The success of the VCT Game Changers World Championship in the face of sexism and transphobia

VCT Game Changers crowdAdela Sznajder/Riot Games

The Valorant Champions Tour Game Changers World Championship concluded on November 20 with G2 Gozen taking the first trophy at the international LAN tournament. The event was a success for Riot Games, even in the face of controversy and a number of hurdles.

This was the first women’s international LAN of its kind in Valorant. Eight teams from around the world with a $500,000 prize pool and a full Riot Games media push behind them. The tournament was advertised in the game’s client and had its own cinematic, co-streaming rights were handed out generously, and the head of Game Changers in EMEA, Ashley Washington, had made the rounds to multiple media outlets to push the event and the program as a whole.

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Shopify Rebellion at VCT Game Changers World ChampionshipMichal Konkol/Riot Games
Shopify Rebellion made it all the way to the grand final.

The tournament did not get off the ground without controversy, however, with some fans and players having issues with the venue’s size relative to other Riot-run events. The main broadcast’s Twitch chat was also overrun with transphobic comments directed at Cloud9 White’s Bob ‘bob’ Tran in the team’s first match against KRÜ Fem.

Still, the event debuted to strong numbers, with a peak viewership of 151,000 viewers on the first day of competition for Cloud9 White vs. KRÜ Fem, according to Esports Charts. Cloud9 White came into the tournament as the consensus favorite, having won their domestic competition six times in a row, and KRÜ themselves were titans in their own region, winning their domestic tournament twice in a row. The numbers and storylines would only improve as the tournament went on thanks to C9W dropping to the lower bracket in the second round, and Shopify Rebellion’s underdog run.

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Legends are made at VCT Game Changers

Cloud9 White were knocked into the lower bracket by G2 Gozen, a strong European side with the most experienced players at the event. The squad’s core, made up of Julia ‘juliano’ Kiran, Petra ‘Petra’ Stoker and Michaela ‘mimi’ Lintrup, are legends in Counter-Strike and have won international women’s tournaments before.

G2 Gozen at VCT Game ChangersMichal Konkol/Riot Games
G2 Gozen defeated Shopify Rebellion 3-2 in the grand final.

“We know how to deal with the pressure, we know how to communicate together and which things we should and shouldn’t do. And I don’t think that all of the teams always know what they should do,” mimi said in a pre-event press conference.

G2 bulldozed their way through the rest of the Game Changers competition to the eventual title, defeating X10 Sapphire, C9 White, Team Liquid Brazil (who themselves overshot expectations with a top-three finish) and Shopify Rebellion.

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The grand final itself pulled in the highest peak viewership of the event at 239,334. The final did have an extra layer of spice as the Shopify head coach was suspended from the match for an obscene gesture made toward Cloud9 White in the team’s winning celebration over their domestic rival. Many called the Riot decision hypocritical as players in the main VCT circuit have made the same gesture on broadcast with little to no penalties.

The only people that seemed to agree with the Riot ruling were the G2 Gozen roster.

“Obviously, this must have been the worst feeling I can imagine for him, seeing his team and not being there. You’re just going to take the consequences of the things you do… Rules are rules,” mimi said after the grand final.

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Overall, the event proved successful for teams and (presumably) Riot Games as it is the most-watched tournament in female esports according to Esports Charts, in terms of hours watched. Before the final game even kicked off, Riot Games’ Global Head of Valorant Esports, Leo Faria, announced there will be a 2023 version of the international Game Changers event.

For the players, many were happy to make the LAN event and play against the best women’s teams in the world after two years of waiting for a tournament like this. Now, all they want are more events like this for the chance to show what they can do in a LAN environment.

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“I’m hoping to have more open LANs, I would say, and fewer online tournaments,” G2 Gozen player Maryam ‘Mary’ Maher said. “I think just having the LAN environment and the LAN experience is phenomenal, honestly. The energy and everything about LAN is just amazing.”