In celebration of this back to school season, Super League shines a light on collegiate esports organizations throughout the U.S. that help make the esports scene what it is today. This week we jumped in with Brandi Moy, Shannon Chan, and Kyle Kwong of The Association of Gamers at University of Californa, Irvine.
The Association of Gamers (TAG) is an officially-recognized gaming club at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). During its activity since 2014, the organization has held gaming divisions for League of Legends, Blizzard games including Overwatch and Hearthstone, Smash Bros Melee, Smash Bros Ultimate, CS:GO, and Dota 2.
On average, the club houses over 300 active members, making it the largest gaming club on UCI campus. In 2016, TAG lent a hand in launching UCI’s varsity esports program, making the school the first public university to create a varsity esports team. Since then, the club and school-run program have helped each other in providing local community outreach and access to gaming facilities, respectively. Today UCI houses one of the country’s most extensive esports facilities.
“We hope for UCI to become a place where anyone with a passion for games can feel welcomed by offering various opportunities for them to develop long lasting relationships with other game enthusiasts,” said TAG Co-President Shannon Chan.
In addition to weekly meetings and quarterly tournaments, the club’s cornerstone events include its League of Legends Worlds Viewing Party in Fall Quarter and its LAN, Zotcade, in Spring. “Everyone in TAG looks forward and enjoys hosting Zotcade,” said Kyle Kwong, TAG Vice President. “From sponsor booths to guest talks to on-site tournaments, we try to make the experience one to remember.” In 2019, TAG’s Zotcade event drew over 400 attendees. “This coming year, we want to grow even more,” Kwong added.
“We hope for UCI to become a place where anyone with a passion for games can feel welcomed by offering various opportunities for them to develop long lasting relationships with other game enthusiasts.”
Located in Orange County, California, TAG is uniquely positioned at the heart of the esports and gaming world. “Our members have many opportunities to get involved in the professional scene,” said Brandi Moy, TAG Co-President. “The club is many students’ first chance to get their foot in the door by practicing skills such as event planning and negotiating sponsorships with major companies in the area like HyperX, FlyQuest, iBUYPOWER, and Blizzard.” TAG also collaborates with outside organizations to offer its members esports industry career workshops and focus group testing.
But collegiate esports communities are not the only ones who stand to benefit from close relationships with professional esports organizations and brands; and UCI is one of several colleges leading the charge in shaping the future of esports, both in the collegiate space and beyond. “I strongly believe that the grassroots nature of collegiate esports greatly inspires the esports industry,” said Moy. “Because the industry is so young, many of the people heading the charge had their start in collegiate. These leaders are taking what they learned from running clubs and competing in collegiate esports programs such as Tespa and CSL to the professional scene.”
“These leaders are taking what they learned from running clubs and competing in collegiate esports programs such as Tespa and CSL to the professional scene.”
Aside from opportunities to grow as gamers and esports professionals, TAG at UCI offers its members something of more personal value: community. “Many incoming students struggle with the fear of having to start over and reforge friendships with meaning,” Moy explained. “Having TAG as that home to come to, where they know they will be around people with as much passion as them for the games they love, provides a great sense of security for our members.”
“Looking back at everything the club has given me, I don’t think I could ask for more. I am super grateful UCI has such a flourishing gaming community,” Moy added. The school reports that 72% of its students are active gamers.
In the new school year, TAG hopes to introduce members to a variety of games, to facilitate relationships between gamers, to provide social and competitive events and opportunities, and to spread gaming culture among peers. On an individual note, Co-President Chan said, “I hope to bring to other incoming students the same welcomed feeling I experienced.”
Collegiate esports communities like TAG share in Super League’s spirit of community, grassroots esports organization, and belonging. Throughout September and October we hope to recognize the personal and professional contributions of collegiate esports communities to the amateur and pro esports scenes. Look out for more Collegiate Community Spotlights on the Super League socials and blog soon!