The world of esports is growing exponentially and with that growth, the competitive industry is evolving constantly. Riot’s latest first-person tactical shooter Valorant is making waves when it comes to inclusivity in esports. In honor of International Women’s Month, Riot and Galorants have teamed up with GenG to host the biggest celebration of women in esports to date. “I think Valorant has the upper hand being such a new game. It’s opened up the field for female competitors,” said the founder of Galorants Nicolette Barker. “With Valorant being a relatively new game on the market, it has so many opportunities to be an incredible game for the gaming community as a whole. It’s definitely a twist on older game mechanics with new flavors added.”
— Nerd Street (@nerdstreet) September 14, 2020
Back in the Summer of 2020, Riot hosted an all-female Valorant tournament called FTWomen Summer Showdown in collaboration with Nerd St. Gamers and T1. This was the first time in Valorant that women received the full spotlight, and it proved to be a success. Dignitas picked up their full-time roster of female players and the winners of the tournament, MAJKL, went on to form Cloud9White. This was just the start, and the organization Galorants has big plans for 2021. “Galorants has a long list of competitive tournaments set up for the year, but we also have some additional projects we’re working on along the way. We’re not only providing competitive opportunities for females who play Valorant, but also many production opportunities for those interested in more behind-the-scenes events. Having women participate is important in all aspects of esports!”
What was the process of setting up Galorants like?
“It started off with a simple Reddit post on the Valorant subreddit back in June of last year and just blew up from there. However, it was when we started putting on small monthly tournaments that things really started taking stride.”
What have been some of the difficulties you have faced so far as the flagship for females in Valorant?
“There’s a lot of toxicity female gamers face, especially in games that rely on voice communication and teamwork. As such we get a lot of pushback for just providing a means for female gamers to be comfortable. But overall, it’s been smooth sailing and there’s been far more support than backlash in the entire scheme of things.”
How has the atmosphere of esports shifted over the years for you as a female?
“While it hasn’t gotten to the point of complete acceptance, it’s definitely starting to become more of a norm to see females partake in competitive gaming. Unfortunately, toxicity will always be constant in competitive areas, but the steps game companies and team organizations are taking to ensure that there is female representation is huge, and it can only continue to grow from here on out.”
Just before March arrived, Galorants, Riot, and GenG announced their collaboration on VCT Game Changers and Game Changers Academy. The first tournament, Proving Grounds, was a Best of 1 Round-Robin style tournament featuring eight talented all-female teams. The tournament had a first-place prize of $1,000 and acted as a launchpad for the month and year to come for women in professional Valorant. “Galorants’ primary goal is to provide competitive opportunities to females in gaming, so when Gen.G approached us with an opportunity to host a tournament with a generous prize pool, we knew we had to take it. We wanted this tournament to be the start of many competitive tournaments for the year, and my team did an amazing job.” There is a clear intention for long-term support when it comes to making Valorant an esports title for everyone.
Esports and gaming in general have never been the most welcoming communities. For women, toxic players and abusive fans have unfortunately become the norm. I asked Nicolette from the FTW Summer Showdown to Proving Grounds, how has Valorant evolved into a more inclusive space. “It’s opened up the field for female competitors—it’s a huge factor as to why you’ve been seeing more female initiatives. Two prime examples would be the VCT Game Changers and Game Changers Academy, two female-focused competitive tournaments put on by Riot.”
— Galorants (@Galorants) March 4, 2021
VT Game Changers is divided into two sections that cater to every level of Valorant player. VCT Game Changers Series will mirror the Ignition Series of last summer, where highly skilled teams of females will compete alongside the Valorant Champions Tour at supplemental events. Expect to see teams like Cloud9 White, Dignitas, and GenG showing up and showing off at the highest level. VCT Game Changers Academy is a grounded effort to foster equality and opportunity at the lower levels of Valorant. The icing on the cake is that all of March, GenG, and Galorants are teaming up to celebrate women in gaming. “It’s been incredible to work alongside a team and organization that shares the same goals and values as we do. Proving Grounds was just one instance of collaboration we have with Gen.G and I’m excited to see what we can cook up next.”
What are some things you hope to accomplish for International Women's Month?
“This month we’re working alongside others on some announcements that haven’t been made just yet (so I can’t spoil anything!), but they’re large projects that we’re excited to be a part of and perfect to celebrate International Women’s Month.“
What are some of the goals you have set for the year?
“We have a large lineup of all-female tournaments set for the year, so honestly just providing more opportunities in additional spaces for females, like casting and other production avenues, is a huge goal for us.”
Valorant as a title has the potential to change the way that women are portrayed in esports. The fresh IP has gained massive success in its esports scene and viewership. Organizations like GenG and Galorants are the leading figures for inclusivity in gaming. While teams like Dignitas and Cloud9 have created all-female rosters while Evil Geniuses has opted for a mixed roster. International Women's Month is an important time to remember that gaming is for everyone and women deserve the respect and opportunity to compete with the best.