UCI eSports: Making a Lucrative Career out of Video Games

Established in 2016, UCI is the first public university to create an official eSports program and is regarded as one of the best and most comprehensive in the world.

Remember back when playing video games was seen as “nerdy” or just a waste of time?  Well, those days are long gone. Now, you can make a lucrative career out of creating or playing video games. And, the University of California, Irvine has a program to help you down that path.

UCI is the first public university to create an official eSports program and is regarded as one of the best and most comprehensive in the world. With a successful Computer Game Science major, a thriving gaming community, and a history of elite competition, UCI is a natural place for eSports to thrive.

We interviewed Mark Deppe, eSports Director at UCI, to learn more about the program. Watch the interview above, or we’ve transcribed the video below for your convenience. (lightly edited for clarity)

UCI eSports

Competitive Element of eSports

Mark Deppe, UCI eSports Director (00:04) – eSports is the competitive element that comes with video games. We all know video games are wildly popular. A small portion of people who love video games really want to compete and see who the best is. And they’ve really flourished in the last few years with just internet technology improving, games improving. And now there’s this whole entertainment aspect that comes to eSports. So people are playing competitively, in a community environment and being entertained.

In 2015, we saw an opportunity to build something that would be really special and unique to UCI that built upon the strengths of our university. We had a really thriving gaming community that had just been ranked the Number One School for Gamers by College Magazine, our clubs were winning major tournaments, hosting wildly successful events, and our faculty were teaching and researching video game design.

Five Pillars of UCI’s eSports Program

Kathy Chiang, UCI eSports Assistant Director (00:59) – We were the first public university to create an official eSports program or department, and one of the first programs just in North America overall.

MD (01:09) Our eSports program has five pillars. We compete with coaches and scholarships and great teams. We support academics and research so we engage with our faculty and graduate students to advance what we know around humans and technology. Third pillar is around community, making the world a better place, improving behavior, pushing for diversity inclusion. Fourth pillar is around entertainment, creating great content online, hosting live events. Our fifth pillar is around careers and helping people get where they want to go after their UCI career.

UCI eSports

Disciplines Involved in eSports

KC (01:36) I think sometimes people underestimate just how many disciplines are involved in the eSports industry. It’s not all about playing. It’s not all about game design and the things that you see on the screen. We have so many interns that are involved, that are working on digital content, streaming, journalism, managing teams. They’re doing marketing, social media management. Pretty much any discipline you can think of, there’s a way to do that within the eSports industry.

Victoria Winn, UCI Sophomore (02:03) I don’t play sports or anything. So video games is kind of like my way to be in a team environment and to be a competitive player. I think being on the team has really taught me or given me a lot of skills. Just personally, time management is probably a big one. I don’t think I would be this organized if I didn’t have to balance being on the team and all my schoolwork.

KC (02:31) We want to be a well-rounded program. We want to be valuable for our students. We want to still compete at the highest levels. But that isn’t the sole thing that we focus on. We want to focus on our students graduating and getting good jobs. We want them to have really valuable experiences as they are going through their college life.

UCI eSports Program Benefits

MD (02:48) I would say there’s a huge opportunity when you validate somebody’s passions. And we know that 90 plus percent of young people are playing video games. They’re very important to our world right now. When we say you are not just welcome, you’re not just allowed to exist. We’re going to encourage it. We’re going to put you in a structured environment. We’re going to teach you how to play the game at the highest level. We’re going to talk about balance and nutrition and sleep and team dynamics and mental health. And we’re going to help you be the best player you can be.

For more information about the eSports program at the University of California, Irvine, visit esports.uci.edu.