain committed to providing the customized, hands-on coaching that students are used to getting at UCI.

Read on for an in-depth overview of what you can expect should you attend one of our new virtual camps this year.

League of Legends

Our League of Legends Summer Bootcamps will focus on providing campers of any skill level with a chance to train like they do at the top levels of competitive League of Legends. Within one week, we will train you in teams alongside other campers, covering the most critical factors for team and individual success while improve your fundamental knowledge of the game. The rigorous scrimmage-focused curriculum will help you develop across a wide range of essential skills including communication, leadership, analysis, and critical thinking.

Daily schedules will consist of presentations, game seminars, drafting practice, scrimmages, and VoD review (with plenty of breaks)!

While the majority of our coaching will be done in a group setting, instructors will also be available throughout the camp as resources to provide individualized advice as well.

Game concepts covered will include but are not limited to draft theory, champion pools and scouting, laning, macro play and map movements, mechanics, and efficient communication.

Instruction will be led by UCI Esports’ League of Legends Head Coach, David ‘Hermes’ Tu, who has coached numerous LCS teams including Team SoloMid, Team Liquid, and Immortals. Supporting staff will include Assistant Coach and multi-season Challenger, Geoff ‘CentralTime’ Wang; camp counselors from our very own League of Legends teams; and professional guest speakers from the esports industry.

Overwatch

At the Overwatch Bootcamps, coaches will work closely with campers to bolster their abilities. No matter your rank or experience, our staff is here to build up your skills to hit your goals and take those next steps!

Lessons topics will include but are not limited to:

  • Compositions and playstyle frameworks to build on players’ understandings on how to play to win conditions and dismantle enemy setups
  • Hero Pool coverage and expansion of players’ personal repertoires, so you will always be equipped and comfortable on some hero, no matter the situation
  • Pre-fight analysis and game flow models so players always have the direction they need to have to work towards victory
  • Hands-on personalized instruction
  • And guest speaker appearances from esports industry professionals sharing their stories on how they’ve navigated their careers.

The goal of these lessons are to allow players to critically think on the go and further their practical knowledge. Campers will be exposed to questions and different perspectives on the game, broaden their horizons in and out of game, and meet other passionate players and teammates with the same competitive drive and goals!

Our professional coaches have spent years traversing the path to pro, both as players and educators. Ronald “Renanthera” Ly is the Head Coach of the UCI Esports Overwatch team and has worked with Overwatch League organizations such as the Boston Uprising and Florida Mayhem, as well as coached for Team Canada. Assistant Coach Michael “The” Kuhns was previously a professional player for CLG and has coached in Contenders for much of his tenure. Together with their trained camp counselors composed of experienced Top 500 players, campers are sure to be in good hands.

If you haven’t applied yet, registrations will close end of day June 14!

All of us at UCI Esports are looking forward to providing a crafted virtual coaching experience. We can’t wait to have you join us.