Illinois Esports



We believe in the strong ties between Esports and curriculum, research, and career skill learning at the University of Illinois. A number of faculty affiliates are involved with various aspects of Illinois Esports.

Christopher Ball

Department of Journalism 

Dr. Christopher Ball is an assistant professor of augmented and virtual reality within the Department of Journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is also an affiliate faculty member for both the Institute of Communications Research and Informatics. He received his PhD in Media and Information Studies from Michigan State University, his MS in Applied Sociology from Clemson University, and his BA in Sociology from Augusta University.

Broadly, he is interested in the effects of new technologies on society. More specifically, he is interested in the study and use of interactive media technologies such as video games, virtual worlds, and virtual reality for pro-social purposes. He has published video game and extended reality research in Games and Culture; Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking; and the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health

He also enjoys playing Overwatch, but he is not very good.

Robert J. Brunner

College of Business

Robert J. Brunner is the Associate Dean for Innovation and Chief Disruption Officer at the Gies College of Business.  He is also a Professor and an Arthur Anderson Fellow in the Department of Accountancy, the Director of the University of Illinois – Deloitte Foundation Center for Business Analytics, and an affiliate faculty in the Astronomy, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Informatics, Physics, and Statistics Departments; at the Beckman Institute, in the Computational Science and Engineering program; and at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. He is also the Data Science Expert in Residence at the Research Park at the University of Illinois where he provides consulting to a range of companies on data science topics.

His research focuses on the application of statistical and machine learning to a variety of real-world problems, and in making these efforts easier, faster, and more precise. This work spans fundamental algorithm design to more effectively incorporate uncertainty to optimization using novel computational technologies. More generally, Brunner helps lead efforts to promote data science across campus and to encourage effective data management, analysis, and visualization techniques.

Dan Cermak


Dan Cermak brings 30+ years of experience in the video game industry to teaching Video Game Design and Production classes as part of the Informatics department.  In addition, he co-teaches a VR/AR class in CS and has been part of the university since spring 2018. Prior to teaching, Dan spent almost 15 years with Volition, a Champaign video game studio known for creating high end console and PC video games such as the Saints Row series. Dan joined Volition in 2003 as the Vice President of Production and acted as General Manager for 6 years before leaving in 2017.  An avid board and video game player and collector, he is active in assisting the gamification of various educational experiences on campus in his role as Game Studies Coordinator.

Judith Pintar

School of Information Sciences

Judith Pintar is Teaching Associate Professor and Acting Director of the Undergraduate Major at the School of Information Sciences. She is the Director of the Games@Illinois Investment for Growth project, and of Playful by Design, the U of I’s game studies community, which began as an initiative of the Electronic Literatures & Literacies Lab. She is on the national board of directors of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation.

Pintar teaches game design, including courses that focus on the design and programming of interactive fiction, narrative for games, and text-based simulations. Pintar is also a game designer; current projects include plans to work on the development of voice-responsive narrative design for VR games and applications.

Michael Raycraft

Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism

Michael Raycraft is a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Illinois Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism. Dr. Raycraft received graduate degrees from the University of Illinois, has taught extensively in the Sport, Marketing, and Event Management disciplines (undergraduate and graduate) for the past two decades and is the recipient of multiple teaching recognitions for undergraduate and online course development and instruction. Prior to joining the Faculty, he was an Assistant Athletic Director at the University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Mike Tissenbaum

College of Education

Mike Tissenbaum studies how digital games, simulations, and AR and mobile technologies can transform physical spaces into more immersive, engaging, and embodied learning environments. In this work, Mike combines qualitative research with game and simulation data to develop new data mining and analytic approaches for understanding how people collaborate and learn. Mike also leverages this data to develop new forms or real-time support to both teachers and learners.

Currently, Mike is an assistant professor of Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Psychology in the College of Education at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. Prior to arriving at UIUC, Mike worked as a researcher at MIT on the App Inventor project, and in the Complex Play Lab at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

Mike has a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction and a Masters in Information Sciences from the University of Toronto.

David Ward

Head of Undergraduate Library

David Ward is an Associate Professor and Head of the Undergraduate Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He holds an BA in English and an MS in Library and Information science, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. David oversees the gaming collections in the Library, including a large collection of current generation and vintage video games, board games, and role-playing games.

His research interests include developing and assessing library research services, and applying emerging technologies to services for undergraduate students. In addition to creating the gaming collection in the library, David works with faculty and students to make it accessible for classes and research, and has published and presented on the value of gaming collections in libraries.