The rise of esports

January 25, 2021

In the age of coronavirus, more and more are turning to esports as an outlet to connect with friends. Esports are competitive video game team sports, building the same skills as traditional sports: teamwork, communication, critical and strategic thinking, creativity, sportsmanship, and leadership, according to PlayVS, the official California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) partner for high school esports tournaments. 

If you’re just hearing about this industry, you’re late to the game. Esports is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, gaining momentum in the early 2000s and growing into the current $1 billion industry. And as a reference for the hefty prizes, the 2019 Fortnite World Cup Finals awarded a $15.1 million prize pool.

“There’s a negative stigma that esports won’t benefit you for the future and that it’s a waste of time,” sophomore Kirk Collado said. “Hopefully more people recognize esports for what it can do, especially getting them into good colleges.”

Besides recognition from colleges, esports provide platforms for students to apply AP math content and gain exposure to high tech sector jobs, according to a study by the University of California, Irvine (UCI). And, a GYO Score study shows that esports players are more inclined to pursue STEM fields, including computer science, nursing, engineering, and game design. 


Communities at IHS

With the recent addition of esports to the CIF’s sports in 2019, the inclusivity supports a more diverse student body to participate in team sports. From hobbyist gamers to those ready to pursue a career in esports, these opportunities are adding to the already growing communities at Irvine High, including clubs like IHS esports and Smash club. 

PlayVS will be the official esports provider for CIF, hosting games including League of Legends, Rocket League and FIFA 21. Though IHS doesn’t have a team yet, students are looking forward to competing officially. 

“I’d be looking forward to competing in tournaments once we have an official team, since colleges extend greater recognition to school teams,” president of IHS Esports club and sophomore David Culicar said. “Since [IHS esports is] only a club, we can’t compete in many tournaments. The prospect to make it official and get parent and school support in esports is what I’m most excited about.”

High schoolers like Culicar are using a platform of competitive esports to earn scholarships and money. Sophomore Kirk Collado, who plays competitively, has won around $2.2k in Aim Lab tournaments. 

“If you want to play competitively, you need to love the game you’re playing. There’s a lot of pressure in the team environment,” sophomore Kirk Collado said. “But the most rewarding aspect is that you’ll do well over time. Eventually, you’ll win at some point with all the time and work spent, and it’ll strengthen you mentally.” 

The esports communities formed at Irvine High welcome new and experienced players.

“Esports is very easy to start, and I’m sure anyone will find people to play with, especially at Irvine High,” junior Joshua Choi said. “Sometimes it might seem like there aren’t many gamers, but there’s so many people who play games and a super friendly community at school.” 

The benefits of connecting with friends through video games are increasingly obvious with the stay-at-home orders. Last November, ASB hosted a League of Legends tournament, and in December, Student Forum and ASB helped students connect through Among Us zoom rooms. 

“I wanted to host [the League of Legends tournament] because we wanted there to be more representation and activities for a greater number of people,” junior class president Shrey Gupta said. “Since not everyone likes the same thing, we could broaden our horizons and give more unique opportunities while utilizing online access to the internet.”

For more info, visit cif-ss esports update

The esports ecosystem at UCI

With a strong computer science and computer gaming programs, and its own esports arena, the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is the premier university for gamers to thrive. Housing a League of Legends North American Collegiate Champion team, it’s very own state-of-the-art arena, and involvement with many campus departments, the university esports program is more than what meets the eye. 

Funding from corporate sponsorships, the Samueli Foundation, and other sources, allow the UCI esports program to provide scholarships. 

“We work with a lot of the different schools on campus, like informatics, computer science, and media broadcast,” assistant director Kathy Chiang said. “We want to make sure we’re able to connect them to our students, ours student body, industry leaders, and anyone else.”

Furthermore, the UCI esports program frequently works with researchers in UCI’s schools of health and biological sciences, recently providing health and wellness scholarships to support undergraduate and graduate researchers in sports psychology and similar fields to study gamers’ health. 

“Being a player is the most visible role in the program,  but we have about 70 students working in other roles,” Chiang said. “Many of our student opportunities have a big impact on life after graduation and have a direct benefit for students that are interested in the gaming industry. So while students focus a lot on the scholarships and competitive teams, there’s obviously a lot going around.”

The UCI esports program has paid roles for managers, coaches, and graphic designers. Furthermore, the program houses paid internships for students to develop administrative and professional skills while they’re with the UCI esports program – journalists, streamers, artists, web developers and analysts, just to name a few. Additionally, the UCI esports program connects students to careers with career panels and resume workshops to ensure students are ready for the workforce.

With a state-of-the-art esports arena, UCI provides opportunities for gamers all around Irvine. Structured like a typical PC cafe, the esports arena previously hosted tournaments and camps, like Girls in Gaming and bootcamps.

For more info on UCI esports, visit

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The rise of esports