By Ryan Mikeala Nguyen
UCI hosted their inaugural Esports conference and festival at the Student Center on Oct. 11 and 12. Festivities were held on the Student Terrace outside the Esports Arena, and presentations by notable Esport figures were organized in the student ballrooms.
On the first day of the Esports festival, attendees were able to sit down and watch UCI players live play League of Legends on a big screen. The Esports arena offered free play all day in the arena; games like Super Smash Bros. Melee and Hyper Universe were available as playing options.
Fourth-year Lloyd Ea attended the festival because it’s not just about playing games, the festival allowed him to meet and play with new people rather than playing games with his usual friends.
“Here we’re playing with strangers and then you get to play with other people and see their skills. It’s pretty fun,” Ea said.
A Cosplay contest and a ring ceremony, where champion players are awarded rings, concluded the first day of the festival. The festival comes in light of UCI Esports winning the 2018 College League of Legends Championship.
In addition to the various activities, a conference regarding the immanence of esports was held in the Student Center ballrooms. UCI welcomed celebrity speakers Magy Seif El-Nasr, a professor of Media and Design at Northeastern University and Former NFL Player and Esports Advocate Chris Kluwe.
250 guests attended the speaker’s lectures on the relevance of Esports in academics. The lecture topics included “Building Varsity Esports Within an Academic Unit: The Varsity Redhawks Story,” “Leadership and Governance in Collegiate Esports Topic: Esports History and the Development of Esports as a Cultural Practice,” and “Cognition and Careers: How Players Master Gameplay, Develop Their Digital Communities, and Generate New Models for Business.”
Festival Director and Esports Arena Coordinator Kathy Chiang spoke about the value of Esport games stating, “The conference itself focuses on a lot of the academics of games, it tries to bring academics together internationally as well as bringing [the gaming] industry involved.”
The overall event anticipated a large attendance.The conference was a success — according to Chiang it reportedly oversold on tickets.
“This is really just kind of a show-offy pride moment for us where we really want to emphasize how big games are and make sure that students have ways to interact with it,” Chiang said.
According to Chiang, this conference was an opportunity to promote the presence of Esports on Campus as well as to make known career opportunities in the Esports sphere.
“Lots of people come in and ask related questions to the conference because they see this happening and it’s so big,” said Chiang. “Then they’re interested in careers in games or they’re interested in our clubs and that’s kind of my main goal, just visibility.”
Esports is more than just a gaming experience; it adheres to a five pillar criteria that concerns itself with not only competition but also academics, research, community, entertainment, and careers.
“On the academics side, I know some people are presenting how does toxicity affect people, how are like societal norms, if you’re competing in games or being challenged in games, so a lot from the game design perspective as well. And just on our campus, I know people are studying games through neurobiology like how does it affect memory. So there’s a lot of different aspects of gaming,” Chiang said.