UCI Esports Hosts First Girls’ Summer Camp

By Jessamyn Acebes, Hillary Phan
Photos by Jessamyn Acebes and Damian Rosiak

During the week of June 26th, the UCI Esports program held its first Girls’ Summer Camp. The camp sought to educate young women about opportunities and careers in the growing esports industry while providing a safe space for them to interact, learn, and celebrate their identities as female gamers. Counselors, coordinators and staff alike set out to introduce the campers to a supportive and inclusive community where they could grow and network comfortably.

Left to right: Charlene “Shark” Hamm, Emmalee “EMUHLEET” Garrido (Team Dig), Lynnie “artStar” Noquez (Team Dig), Michelle “SSBM_Cakes” Lissogorski

Each day of the camp took place from 9am to 5pm, filled with a different range of topics and activities for every day of the week. These topics included game development, streaming, shoutcasting, professional gaming, and more. Coordinators invited key industry professionals to speak to the campers about their passions, inspirations, and how to make a name for themselves in the industry.

Kim Phan shares her origin story

Kim Phan, Esports Director at Blizzard Entertainment, gave a lecture on her origin story and how her passion for gaming turned into a successful career. Sheila “pterodactylsftw” Weidman, a popular streamer signed by Team Dignitas, opened up about her struggles as a female streamer and discussed how the campers can combat online harassment and still be a successful gamer. Emmalee “EMUHLEET” Garrido and Carolyn “artStar” Noquez, members of Team Dignitas CS:GO FE team, spoke about their hard work and dedication that earned them a place on a pro team and how the campers could achieve their personal goals in gaming as well. Jenny Song, a UCI student and President of The Association of Gamers, gave advice on how to run an umbrella organization and how event management and delegation are keys to a successful esports club.

Campers on a sunny tour of the UCI campus

Aside from lectures, campers participated in other scheduled activities throughout the week. Student Affairs provided them with a tour of the campus, showing off UCI’s history and beautiful scenery. Another day, campers engaged in a water balloon toss in the sun, breaking away from the normal “free play” time inside the arena.

Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico and her co-hosts get ready to cast the in-house Overwatch tournament

The final activity of the week, facilitated by world-famous esports host Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico, was an Overwatch tournament. Campers split into two teams of six while the rest participated in shoutcasting alongside Seltzer for the tournament’s livestream. The girls had a blast, and Seltzer swelled with pride as she watched the campers thrive under the livestream spotlight.

Campers get ready to face-off in Overwatch

Three campers and one counselor take a picture during the end-of-camp mixer

The camp concluded with a mixer involving counselors, guest speakers, sponsors, and the girls’ families, providing an opportunity for them to connect with each another. A huge shoutout to all of our sponsors, NVIDIA, the Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center, Aquafina, Blizzard, iBUYPOWER, Archon, Logitech, Oomba and Vertagear, for making our first Girls’ Summer Camp possible. Each camper received a camp shirt provided by Archon, a Logitech gaming mouse, an Aquafina drawstring bag, an Anaheim Ducks Bobblehead, Tespa gear, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card. Extra raffle prizes included a mouse pad and a fully equipped iBUYPOWER gaming PC.

Esports Director Mark Deppe shows off the graphics cards provided by our sponsor, NVIDIA

Thanks to the contribution of our industry guest speakers, the campers walked away with the resources, insight, and knowledge to get involved in esports. A big thank you to all of the volunteers who contributed to the first camp’s success. Without their hard work and dedication, there would be no Girls’ Summer Camp!

Interview with Camp Coordinators: Hillary and Jessamyn

Hillary listening in on one of the lectures

What was your role in the camp?

“I worked as both a camp coordinator and a counselor. I was there from day one, brainstorming the whole thing with Mark back in November. Once we figured out our goals, the general outline, and had a team, my focus fell on camper/parent communications and designing the curriculum - which went under a lot of revision once Jessamyn got our guest lecturers.”

How was this experience for you, and what are your hopes for the future?

“I can honestly say I loved every minute of it. I met so many wonderful people who cared about making this a success. It was definitely a passion project of mine throughout the school year, and to build it together with such a fantastic team is something I’ll never forget. The camp itself was just heartwarming and incredible and so much fun. I made so many friends along the way, staff and campers both. Actually, I’m pretty sure this camp changed my career path to do something more along these lines and to work within esports! It was the best thing I’ve ever been a part of, and I’m beyond excited for next year. I had high hopes for this camp and it went beyond all expectations - I can only hope that our positive impact grows exponentially from here on out and that other institutions follow our lead.”

Jessamyn in the middle of a live stream interview

What was the biggest struggle you faced while working on this project?

“Since the camp was catered to esports and video games, I had big goals of getting a few industry celebrities out to the camp. However, I’ve never reached out to famous people before. I was afraid they would read my emails and immediately ignore them since I was a no-name student. I saw them as celebrities and personalities that were so famous in the industry that they didn’t really have the time to entertain every request. I took a big leap of faith and decided to contact them anyway, despite not having a personal connection or any degree of networking to them. To my surprise, I found that the more famous they are, the more responsive they were when corresponding through email. I’m really thankful that everyone I contacted was very kind and giving. The community is what makes esports great, and I’m glad to know that even when you get that far up the ladder, you still care about the little guys. Aside from scheduling conflicts and last minute lecture changes, lying awake at night in fear that the guests I invited would cancel last minute was probably my worst struggle.”

Any main takeaways from the first camp?

“For one thing, I need definitely need a better way to organize my emails. At some point I was corresponding with over 30 possible lecturers and guests, and it was hard to keep track of who, what, and when I’ve sent messages to. I guess the entire camp could benefit from a little more organization and planning. I would cut us some slack though, as some things could not have been anticipated until we actually went through with it. Despite the small fumbles and bumps during the week, I think we as a team did an excellent job. And we’re only going to get better.”