Approximately 400 students attended UCI’s third annual Zotcade on Friday, marking the largest turnout in the history of the UCI gaming event.
The corporate-sponsored yearly celebration was launched in 2013 by leaders of UCI’s gaming community. Zotcade features all-day gaming competitions and social events, along with game demos, raffles and merchandise giveaways from tech companies including HTC eSports, Logitech and Gigabyte.
On Friday, gamers were encouraged to bring their own computers to participate in the 300-seat LAN party and sign up to compete with other student gamers in tournaments hosted throughout the day in Student Center’s Pacific Ballroom. This year, competitions were hosted from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and included League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch and Dota 2.
Kathy Chiang, recent UC Irvine graduate and former president of UCI’s Association of Gamers, helped organize Zotcade this year.
Chiang noted that UCI’s recent announcement of its upcoming eSports initiative has increased visibility of the campus’s sizable gaming community, and contributed to the success of this year’s Zotcade.
“We saw the biggest turnout for Zotcade this year, with about 300 people participating and 100 spectators, and we were able to get the biggest room in the Student Center we’ve had so far,” said Chiang. “We didn’t get too much recognition from the administration before the eSports initiative was announced, so it’s great to see that support for our strong gaming community.”
The eSports initiative, which is set to debut this fall, includes the renovation of the Zot Zone into a gaming arena and the formation of a competitive League of Legends team complete with scholarships and weekly training for team members.
During Zotcade, League of Legends was among the most popular “community challenges” with tournaments running nonstop from noon until 11 p.m. Only Hearthstone matched League of Legends in terms of playing time during Zotcade, with competitions running back-to-back for eleven hours.
Chiang hopes that the eSports initiative will support UCI as a hub for gamers throughout California, a reputation which the UCI Association of Gamers are already working towards.
Last May, the Association of Gamers took a year off from planning Zotcade to help host Press Start, the largest gaming festival ever held in Southern California. More than 2,000 gamers attended the two-day event in UCI’s Bren Events Center, featuring a $30,000 prize pool for six different games and 800 bring-your-own-computer seats.
Press Start was not exclusive to UCI students, and invited gamers from throughout Southern California, as opposed to Zotcade, which is primarily UCI-centric. Chiang estimated that 80 percent of Zotcade attendants last Friday were UCI students.
She hopes that the unprecedented success of events such as Press Start and Zotcade, in addition to the eSports program, will increase visibility and opportunities for gamers on UCI’s campus.
“Hopefully, [UCI’s Association of Gamers] can make use of the new PC cafe, host more gaming tournaments … and continue hosting our quarterly events as well as Zotcade, which is annual,” said Chiang. “It’s great to see events like these bringing gamers together, and watching the gaming community at UCI strengthen.”