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University of California, Irvine (UCI), a public research university located about 30 miles south of Los Angeles is making a major step forward in the world of esports. In partnership with iBUYPOWER, UCI is launching an official esports arena complete with gaming PCs and a specifically constructed stage for their League of Legends competitive team. This initiative is a major step forward in the world of esports and is a hopeful template for other universities to follow.

According to Thomas Parham, vice chancellor for student affairs, “UCI eSports will be built on four pillars: competition, academics, entertainment and community.” UCI’s all-inclusive program aims to take gaming to a new level. iBUYPOWER is supplying over 80 high-end gaming PCs to outfit their 3500 square-foot Student Center. This Student Center will become the focus for social and competitive gaming, as well as helping their current League of Legends team. In addition to the fantastic infrastructure, UCI will also be creating sponsorships for their best players; even Riot Games, the Los Angeles company responsible for the most popular MOBA on the market, League of Legends, has pledged support for the initiative.

“UCI eSports will be built on four pillars: competition, academics, entertainment and community.” – Thomas Parham

Speaking on the partnership, Darren Su, vice president of iBUYPOWER, had the following to say: “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.” Over the last few years esports has grown massively in popularity, spawning numerous games to enter the competitive realm. While Riot Games seems to hold a major share of the market with League of Legends, it is reasonable to assume other companies may begin to follow suit with their own collegiate teams and gaming initiatives.

Future of Esports

UCI isn’t the first university to take eSports seriously – numerous other groups have begun the trek towards making esports as commonplace a sport as any other. Back in 2015, Roger Morris University in Illinois announced their own video game/esports program boasting scholarships and a professional team taking numerous trophies and awards, believing other groups would soon follow suit.

So what does this mean for esports? Colleges acknowledging gaming as a recognizable sport is the first step towards acceptance as a whole – and the numbers don’t lie. Riot Games’ League of Legends, arguably the most popular game in esports today was boasting over 67 million players monthly in 2014 with over 7.5 million players playing simultaneously and they have only grown since. Organizations around the world are also taking notice with sponsorships increasing exponentially in 2015 for professional gaming tournaments both at a national and international level, competing at a financial level with many other professional sports.

League of Legends World Championship

Riot Game’s League of Legends, most popular game in eSports today, boasted 36 million viewers

In a world that seems to still view gaming as a “hobby,” forward-facing initiatives like these help bolster a community of positive gamers looking for standard recognition. Hopefully other groups will follow suit and recognize the wealth of potential that lies in esports and gaming in general.

About UC Irvine

Currently celebrating 50 years, UCI is home to a large and dedicated gaming community and has been for some time. Their Association of Gamers, an organization on campus, boasts the highest membership of any other student club. Coupling this with their Institute for Virtual Environments & Computer Games, UCI brings multidisciplinary research to the world of gaming and beyond.

You can read more about UC Irvine’s program and future in their press release.

 All images copyright of UCI and Riot Games.

 

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