If you’re looking for a near-free ride to a major university in beautiful southern California, there’s one in Irvine that may be right up your alley.
The University of California-Irvine is recruiting students on partial scholarships dedicated solely to video gaming. And with the upcoming grand opening of its eSports arena on campus, the school has become a “Mecca for gamers,” according to Mark Deppe.
As the acting director of UCI eSports, Deppe is the brains behind the university’s new eSports facility.
Deppe has transformed the former campus pool hall into a state-of-the-art gaming arena that’s set to open on September 23. The gaming arena will host regular student gamers as well as the school’s 10-player team, which will compete in tournaments that include millions of dollars in prize money.
Here’s what it’s like:
The eSports arena is located in UCI's student center, where you can also find the food court and conference rooms, among other things.
After you go inside and up the stairs, the eSports arena is through the courtyard, right across from the campus book store.
Once you get through the front door and look right, you can see this place is legit. It's outfitted with 70 high-end gaming computers.
And each has these crazy chairs from Vertagear that look like they belong in a race car. They are super comfortable and can adjust in all sorts of ways.
The chairs aren't cheap: They start at $300 each, and that doesn't account for the special UCI branding that these ones have.
The large amount of computers and monitors in the room weren't cheap either: Each cost around $2,000.
The steep price is due to the impressive hardware inside, which includes top-of-the line graphics cards and processing power.
And each station comes with headphones and microphones for communicating with teammates in the games.
So how did UCI come up with all the cash for this crazy space? It didn't. 'UCI gave us zero dollars,' Deppe told Business Insider.
'All of the expensive stuff is donated,' he said. iBuyPower, Logitech, Vertagear and other companies donated gear or money to get the place up and running, so it will be 'cost-neutral,' Deppe says. They are also going to charge students $4 per hour to use it.
Deppe says UCI has a huge gaming community on campus. That's due to a variety of factors: The school is one of the few offering degrees in Computer Game Science, and it's also in the backyard of a bunch of game studios operating in Orange County. 'Every game company that produces stuff has UCI students working for it,' he said.
That trend is sure to grow with the offering of a scholarship for gamers. UCI is bringing in five students on the new scholarship, four of whom weren't even looking to attend. It covers about half of in-state tuition. 'We have people who are now coming to UCI because of our League of Legends community.'
League of Legends is one of the world's most popular games, which has tournaments for millions in real cash. The UCI team will have the 5 scholarship students on it, along with 5 others who will try out.
And other gamers in the UCI arena will be able to play pre-loaded titles such as Diablo 3, Overwatch, Final Fantasy 14, and Minecraft.
Deppe says they are also in the process of a hiring a coach. No, it won't be the famous Coach K, but it will be 'a seasoned professional player.'
When we stopped by, the facility was still under construction. Everything will be ready to go by the grand opening next Friday.
Over here there will be about 5 or 6 different console gaming stations for Xbox or Playstation players.
And eventually, this side area will be turned into a live-streaming station. During competitions, UCI will be broadcasting the tournament to the world with play-by-play announcers.
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