When VALORANT Champions Tour Game Changers was announced in early March as a tournament series focused on highlighting women and marginalized genders, there were a lot of positive responses. What most don’t realize is just how much tournaments like these help the esports community as a whole, not just VALORANT.
The VCT Game Changers tournament series is a program that supplements the VCT competitive season and creates new opportunities for women and marginalized genders within the VALORANT competitive community. Partnered with GALORANTS, one of the largest communities for women in VALORANT, VCT Game Changers sets out to highlight incredibly skilled women in top-tier tournaments.
The reason for tournaments like Game Changers is because women are still minorities in the pro competitive gaming community. There are several reasons for this, but an oft-cited barrier is the toxic environment that competitive gaming can foster.
C9’s katsumi had a lot of good things to say about Game Changers.
“I think that communities like GALORANTS and these womens’ tournaments give such a safe space and a more comfortable space for women to play,” she said.
Time commitment is one of the reasons that many women who participated in the VCT Game Changers tournament cited as a barrier to advancing their skills and coordination as a team. While schooling can also present time commitment issues for younger male players, the problem is more acute for women on all-female teams who find it harder to make a living by just playing competitively when traditionally there have been less opportunities for women.
The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication notes that women are reluctant to self-identify as gamers due to a self-perceived lack of expertise and time commitment in an article titled “Do Men Advance Faster Than Women? Debunking the Gender Performance Gap in Two Massively Multiplayer Online Games.”
Jana “jance.” Whittier, who plays for Watch This, balances being a mom and playing professional VALORANT. Being a mother is already a full-time job, so she has to practice as much as she can while her child sleeps.
Many players across the eight teams that played in the VCT tournament have full-time jobs, are full-time college students or are still in high school. Cloud9 White’s Jasmine “Jazzyk1ns” Roberts is a full-time student and has to manage her time to keep her and her team playing at their best.
“I try to manage my time to be as organized as possible. My day is so busy. From 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. I have school. After that I have scrims 20 minutes after school.” Jazzyk1ns said.
Jazzyk1ns is part of a Cloud9 White team that won the inaugural North American Game Changers tournament, which took place this weekend, and took home $20,000 in prize money.
Cloud9 White is not only the best women’s team, they have also been competitive against men’s teams in VCT Challengers.
Tournaments like this are often the only chance women have of being seen and picked up by organizations, which can provide more lucrative opportunities as well as access to better equipment.
Fans expect to see teams like C9, Dignitas and TSM, but what gives these tournaments an element of mystery are teams like Moon Raccoons, who came into the tournament without being signed by an organization.
Although Moon Raccoons didn’t get to the grand final, they had a very close match with C9 in the upper bracket. They were ultimately ousted by CLG Red in the lower bracket, but their plays and teamwork had many fans on social media urging orgs to pick them up.
Players and fans alike are hopeful that tournaments such as Game Changers will bring more attention to female gamers. This tournament alone brought in a big audience.
Game Changers was streamed on Nerd Street’s Twitch channel and Riot Games’ main VALORANT channel, which brought in over 30,000 viewers for the grand final.
This weekend’s Game Changers tournament is only the start of what’s shaping up to be a great year for women in VALORANT and esports as a whole.
“I think we would all be happy with breaking barriers,” Annie “AnnieDro” Roberts said. “Winning against reputable teams changes the image of women gamers as a whole, especially all-girl teams. Being an all-girl team and being able to go against Tier 2 and Tier 1 teams full of guys would really break the stigma, and I think it would inspire a lot of women to compete in whatever game they want to.”
Women and marginalized genders have a long way to go in order to garner the same respect and attention that men have, but VCT Game Changers has brought and will continue to bring players closer to that goal.
Lead image credit: Riot Games