Valorant Game Changers: set to create more diversity in video game industry
The video game industry and its growing prestigious competitive scheme or esports have been dominated mostly, if not all, by men. In recent years, it has been criticized due to a lack of female professional gamers and marginalized backgrounds representatives on high-level esports tournaments.
The criticism is also due to gaming and esports being gender-inclusive, unlike most traditional sports where men and women play in separated teams.
The male-dominated environment of esports at times is not friendly for the marginalized genders to develop further their competitive professional career. Thus, both the gaming industry and esports had fewer women than men.
While there are quite a handful of women’s only gaming tournaments, those are in no way close or comparable to the reputation and awards of some of the world’s biggest esports competitions.
Initiatives for more diversity
In addressing the issue, video game companies had tried to make the competitive scheme more accessible–from FemaleLegends (Sweden-based female esports community), disabled and neurodiverse gamer initiatives, and AnyKey among others.
One, in particular, is Valorant Game Changers, an initiative to provide marginalized genders a platform to compete and develop into professional players. The Game Changers series is keen on having a gender-inclusive environment by attracting more female participation in Valorant and esports in general.
“It is very important to us to have real representation of the community within esports, within our pro players, coaches, managers,” said Vera Wienken, Riot Games’ Senior Brand Manager to CNN Sport.
Valorant is a free-to-play 5v5 competitive first-person hero shooter game published and developed by Riot Games for Microsoft Windows released on June 2, 2020. The same video game company behind the Game Changers series. Currently, Valorant has an estimated 12 million active players monthly.
“Therefore, we founded Game Changers and really hope to see that, in the future, esports overall becomes more diverse,” Wienken said.
Riot Games aims to apply the Valorant Game Changers model to one of its popular games, League of Legends. LoL was released on October 27, 2009, with a current active player count of over 117 million.
Wienken continues that attracting and maintaining female participation in Valorant, and esports is only a matter of representation. While Valorant is relatively a new game, according to Wienken both format and overall narrative open to a more diverse audience.
Hope for the future of esports
Adding to Wienken’s argument and in light of frequent online harassment in esports, Yinsu Collins the host of Valorant Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) says women need to be tough to stay within esports.
According to Collins, Riot Games and Valorant has helped to educate people about discrimination that stays within the gaming industry.
“The way Riot were like: ‘We’re going to prioritize the women’s side. We’re not going to wait three or four years to kind of give you guys a big tournament. We’re just going to do it right off the bat,’ Collins said.
She then complimented the company’s efforts in prioritizing diversity through the Game Changers that had a huge impact on the number of women playing and watching video games following this year’s Game Changers Academy launch.
Wienken said that while there’s a lack of women role models in esports, the existing numbers of women pro players are in fact role models and an entry point for others.
In the future, Collins hoped that women in esports are not just about gender, but how good their skills are.
“I think if we can get to a point where women’s esports and female talent aren’t just being talked about because of their gender, but they’re actually being talked about because they’re good at what they do, I’ll be pretty satisfied,” Collins said.