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UCI to Start E-Sports Program

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University of California-Irvine will launch an e-sports program this fall with a new arena equipped with high-end gaming PCs, a staging area for League of Legends competitions and a live webcasting studio at the Student Center.

The research university will offer as many as 10 academic scholarships for students on the competitive gaming team.

A recent survey of UCI students indicated that 72% percent identify themselves as gamers and 89% support the creation of an e-sports team. College Magazine ranked UCI the No. 1 school for gamers last year, and its Association of Gamers boasts the highest membership of any student club on campus.

The university will work through its Institute for Virtual Environments & Computer Games for the initiative. The Institute links multidisciplinary research projects in anthropology, art, computer science, engineering, history, medicine, psychology, science and technology.

Los Angeles-based Riot Games, which developed one of the most popular e-sporting events League of Legends will work with UCI to develop the program.

Custom gaming computer maker iBuyPower in Industry will supply the 3,500-square-foot eSports arena with 80 high-end gaming PCs loaded with popular video game titles.

ESports is a booming segment of competitive gaming that’s going mainstream, a shift made evident by the rise of corporate backers, the introduction of college scholarships devoted to hard-core gamers, and the increasing ability to obtain work visas in the U.S. through the mastery of a joystick, controller or keyboard.

Irvine-based Blizzard Entertainment Inc. and Kingston Technology Inc. in Fountain Valley are at the forefront of one of the hottest trends in the technology industry that’s attracting stadium-size crowds to venues across the globe and millions of online viewers.

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