The UCI eSports Arena, although quiet about the progress it has made in developing competitive gaming on college campuses, has made impressive strides this year in promoting UCI competitors to high positions in the gaming world.
Participants in some of the most competitive games on the market have already been making impressions on the scene, from the Overwatch team Z O T B O Y S dominating last year’s Summer Tespa Series to and the UCI League of Legends Blue and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams earning first-place wins at UCSD’s Winter GameFest. While the majority of the student body may not realize the progress they have made, there is definitely a small group of dedicated viewers and players learning and growing from this initiative’s work.
The work our teams have been putting into playing at a competitive level is astounding, and their performances are doing more than simply winning them cash and bragging rights. Players are beginning to be noticed by high-performing teams, with Youngbin Jung replacing the legendary Piglet as Team Liquid’s AD Carry earlier this year. The publicity of playing these public matches is slowly but surely getting these players the recognition they need to become full-time gamers.
While some may argue that the point of attending university is to develop a career in the area of your major, I think the eSports Arena and the funding going towards it is showing college students that there is hope for a future in an interest outside of your studies. I see nothing wrong with people pursuing their extracurricular interests, especially if they’re willing to put in the effort needed to exceed in their fields.
Becoming a full-time professional gamer is risky, difficult, and offers little to no job security, forcing players to constantly improve themselves in order to stay relevant and important for a team to have. It is not an easy decision to make, but it is a risk that physical sports players make with little to no judgment from students. Considering the funding UCI pours into basketball alone (no complaints about that from me, I love our current lineup), it is exciting and amazing to think that we are one of the first schools to actively seek to elevate these skilled individuals to a place that they otherwise would not have been able to reach.
One of my favorite developments to come from the eSports Initiative is the establishment of our teams’ personalities. I love watching our Hearthstone team play troll decks and BM the souls out of their opponents, and I feel that we have a culture on campus that not many others can relate to.
I’ve only been to the Arena once since its opening, but the atmosphere is incredibly welcoming and surprisingly entertaining. Playing Overwatch ranked games is a soul-draining experience, but listening to people play ranked games is hilarious. Casually gaming with friends while students rage at their incompetent teammates is extremely cathartic, and I plan on visiting at least once more before the school year ends.
The Arena and its organizers are also more than open to getting curious students into gaming, offering periodic training sessions for those wishing to learn about the scene from those deeply embedded in it. Hearthstone Newbie Night (which is this Wednesday!) and League of Legends Newbie Night earlier this year allow people with barebones knowledge of games to learn from professionals while also opening up what could be a clique-ish organization to everyone and anyone who is interested in gaming.
UCI’s eSports Initiative has made an impact on our school, even if not many people can see it. For its first year in existence it has done what I expected it to do and more, and I can’t wait to see what it will do for us next year.
Isaac Espinosa is a second-year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at email@example.com.