Gaming is serious at UC Irvine

UCI to launch first-of-its-kind e-sports initiative this fall. A state-of-the-art arena equipped with high-end gaming PCs, a stage for LoL competitions and a live webcasting studio will be built at Student Center. Up to 10 academic scholarships will be offered to student gamers.
Feature Story | UCI eSports Website | Press release
Photo by Steve Zylius, UCI Communications.

Insights from UC Irvine alumni and students

Johnny Hou

Alumnus, computer science & engineering 2006

Photo courtesy of NZXT and Johnny Hou.

Owner, NZXT, a computer component manufacturer based in Los Angeles. The company sells computer cases, cooling and fan control systems for the PC gaming industry. The company is donating gear for the e-sports arena and providing support for student scholarships.

“…when I was in school at UCI and struggling to get the business off the ground, the school and my professors were very supportive of my goals.”

“When I started the business in 2003, I was balancing work and studying for my computer science and engineering degree. I’ve always wanted to build software for PC gamers and e-sports is an extension of that. Our company actually designed the cases for the gaming rigs that will be part of the e-sports arena here on campus. My engineering background allows me to work with engineers and product developers to create PC hardware designs that are essential to the business.

It’s important that people know that when I was in school at UCI and struggling to get the business off the ground, the school and my professors were very supportive of my goals. By the time I graduated school, I had 2 or 3 products on the market. I was literally studying for midterms during a plane ride to China.

The popular thing is to leave school to start a business, but I managed to graduate. It was hard. Engineering at UCI is not an easy program. Right now I have 70 employees worldwide including 30 here in Southern California, and I would love to hire UCI graduates.”


Kathy Chiang

Former president of The Association of Gamers and founding class member & new graduate of UCI’s computer game science program.

“There’s something about UCI that encourages women in gaming.”
Kathy Chiang ’16, president of The Association of Gamers, wears her tournament wristbands like a boss. Photo by UCI Communications.

Gaming has limitless possibilities. It’s a great art form — like literature.

“I lean toward immersive storytelling games. It’s not just entertainment. It’s developing a community.”

Read more at: http://bit.ly/UCIeSportsFeature2016


Jesse Wang

President of The Association of Gamers and third year informatics major

“Most gamers I know are also really hard workers and take academics very seriously. Those students will see that UCI is very gaming and STEM friendly and that there’s a home for them here.”
Photo courtesy of Jesse Wang.

“What separates eSports at UCI from other schools is that we have a track record of success. Our LoL [League of Legends] club team is a three-time national champion holder, and we are Super Smash Bros national champions. We have an enthusiastic gaming culture and community here on campus.

One reason this is such a big deal is the fact that we’re the first nationally recognized, public research university to start an e-sports team. We’re known for being really good at academics and having a low-acceptance rate and being the home of Nobel Prize winners. Most gamers I know are also really hard workers and take academics very seriously. Those students will see that UCI is very gaming and STEM friendly and that there’s a home for them here. Playing games at UCI is definitely not a waste of time.

With this initiative, we will become a school of first choice for talented gamers who will feel that this school has a culture and a place for them. UCI is also in a great location for e-sports. So Cal is a hub of the e-sport industry.”


Morgan Romine

Ph.D. anthropology ’16

Dissertation title: “Fractured Imaginaries: An Ethnography of Game Design”

Cultural anthropologist, game community advocate, writer, producer and public speaker. Director of Initiatives for AnyKey, manages diversity projects driven by the organization’s research about underrepresented players in e-sports.

Gamers know her as Rhoulette from her time as team captain and manager of Ubisoft’s Frag Dolls from 2004–2011, or her stint as e-sports director for Firefall at Red 5 Studios. She’s also been named one of the Most Influential Women in Tech by Fast Company.

“When you provide welcoming spaces, it can be a strong support network.”
Photo courtesy of Morgan Romine.

“Game designers are almost always themselves really dedicated gamers, and passionate about gaming as a lifestyle. This contributes to an intense level of commitment to these projects. They are coming into the design process as craftsmen and potential consumers. They get really passionate with their ideas. It’s really a labor of love for everyone.

In an ideal world (all-women e-sports teams) are not necessary, but in the current climate there are benefits and they outweigh the detriments. By providing visibility, you provide a model for women who are in competitive scenes but haven’t considered playing professionally. They think, ‘Maybe I can join a team when they see other women who are playing competitively.’

[During live streams] Anytime a girl appears on camera, the stream chat erupts in people just commenting, and a portion of that is solely about her looks. It becomes about her personally and not about skills or competition. Women already deal with a lot of difficulty in being the minority in e-sports. When you provide welcoming spaces, it can be a strong support network.

The great thing about collegiate teams and UCI’s eSports program is that they provide the opportunity to build and support women at the amateur level. It’s purely a numbers thing. Only about 5 percent of pro players are women so you aren’t seeing them in the top 10. When you build a groundswell at the college level, you will see more women advance in the sport.”


League of Legends competition. Photo courtesy of The Association of Gamers at UCI .

More about the eSports Initiative at UCI: Feature Story | UCI eSports Website | Press release