UC Davis club hosts women-centric esports bootcamp

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Esports at UC Davis recently hosted a bootcamp designed to create an inclusive environment for women to learn about gaming online and build community.

By SONORA SLATER – [email protected]

Whether your only interaction with online games is building a house once in Minecraft, or you regularly ruin your sleep schedule by staying up late to play with friends, it’s hard to deny the game’s growing impact on today’s generation.

But according to Samuel Peruescu, fifth year of Applied Physics and Director of Esports at the UC Davis club, this online space often faces the challenge of being unwelcoming to female participants – a challenge that sparked an idea for club leaders.

The week of December 13-17, 2021, Esports at UC Davis hosted a women-centric esports bootcamp, both virtually and in person on the UC Davis campus, seeking to help women get involved. in esports and to create an inclusive environment for everyone. to participate. Kevin Deras-Guerra, a sophomore bioscience student and co-director of Esports at UC Davis, explained how the idea came about.

“This event was the brainchild of my co-director, Sam,” Deras-Guerra said via Discord. “Before I was integrated as Deputy Director of Esports and elevated to Co-Director, Sam set up the [framework] for what he saw as an environment in which individuals identifying women could have a space to learn more about the different facets of esports, grow and find an identity within the community.

According to Peruescu, the event is part of the club’s “inclusion plan”, created through a partnership with student affairs.

“In my experience and judging from what we saw at boot camp, there are a lot of really talented women here at Davis who can compete. [at] higher competitive levels, but are often discouraged from doing so because of their gender, ”Petuescu said via Discord.

Peruescu then developed some of the other bootcamp goals, beyond competitive play.

“As the only esports organization on campus, we wanted to try and provide the opportunity for women to learn about esports,” Peruescu said. “Not just to compete, but also to participate and do an internship in areas such as graphic design or casting so that they can develop valuable professional skills. ”

As the club was only recently established in the summer of 2021 and it was their first in-person event, Deras-Guerra has listed a number of people and programs that have helped make the bootcamp a success. reality.

“Vice-Chancellor Pablo, Ben, Ferguson of the playground and the women’s center have all provided us with invaluable and indispensable help with the logistics of this whole operation,” said Deras-Guerra. “The financial support from the playground fundraisers was a game changer and allowed us to fund much of what we needed to make the program possible, not to mention the support from Vice Chancellor Pablo and Ben with their own monetary promises to help us. outside with catering and all perishables.

He also highlighted the work done by their graphic design and public relations interns to publicize the event.

According to Deras-Guerra, each day of the event consisted of three main stages: guest lectures and speakers, lunch, and free play time, with each day focusing on a specific game such as Valorant or Rocket League. Peruescu explained what these steps involved.

“We had play sessions every day […] which gave new players the opportunity to try new games and learn from their peers, ”said Petuescu. “We also had small group discussions and guest speaker sessions on topics such as toxicity in games, opportunities in esports, and more.”

According to Peruescu, 50 students registered for the event, although proximity to the holidays, concerns over COVID-19 and unpredictable weather conditions prevented some from attending. While in-person participation was low, online participation was quite high, allowing many participants to play together through Discord.

Despite the challenges of low attendance, Deras-Guerra said he actually found it to have a positive impact on the sense of community and the quality of interactions.

“The smaller crowd gave us, as figures well versed in college esport, [time] to provide more individualized support to participants than we had, ”said Deras-Guerra. “It also led to much more personal conversations, [and] trivia about the disparities faced by people identifying women in the online space.

He then detailed some of the conversations he had with attendees during the event.

“On the first day, I emphasized a sense of community and belonging and opened up a space for all of our participants to discuss why they were there, what they wanted to gain. by participating in this program, ”Deras-Guerra mentioned. “The answers ranged from simply wanting to make friends or defying their social anxiety to receiving coaching to learning the non-gaming aspect of esports. ”

Lindsay Legate, a fourth-year food science student who attended the bootcamp in person, explained why she decided to enroll.

“I love video games and had a tiny bit of interest in the esports scene, but I’ve always been quite intimidated by the environment.[,] and I wasn’t sure where to start, ”Legate said via Discord.

She then described her experience and what she took away from the week.

“Sammy and Kevin were both very helpful in running the event, and they created a really welcoming environment that took all the stress out of being new to some of these games,” Legate said. “Globally[,] I’m really glad I went, learned so many new things[,] and I met a lot of new people with whom I still play sometimes!

According to Peruescu, the overall goal of the event was to create “an equal space” where everyone, regardless of their skill level, was encouraged to participate. But in addition to welcoming the beginners, they wanted to highlight the success that many players have already had.

“Esports is currently dominated by men, but there is no reason why it is,” said Peruescu. “We’re starting to see a shift where more and more female identification players are competing and having great success.”

Deras-Guerra clarified that the event is not meant to encourage a gender separation in competitive play, but rather to recognize a disparity in opportunities.

“I don’t think a lot of people in space are defending that same separation that exists in sport,” Deras-Guerra said. “However, the sad reality is that there is a noticeable and undeniable gap between the opportunities that women receive in the game compared to men traditionally.”

Rather, according to Deras-Guerra, having a player-focused bootcamp enabled participants to form support groups and make friends with similar interests.

“Events like our Women in Esports Bootcamp [aren’t meant] devalue women but empower them by giving them a space where they are not held back by the majority who so often underestimate or dismiss them, ”said Deras-Guerra.

Written by: Sonora Slater – [email protected]


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