Riot Games’ tactical shooter Valorant has established itself as one of the more popular esports properties since its 2020 release and the launch of the Valorant Champions Tour (VCT). Now, the studio is putting that cache to work in the name of diversifying Valorant’s esports ecosystem.
Riot Games unveiled its VCT Game Changers program on Tuesday as a concerted effort to create “new opportunities and exposure for women and other marginalized genders within Valorant esports.”
“The competitive Valorant community is both diverse and incredibly global, and our esport should reflect that,” Riot Games said in a statement on Valorant’s official website. “Through Game Changers, we hope to build towards a Valorant Champions Tour that is more inclusive and representative of our community.”
VCT Game Changers will consist of two programs aimed at giving more players from marginalized genders opportunities to ply their Valorant skills at the competitive level. Riot is setting up a “top tier” competitive series called the VCT Game Changers Series that will see squads compete across multiple geographical regions starting in late March 2021.
Riot will also launch the VCT Game Changers Academy with the aim to provide players from marginalized genders “even more opportunities to compete at the semi-pro and grassroots level” through monthly tournaments. The studio is partnering with female-focused Valorant community Galorants to organize Academy events.
Riot previously worked with Galorants on 2020’s For The Women Summer Showdown tournament. The FTW Summer Showdown proved what creating spaces for marginalized communities within esports can do.
Esports organization Cloud9 signed tournament champions Team MAJKL in Oct. 2020, rebranding the team as VCT’s Cloud9 White. Two players from the tournament runner-up, Counter-Strike:Global Assault champion Christine “potter” Chi and Claudia “clawdia” Che, were introduced as members of esports organization Evil Geniuses VCT roster in January.
VCT Game Changers is a welcome addition as Riot continues to improve the player environment within and outside of the game itself, making it safer and more welcoming to people who aren’t straight white dudes.
But VCT Game Changers’ announcement does leave some questions about how Riot defines “other marginalized genders.” Much of the language and focus around the new initiative is directed toward creating spaces for women specifically with no direct mention of other marginalized genders (non-binary, agender, genderfluid etc.).
Outsports reached out to Riot Games for clarification on the subject. Riot did not respond as of press time. We’ll update this story should they do so.