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By Javier Burdette

Statistics seem to show that being an ‘Eater almost guarantees that you’re also a gamer or at least an advocate of gaming. A recent survey of  1,200 participants has shown that 72 percent of UCI students identify as gamers, and 89 percent support the inception of an eSports team.

It’s likely that the majority of the UCI community has been made aware of these statistics by now. They’ve been everywhere since it was announced that an eSports arena and a school-sanctioned team would be coming to Irvine.

The New U sat down with Jesse Wang, president of The Association of Gamers, to learn more.

Ever since the arena was announced, Wang and the rest of the members of The Association have been inundated with questions and interviews, many coming from some high profile news outlets and prospective students alike. As Wang puts it, “We got emails, calls, letters, from all across the nation.”

Though gaming has become the central topic of conversation only recently, it has had a strong base at UCI for years now. There are approximately 300 students currently paying to be a part of The Association. According to Wang, if the number of non-paying, online supporters of the club are included, the number shoots up to 5,000.

The club focuses on what is considered something of a “holy trinity” among competitive gamers: Super Smash Brothers, League of Legends, and Defense of the Ancients. Its main goal is to bring together gamers and spread the gospel of competitive gaming to those outside of this niche, yet growing, community.

Despite an overwhelmingly positive response by many, the arena and team have not been without their opponents.

Obviously, there are a lot of people asking, “Why?”

In today’s day and age, the internet has made connecting with other gamers from across the globe an effortless process, so why does a gaming arena need to exist?

Additionally, the eSports arena will be displacing the  Zot Zone, a space in the Student Center Terrace that already houses some consoles and as well as several pool tables. It certainly isn’t the most popular place on campus, but there isn’t anywhere else students can go to access the same kinds of resources.

Wang says the concept of the eSports arena, which he refers to as a PC cafe, “is the preferred method of using computers in Korea.” Supporters of the arena might say that, in order to compete on the same level as other gaming powerhouses, a space dedicated to the activity is crucial.

Other opponents have argued that gaming isn’t really a sport, and that the idea of awarding scholarships to gamers is ludicrous.

When the former point is brought up, Wang responds by paraphrasing the Merriam-Webster definition of sport, “a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.” Wang concedes that gaming isn’t a sport in the traditional sense, but that the meaning of the word is open to interpretation.

He also clarifies the scholarship situation: “The money used for the scholarships does not come from the state.” In fact, funding is provided by big names in the gaming community, like PC gaming website iBUYPOWER.

The eSports team is currently in its recruiting phase and Wang hopes to develop a team of highly talented players who will be able to establish UCI as a force to be reckoned with in all three major games. Wang has great expectations for UCI eSports—  “I hope that one day we can fill the Bren Events Center.”

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