Within the bitcoin casino and esports industry, the discussion about how to promote a heterogeneousness gaming culture is deemed to be more important than ever. Whereas traditional sports involves legitimate questions about the physical abilities of males and females, there is no such division in the world of competitive gaming.
eSports is still male-dominated but a number of companies and platforms have launched projects with the goal of creating a more diversified gaming environment. One of those is the Valorant Game Changers initiative, a series of tournaments that aims to bring more female gamers into the arena of professional players.
Game Changers was created by RIOT Games which publishes Valorant, a popular character-based tactical First Person Shooter. Vera Wienken is the senior brand manager and VCT Game Changers EMEA lead for Riot Games. She explains that RIOT Games believed that there’s a lack of support for women going pro that needs to be addressed on a corporate level. It’s an obstacle we needed to overcome," says Wienken. "Game Changers exists to combat these obstacles, it exists for women who are here to stay."
Game Changers was introduced as an accelerator program for women playing esports. The goal of Game Changers is to create opportunities for exposure that empower women through Valorant competitions. "It helps create a true reflection of our vibrant, diverse community," Wienken said. "And the truth is, this is just as important for players as it is for esports organisations looking for the next generation of world-class talent to join their rosters."
By promoting women players and making them more visible the Game Changers plans to educate the fanbase. “We elevate those who have shown dedication to this path, showcasing their skills to teams and organisations looking to sign more women to their rosters, especially through programmes such as the Women in Games incubator. We engage as a company by creating safe spaces for women to develop their skills, build their brand and go on to compete on big stages."
Approximately 12 million players log in to play Valorant each week. The Game Changers series runs alongside the main competition but Game Changer tournaments focus on marginalized talent where players can develop their skills, secluded from any potential harassment. Wienken says that the goals of the Game Changer series are to have “real representation” that includes players, managers and coaches.
She told CNN Sport that her vision is to have Game Changers act as a passageway by which esports will become more inclusive. Right now, the industry attracts fewer women than men because “there’s a lack of role models.” Therefore, the key to attracting and maintaining female participation in esports in general and in Valorant, in particular, is representation. "What we would like to see and what's happening already, which is amazing, is these women pro players are becoming role models for others and sharing their path, sharing their story so that women know and find their entry points."
A Game Changer
Game Changers is made up to two core initiatives:
- VCT Game Changers Series – a set of top-tier competitions that proceed alongside the traditional EMEA Valorant tournaments. 49 teams, consisting of 272 players from 36 countries, registered for the first VCT Game Changers EMEA tournament which was held this past September/October.
- VCT Game Changers Academy involves monthly tournaments where players experience opportunities to compete at both grassroots and semi-pro levels.
Wienken says that RIOT Games has already seen the impact that Game Changers has made on the inclusion of women in participation and viewership. By creating such entry points now, says Wienken, hopefully, there won’t be the need for such projects in the future. "I hope that we don't see gender anymore when we are looking at the professional players, and we might not even need Game Changers anymore in the future because it's just so normal that esports is diverse."
Daniela "Jupi" Gradl is a Valorant player and member of the RIX.gg Lightning team. She is enthusiastic about the new life that Game Changers has breathed into women in the gaming industry. "When Game Changers EMEA was first announced, my team and I immediately decided to sign-up, and the organisation gave us their full support, including a coach and a full training schedule to help us sharpen our skills," Grandl told EuroGamer.
"This allowed us to fully focus on our goal to succeed within the tournaments and strive to come out on top. Game Changers and other tournaments have been a major success in creating opportunities and exposure for women and marginalised genders within Valorant. Prior to their inception, I feel the support was underwhelming and something definitely needed to change.”
Wienken says that the impact of Game Changers is already being felt, not only in the numbers of female gamers getting involved in competitive play but in supportive roles such as that of gaming managers, coaches and broadcasters. Through feedback, the project is able to take a “holistic look at where we can improve the ecosystem to ensure women feel supported."
The gaming industry, says Wienken, must be open for introspection and self-examination. For instance, according to a study by the OLGB betting operator, women in the egaming industry still earn significantly less than men.
There remain some limitations, however. One of those is in salaries - women esports players earn significantly less than men. According to the OLBG betting community, throughout the gaming industry, women earn 78.77% percent less than men. Wienken says that she believes that it’s the responsibility of initiatives like Game Changers to provide opportunities to ensure the long-term success of women in esports.
"Our investments into training programs and new events have led to the signing of dozens of rosters across the world, providing financial rewards to new competitors. These programs, along with policy changes that incentivise teams to invest in their Game Changer's teams, are a direct path to ensuring that as Valorant grows, the opportunities and rewards for all of our players continue to grow as well."