UC Irvine Esports Conference 2018 – Recap from LA Valiant’s Physical Therapist & Wellness Coach

This article is a little different than my other educational ones. Today, I just came back from the first Esports academic conference in our industry held at UCI – the UCI Esports Conference 2018. For those that do not know, this was the first academic event of its kind, which focused on esports research and practice but ended up, in my opinion, being much more than that. The event featured wide-ranging presentations, panel discussions, public festival, lived streamed matches (LA Valiant showed up :D) all within the space of the university student center. This articles provides a general recap of my experience for the professionals in our industry who either could not make it to the event itself or might be interested in entering the space. I learned so much from all of the sessions provided throughout the days and in this article I will be going over my thoughts and observations from each day in the following sections. My unique takeaways from each session that will directly affect my practice with professional athletes will be a separate article for when our Patreon launches! (its soon don’t worry)

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Day 1 – Esports Culture and Academia Meets

As I sat through the sessions in day one it was exciting to see evidence developing to support what many of us in the industry were curious about (For me specifically it was the KPIs on performance/biomechanics of esports). There were more and more studies arising to help us make better decisions about various parts of the esports industry from coaching to marketing to establishing infrastructures within different environments.  Some of the sessions served as a way to educate the general public about the nature of esports. For example there was a session about formation of teams and the dynamics of how casual and competitive gamers meet each other (through ranking system, discord, offline friends, etc.). It documented what many of us inherently know as gamers ourselves who participate regularly in the community aspect of competitive gaming.

I was so happy to learn so much from all the sessions through the day and connect with amazing researchers studying unique topics on the forefront of esports performance. The event really lent itself to networking with opportunities and intermissions throughout the day to allow relationships to develop. Additionally the majority of the outdoor festival activities and show matches were on day one – with LA Valiant coming by to play against the UC Irvine Overwatch team being a unique highlight. The balance of the festival activities and professional workshop/sessions really blended the culture of esports well with the academic environment.

LA Valiant vs. UC Irvine Showmatch!

Esports is still clearly very young, but it was exciting to see the topics being researched and how it will not only help the general public increase their knowledge about esports but also for the professionals already practicing in industry. For all of you who might be considering work as support staff (physical therapist, strength & conditioning coach, etc.) on a professional team, the research and early discussions at conferences like these are establishing the blueprint for success and growth as esports evolves. DO YOUR BEST TO MAKE OUT OUT TO THE NEXT ONE!!

Day 2- Another great day of learning about esports

Day two was another great day of learning – focusing on wide ranging topics from how to develop your digital communities to developing the collegiate and high school scenes. It seems a common theme across both days is the importance of developing the high school and collegiate scene for better growth of the industry and allowing the idea of esports to become more normalized at these levels.

It was my overall impression that the content and language within the presentations seemed to be catered toward a newer audience with 40% of the presentations targeting those new to esports while the remaining 60% was meant to target those already in the industry. This is just based on the presentations and sessions I participated in. I think this distribution of content is necessary as this is the first event of its kind aimed to bring together academics, business thought leaders and the general public. 

I loved the atmosphere of community and passion for growth of our industry and truly felt everyone was there to move forward specific communities and aspects of the industry through research and sharing of ideas. Overall there was much to be learned at this event with a lot of thought leaders in attendance in addition to some great showmatches/activities which accurately represented the culture of esports.

Cognition & Careers: How Players master gameplay, develop their digital communities and generate new models for business

Overall Thoughts – Amazing first step

This was a great conference which had presentations which represented every major concern currently present within esports. While many people still utilized the notation of “eSports”, I believe this was a large step in connecting thought leaders across the different fields within esports to more efficiently develop the industry as a whole. It was truly great to learn from those who had involvement and observed the growth of previous traditional sports (NCAA) and hopeful that this early gathering of thought leaders meant the industry was ahead of the expected growth curve seen historically.

This event was also a testament to Mark Deppe and UC Irvine who continue to play a critical role in the growth of the collegiate and high school scenes and are setting the standard for Esports infrastructure at the university level. I am excited to see what other innovations the faculty and esports program will  bring for our industry. Here are some of my other thoughts associated with the event.

The people: Majority were industry individuals spread amongst the various professions within esports from academia to major platform representatives to team owners and many more. What was great to see were the students who were offered significantly discounted entry to the event many of which asked thoughtful and deep questions which is hopeful for the continued growth of esports. Additionally it seemed representatives from quite a few non-endemic brands attended to learn more about the industry itself and how to become involved in the scene.

The venue: UC Irvine is a beautiful campus and I loved that it was set at the university student center. The main stage was set up just adjacent to the entrance of the esports arena with a nice sectioned off area for posters and drinks during the later part of the day 1. Otherwise most of the presentations were within the student center at the main convention rooms. I loved the more intimate nature of these smaller rooms which allowed for deeper engagement from all the attendees. Props to Mark on execution and layout

Presenters: As I mentioned above there were truly a wide variety of presenters at the event and it really catered to all potential audiences inside/outside of the industry. My favorite was of course a presentation on the key performance indicators in esports and the current research associated with that. As a physical therapist and biomechanics nerd, it was great to see how biomechanics and motion analysis were integrated in the research presented.Anyways, I know this was quite a different article than what I usually write, but I wanted to recap my experience and commend Mark/UCI for an amazing job in setting up this event! If you are interested in any of the sessions – I believe you can check them out on UCI twitch VOD page here.

For the specific takeaways I got from each of the unique sessions, look out for the UCI ESC 2018 Health & Performance recap in our patreon coming out soon!

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