It was half past two, and the Student Center’s Pacific Ballroom buzzed with activity.
On the north end of the hall, visitors clustered around tables topped with 70s-style TVs, craning their necks to get a glimpse of the Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament unfolding before them. Shouts of encouragement for the gamers focused intently on their matches rang wall to wall; the occasional roar arose as a character flew from the stage, disappearing off one of two huge screens hanging from the ceiling in a flash of colored light.
Among the celebrities in attendance on Sunday’s tournament were ARMY and Elegant, both of whom command top rankings on the global Smash leaderboard.
You might be curious as to what had drawn such an excited crowd to the Student Center, whose major events this quarter have included an anime convention and a trivia contest pitting students against their professors. The answer? Zotcade, UCI’s annual competitive games showcase.
For those unfamiliar with the event, which takes place every May under the auspices of The Association of Gamers at UCI (TAG @ UCI), it’s best described as a celebration of UC Irvine’s unique gaming culture. Because it’s open to the public, Zotcade brings students and visitors alike together for a day of fun, games, and—as befits a university with two fully-fledged scholarship teams—competition.
Since its inception in 2013, Zotcade has become UCI’s premier gaming festival. Today, it features not only tournaments in a variety of top-rated titles, but several games-centric panels, too: The lineup this year featured speakers from Tespa, NVIDIA, and HTC Gaming, with a special presentation on streaming and content creation from BuzzFeed’s Kelsey Impicciche.
Kelsey spoke with UCI Esports’ Angie Batth about her life as a content creator for BuzzFeed at Zotcade’s Streamer Summit.
Alongside the presentations, which ran from 1 to 7 PM, hundreds of players competed in LANs across the Student Center and in the UCI Esports Arena. As Kenneth, a visitor who heard about Zotcade online and journeyed from Los Angeles to participate in the Smash Ultimate singles tourney, says of his experience, “Everyone had a good time, it seems like … I had a conversation with ARMY, who is the best Ice Climbers in the world, and he actually sat down with me, and that was cool.”
Kenneth also got his Switch’s Joycons signed by the winners of the Smash Ultimate and Smash Melee tournaments.
Tournaments in other popular games, including Rainbow Six Siege and Overwatch, drew similarly enthusiastic audiences. Although it’s a bit too late now to watch the matches live, the tournaments can be found in all their glory on Twitch. A word of warning, though: Some of the streams are more than ten hours long, so make sure you finish that assignment you’ve been thinking about doing for the last week before sitting down to watch.
Players from CSU Long Beach faced off against Cal Poly Pomona in an afternoon round of Rainbow Six Siege. You can check out the stream here.
The event’s sponsors—including NVIDIA, HyperX, and Aorus—boothed in the Student Center’s lobby*. Attendees could be seen playing Dragon Ball FighterZ, Overwatch, and Battlefield V on the high-powered devices they brought to showcase.
If you weren’t able to make it to Zotcade this year, don’t fret: There are plenty of events coming in the next few weeks to help you scratch your gaming itch. UCI Esports camps for both Overwatch and League start later in the month.
* It goes without saying that the sponsors handed out lots of cool swag.