Fascinating technology

Technology driving gaming innovation – European Gaming Industry News

Reading time: 6 minutes

There is an old saying now defunct in football that women cannot understand the offside rule. While there wasn’t such an explicit quote, the sentiment was much the same in esports, judging by the low numbers of women playing the sport.

Now, who will do anything to change the gender disparity in esports? Enter VCT game changers.

VCT Game Changers is an esports program exclusively for women where female players play the hit video game VALORANT from Riot Games. The Game Changers tournament is in its third edition this year.

We have here with us Ashley Washington, Head of VCT Game Changers EMEA. She talks about, well, the game-changing situation in esports. His answers are insightful and rich in statistics. Don’t miss it.

Q Let’s start with a quick introduction. How did you land in the gaming industry?

A. It’s a very reductive version of the story, but I was working in account management and sales in New York after graduating from New York University. Although I studied game design, I wasn’t really confident when it came to a career in the industry. There was one evening in January 2016 when I had just paid my rent – ​​a salary and a half – and decided that I wanted to move to Berlin. I knew it was fun and cheap because I was studying abroad there. I bought a one-way ticket and did it. Berlin is the kind of place where you can achieve almost anything for yourself in terms of a career, so I chased my dreams and changed! I’ve done quality assurance, data science, journalism, and, it turns out, I’m the strongest as a product manager.

Q Tell us about Valorant Game Changers: Mission, vision, mode of operation and all that?

A. VCT Game Changers is a program intended to introduce women to the VALORANT ecosystem, guide them in developing their skills, and ideally see them exit the program and into the rest of the competitive VALORANT space. The goal is to have a diverse ecosystem where people of varying identities and backgrounds can excel at the highest levels of play. So far, we have set out to achieve this by running the tournament circuit that the most know but, going forward, we are working to find other ways to make this vision a reality.

Q How do you analyze your performance so far? Could you tell us about the changes you have made in esports, especially in terms of female participation?

A. I think there are some obvious things we look at and some less obvious things. Really high on the list is attendance. We recently peaked for the first time with 130 teams registered out of 128, meaning two teams were on the waitlist when registrations closed. In the end, we saw 126 teams participate, that’s over 600 players, which is great to see. We set out to create a safe space, so seeing more and more women choosing to enter is absolutely a win. One of the other strongest indicators of success, at least from my perspective, is seeing women in the rest of the VALORANT Champions Tour EMEA rosters. While not quite standard yet, mixed rosters can already be seen in third-party VALORANT tournaments, like BLAST Spike Nations, and that’s a nice thing too.

Q The Valorant Game Changers tournament is now in its third series. How has the tournament evolved and progressed over the three series?

A. Growth is probably the most important scaling factor for Game Changers at this point. For example, this year alone we saw 91 teams participate in the second round. In the third series, we had 126 teams. In addition to having more teams, we are seeing that the strength of the teams is also growing. The players are more and more qualified and the spirit of competition between the EMEA teams is much more dynamic. There are a lot of really interesting team and player stories developing and a noticeable increase in participation from regions that aren’t usually represented like Turkey and the MENA region (and parts of Europe). So the community we’ve developed with the tournament is maturing in many ways.

Q The number of women participating in esports is still low, in reference to an ideal scenario. What do you think are the barriers women face in getting into and excelling in esports?

A. I spent a lot of time chatting with women in the scene playing different titles and coming from different backgrounds. The things I hear the most about boil down to the lack of opportunity (both perceived and real – they’re just as bad when the outcome is the same) and the fear of career instability if they decide to get into esports. Many of these women struggle to convince organizations to give them a chance or, when they do, to get an adequate salary that allows them to focus on doing their best. Women end up having to stay in school or another job in order to have a backup plan in case something goes wrong. This happens in esports in general, but it seems to be a very common experience for women entering the space.

It is very important that any organization interested in providing these opportunities for women also commits to investing in their careers. Gathering a group of women just to have this list without worrying about what they need to thrive and grow is a costly and painful mistake. It leaves its mark and it can be incredibly discouraging to those it affects.
Of course, I also hear from women who have terrible experiences due to the toxicity and lack of confidence that can come with it or who just don’t see enough representation in general. This kind of thing can hit when they are so young that they don’t even consider trying to play competitively when they get older. It doesn’t stop at gamers either, under-representation happens in all walks of life – women working in talented or esports-related businesses can also face these issues.

Q What type of activities does Valorant Game Changers undertake to train and mentor women in esports?

A. Our approach to this varies from region to region. Since Game Changers is still young, not all regions have a training supplement, including EMEA. But we hope to introduce something like this relatively soon. The most important thing is to find something that best suits the region and what the Game Changers community is looking for, so we’ve been listening a lot so far.

Q How do you see the future with regards to women’s participation in esports? In which countries do you hope to see an increase in the number of female players?

A. The EMEA is already very strong in this area. Interest in esports among women is high, and each year the landscape of opportunities to play gets brighter. Continuing with this is the first thing I hope and fully expect to see. Regarding regional representation, I dream of a greater number of MENA, therefore from North Africa and the Middle East. This is already happening, so tapping into what players in these regions need to feel comfortable making the leap is one of the many focus points I have going forward. Although I can safely say that I would not complain about an increase in any space in the area. This is one of the rare occasions in life where more is absolutely better.

Q Finally, what kind of initiatives do you want to see in the esports industry in general – by governments and other organizations – to ensure that the number of women in esports continues to increase?

A. I would like to see more support for young fans who are curious about acting or being in the industry in general. I think it’s very easy to see “gaming” as a viable employment option, but I think it has a lot to do with the limited resources that school-age gamers and their families have to have a idea of ​​what it might really look like. – whether it’s playing, organizing or being part of a show. I mean, I have a pretty standard job that I’m sure my parents would never have imagined would belong to “working with games”. I think they are not the only ones.

And, ultimately, I’d like to see more initiatives tap into intersectionality. Helping women feel comfortable in the space is so important, but once that started, there are so many groups within that identity that could use a bit of a lift. For example, I haven’t seen many other black women in the industry growing up and that’s a big part of why I haven’t bothered to do anything other than study games for some time. Eventually, I felt brave enough to go for it anyway, but there are so many others like me who won’t even go that far without knowing for sure that it’s possible. Initiatives linking young players from underrepresented groups are one way to combine these two elements. There are already programs like this out there and I’m really excited to see it continue to grow in the future.

There is room for everyone in esports. If they really want to be there, they can be – I really believe that.