UC Irvine is launching an official e-sports initiative this fall, the first of its kind at a public research university. A state-of-the-art arena equipped with high-end gaming PCs, a stage for League of Legends competitions and a live webcasting studio will be constructed at the Student Center, and as many as 10 academic scholarships will be offered to students on the team. “UCI eSports will be built on four pillars: competition, academics, entertainment and community,” said Thomas Parham, vice chancellor for student affairs. “We hope to attract the best gamers from around the world, and our academic programs in computer gaming science, digital arts, computer science, engineering, anthropology, law, medicine, neuroscience and behavior create a strong foundation for research and inquiry related to gaming.”
Faculty from IVECG are serving as advisors to this eSports initiative.
The gaming center will also give non-team students a chance to participate in fun leisure activities on campus while balancing academic and research endeavors, he added.
Most commonly, e-sports take the form of organized multiplayer video game competitions. Live-streaming of such matches draws millions of viewers worldwide.
UCI is home to a dedicated gaming community. A recent survey of students found that 72 percent identify as gamers and 89 percent support the creation of an e-sports team. College Magazine ranked UCI the No. 1 school for gamers in 2015. The Association of Gamers boasts the highest membership of any student club on campus, and the computer game science major in the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences is the largest in the country.
In addition, UCI’s Institute for Virtual Environments & Computer Games facilitates multidisciplinary research projects in the fields of anthropology, art, computer science, engineering, history, medicine, psychology, science and technology.
“It has been a dream for many of us on campus that UCI recognize the importance of e-sports and create a space and a program that cater to the large community of gamers at the university,” said Jesse Wang, president of The Association of Gamers. “The eSports team and the arena will ensure that UCI continues to be a leader and trendsetter in collegiate e-sports.”
Los Angeles-based Riot Games – the studio behind League of Legends – has pledged its support for the eSports initiative and will work with UCI to offer a premium League of Legends gaming experience.
“The UCI community is one of over 300 student-run gaming clubs we currently support,” said Ramon Hermann, head of the collegiate program at Riot Games. “We’re honored to work with UCI to create a permanent home for gamers on campus and hope this will inspire similar programs at colleges and universities across North America.”
Custom gaming computer maker iBuyPower is equipping the 3,500-square-foot eSports arena with 80 of its high-end gaming PCs loaded with the most popular video game titles. Also available for classes and research projects, the Student Center space will be a major hub for social and competitive gaming in Southern California. UCI’s League of Legends team will compete in next year’s collegiate tournaments.
“UCI has one of the top competitive gaming clubs in the nation and deserves top-of-the-line equipment,” said Darren Su, vice president of iBuyPower. “Through this partnership, we can not only ensure that players have the tools necessary to play their best, but also allow students to be their best through scholarship and research opportunities. Our dream is that one day e-sports will be a tool for students across the country to achieve their professional, academic and personal success. Partnering with UCI is a huge step toward making that dream a reality.”