eSports Arena Attracts Unnecessary Student Criticism

At the opening ceremony of UC Irvine’s new eSports Arena, Thomas Parham, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, revealed that whenever he was asked why UCI was building such an arena, he would simply reply, “Why not?”

Though the arena and its accompanying programs are refreshing, it seems as though many people on campus are more than eager to answer his question.

Some students seem to be concerned with the possible association of UCI as a “gaming school.” However, there are many positive implications that come with this title.

Currently, UCI is the pioneering campus in gaming inclusivity and acceptance. While professional gaming is not necessarily looked down upon at other schools, it does not receive the same attention Irvine is attempting to provide it. UCI is embracing gaming, allowing talented students to pursue their interests just as athletes are both locally and nationally. The reputation of our school, therefore, is less a reputation based on idle playing and fun, and more a reputation based on the encouragement and enablement of individuals to pursue whatever career path they wish.

And, while it is true that UCI can be recognized by many titles, there is no shame in being referred to as a “gaming school.” This title singles UCI out as the first of its kind, the first university to acknowledge gaming as a sport.

Other students have found issues with the removal of ZotZone, a study lounge with a catchy name and billiards tables, and its replacement with the arena. As a former frequenter of ZotZone, I admit I miss it. It provided the only free pool tables on campus that do not require residency in a certain housing community.

However, ZotZone served a recreational purpose and not much else.  The eSports Arena, on the other hand, provides UCI both recreational and competitive activities, offering students the opportunity to exhibit their skills both on campus and perhaps even in national leagues. While we did lose pool tables and some outdated Xbox One games, there is much more potential inherent in this new arena for UCI.

The final issue centers around a feeling of limited inclusivity in the arena. Certain gaming communities feel that their group is not receiving recognition in the arena, as only more mainstream games seem to be featured at the moment. These groups need simply to look at the process of the arena’s creation to solve their problem. Smaller gaming communities need to coordinate in order to get competitive recognition from the school, and in time, the arena will grow.

Parham’s carefree reply seems to embody the spirit of the arena. With a high possibility of success, an inclusive nature and an aesthetically-pleasing facility to contain its operations, why not?
Isaac Espinosa is a second-year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at imespino@uci.edu.