On May 25, 2024 at noon, the doors of Highlander Union Building (HUB) 302 opened to the biggest gaming convention on the University of California, Riverside’s (UCR) grounds. Hosted by Highlander Gaming (HLG), the 2024 Spring HighlanderCon featured a plethora of events that Riverside residents are not usually privileged to. In its entirety, HLG pulled out all of the stops this year to host one of the most ambitious and well-executed events on campus.



For the HLG team, set-up began at 8 a.m. Second-year sociology major Erin Hort (she/he) shared her experience as a member for the graphics team setting up for the event, “We had to produce a lot of graphics in a short amount of time just because [of] scheduling and information, but other than that it’s been actually really, really smooth.” For his third time working the event, fourth-year computer science major, Head of eSports, Logan Debetta (he/they) stated that “it’s been tiring moving all those heavy computers … but I think [overall] it’s been going well.” Both Hort and Debetta said they looked forward to seeing the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (SSBU) tournament, and Debetta especially was excited for the artist gallery.

The entire third floor of the HUB was prepared for the convention’s events with HUB 302 serving as the main event room dedicated to the game tournaments, tabling from sponsors and giveaways. 

Close to the entrance, the fighting game tournaments were set up with multiple consoles and monitors arranged along the table used both for active tournament matches and friendly, casual matches. Towards the end of HUB 302, a set of 10 monitors and computers were set up on stage for team-coordinated games. The Artist Alley was in the hallway and multiple vendors were spread throughout. Along the walls, HLG’s technology team kept close watch over the recording and streaming of the tournaments, ensuring high-quality spectatorship and footage.

Additionally, a Freeplay area equipped with laptops and two other tables filled with coloring books, board games and playing cards were also present in HUB 302.



HighlanderCon had multiple sponsors supporting it, such as Micro-Star International (MSI), Pixio, DeepCool and Generation Gaming (Gen. G.). Pixio and DeepCool had tables manned by representatives that were set up at HUB 302. Pixio also played a part in the giveaways, contributing a PX248 Wave monitor to the gift pools. Korean eSports organization Gen. G has also been a consistent and prominent sponsor for HLG, responsible for providing personal computers (PCs) and monetary support.

The Associated Students of UCR (ASUCR) played a part in providing for the event as well. In HLG’s coordination with them, they provided the convention participants with free refreshments and food such as pizza and Insomnia Cookies. In addition to the other foods, two complimentary Red Bull stations were present around the main venue.



Befitting the spring season, HighlanderCon’s main theme centered around a cherry blossom aesthetic, with strong pink motifs. This especially came through on their Instagram and Twitter posts leading up to the event, generating excitement as their multiple social media outlets counted down the days to the convention. Announcements were also made through their Discord server before and while the event was running.


Side Events

One of the most quintessential aspects of any convention is its choice of side events. HighlanderCon was able to provide entrants with fun, unique and thoughtful experiences through their choice of events. This included a maid cafe experience, a “build-a-PC” panel hosted by MSI, a cosplay contest in collaboration with Greenwood Anime Society and a panel discussion with MSI Student Ambassador and Riot Games referee Ashkon Hojati and DeepCool Junior Marketing Specialist John Ho. Between some of the team based games as well, HUB 302 held a performance from the Taiko club.

The cosplay contest and maid cafe experience were two highlights of the convention as both were exemplary of events that Riverside denizens had access to. Five contestants had the opportunity to showcase their dazzling, elaborate cosplays of well-beloved characters such as Irelia and Ahri from League of Legends as well as fun, comical costumes such as the Domino’s Delivery guy cosplay.

Public Relations staff member and third-year sociology major Angelina Nacion (she/they) helped lead and organize the cosplay contest, while also partaking in it with her own spring-inspired Ahri cosplay. When asked what her favorite thing about cosplaying was, they simply said, “I like to play dress up so I just do it, honestly.” When asked about what she enjoys about HighlanderCon, they shared that they liked meeting new friends and having a local gaming convention near Riverside.

The maid cafe experience was indubitably HLG’s most charming event. As entrants who RSVP’d for the event entered the room, maids were ready to offer their guests hospitality with drinks and food. The lightheartedness of this side event not only made for an amicable time but also served as a great point of respite for attendees who were bouncing from event to event all day. HLG’s maid cafe experience was undoubtedly a popular event, too, filling up a full room of more than 30 seats with guests ready to be served.

On the same note, the panel featuring Hojati and Ho gave convention participants a deep dive on breaking into and succeeding in the esports industry. Both were recent graduates and shared the multiple nuances and facets of the experience of working with esports organizations. Ho shared his perspective on working on social media as the former Dignitas social media specialist, social media intern for Evil Geniuses and referee for Riot Games’ League Championship Series. Hojati delved into the culture and job market of the esports industry with his many experiences as a shoutcaster for Riot Games, Gen. G and TSM.

Both emphasized the importance of leveraging college clubs, networking and showing presence for success and provided a critical perspective on the toxic culture and low pay within the esports industry. Not to mention, the hijinks and crazy stories the two had to offer only added to the good vibes of the event.


Artists Gallery and Vendors

While tournaments and side events remain the focus of HighlanderCon, the sheer number of talented artists was a huge part of the convention’s success. With over 30 small shops at the event, attendees were able to purchase artworks from a grand range of interests — whether it be competitive and casual trading cards, fighting game inspired windbreakers from M.Rage or cutely designed soju bottle stickers from Dreamcreamco.

For avaciil (they/them), it was their first time at the convention. When asked about what inspires their artwork, they stated they were happy to spotlight “the video games [they] play, as well as some anime.”

One standout vendor was CVSmashMods. Based in Coachella Valley, the vendor works as a GameCube controller specialist and was thoughtfully placed in HUB 302 next to the fighting game tournament. Best of all, the vendor provided live services and modifications to players there, helping fix many Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players’ controllers and even joining in the bracket themselves. It added to the HighlanderCon experience, that a specialized niche vendor would be able to directly support the competitive esports scene that the convention is promoting.



For this year’s HighlanderCon, the biggest fighting game tournament was that of the singles and doubles format of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate boasting 91 registered players for the singles format, and the smaller double elimination fighting game tournaments for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat 1, Street Fighter 6, Guilty Gear Strive and Tekken 8 were held concurrently with SSBU.

Across the room, HLG hosted the intercollegiate team-based game tournament finals and it followed as such: UCR HLG faced off against the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in Overwatch 2, casted by Temp and Sporkfull, California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) would then compete against UCSD in League of Legends, casted by Brandon and EthanV123 and CSUF would again face off against UCSD in Valorant, casted by the NerdCorner and Ruffhsu.


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Singles

SSBU 2B took home the trophy for SSBU singles format, completing an impressive losers bracket run after dropping a close set with FLS Ludo in the Winners Quarter-Final, going on a tear and dropping at most one game in their proceeding sets. Getting impressive wins over SmU5h Kirarash and POW?! Monte, 2B would seal victory in the revenge Grand Finals set against FLS Ludo.


Overwatch 2

In the beginning of the first set, UCSD held control of the point up to 27% until UCR took back control; UCR’s SILVERSURFER knocked UCSD’s players off the map. UCR then had to give away the point against UCSD’s higher advantage in ultimates, but UCR CYBER’s Sojourn and SILVERSURFER’s LLUCIO was able to take it back and hold until victory. The second game of the set was a back and forth between the two schools; the game went into overtime and UCR came out on top. SILVERSURFER was a key component to UCR’s victory in the first game.

For the second set, UCSD’s Ramattra composition assumed victory over the UCR team, dominating space and securing a great payload score. MOUSH’s Ramattra switch at the end proved to stump the UCR team and gave UCSD victory.

In the third set, UCSD’s ZINNIA’s Sojourn hit headshots left and right, creating momentum for UCSD to overpower UCR. ZINNIA again found more kills against UCR, stifling any retaliation, locking down space and showing the power of Sojourn with powerfully precise aim as UCSD took the fourth set for the overall win.


League of Legends

For the League of Legends final, UCSD’s choice of range-based champions in the bottom lane secured a gold gap that snowballed against and overwhelmed CSUF. UCSD’s bottom lane Jhin-Heimerdinger combo was a constant thorn for CSUF’s slower scaling Jinx-Bard pair. Slowly but surely, UCSD capitalized on this advantage and dominated the game’s pace and widened the gap with UCSD’s Shezhomasy securing a triple kill by the 10th minute and sealing the game soon after.

Moving forward, CSUF opted for a stronger late-game composition with a Kayle and Cho’Gath-Senna combination against UCSD’s aggressive Darius, Nautilus and Lucian draft. However, this CSUF’s decision proved to be fatal as UCSD secured high-impact kills on the bottom lane after exhausting CSUF’s X6er and EBBman’s flashes by the sixth minute and Giga’s Darius outplaying a tower dive in the seventh minute. A tale as old as time, UCSD again converted their large gold advantage into more kills through tower dives and constant lane priority. The minute 26 Baron fight proved to be a sword in the coffin for CSUF as their challenge against UCSD’s Baron attempt faltered and led to UCSD closing out the match.



CSUF picked Bind for the first map, and both teams opted for a double controller team composition with UCSD having the player, lowkeycow, on Harbor and CSUF’s Wizdran on Viper. CSUF played out their attack rounds methodically, choosing to default Viper’s wall to cut the A site’s vision from certain positions and using map information to carefully choose moments to flood out on site after forcing map rotations from UCSD. By round seven, CSUF secured a large credit lead, winning five rounds over UCSD’s two. However, UCSD came out with a big, thrifty round as they stole the eighth round with Sheriff kills from Himothy Johnson, securing the round for his team and prompting a timeout for CSUF. UCSD’s confidence rose more as they reached the half and initiated an offense of their own. UCSD and CSUF started trading rounds until UCSD broke off with Himothy Johnson securing a clutch victory in a 13-10 victory.

On the second map, Lotus, both teams opted for a Killjoy sentinel and Omen controller, both staple Agent picks for the map. CSUF took on a commanding lead on the attacker’s side with Wizdran’s Viper out-aiming and out-lurking UCSD to an 8-0 lead, then helped CSUF take just one more round to a 9-3 lead. After the half, UCSD’s attack side was more spread out, with UCSD’s Valorant team poking and prodding at each site before committing. In the end, CSUF’s Wizdran and Angry sealed out rounds against UCSD and shut down their offense to gain a victory.

The final map of the best of three sets came down to Sunset. CSUF opted to run a double duelist team composition with Reyna and UCSD ran a double initiator team composition with Breach and Gekko. Wizdran, again, performed spectacularly, anchoring down the B-site against UCSD’s middle map pushes, securing an early 2-0 lead for CSUF. This played out further as CSUF ended the half with a comfortable 9-3 round lead. CSUF Coop’s Reyna was a large contributor to CSUF closing out the following rounds in the last intense game of the set, with CSUF ending on a 13-5 victory as the collegiate grand champions.



HighlanderCon created a warm and inviting environment in its convention with its collegiate esports endeavors. The supporting pillars of the lighthearted side events, free play area and alluring vendors and artist’s shops held up the focus on esports with an overall energetic, relaxing and thoughtful ambiance. In the Spring 2024 HighlanderCon, attendees found their place in the many communities that HLG carefully tended to, offering everyone who came through the doors of HUB 302, the ultimate gaming convention experience at UCR.