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The VALORANT Champions Tour Game Changers Series II tournament kicked off June 19, as 31 teams competed for a spot in the main event. Only eight teams made the cut, but the amount of participating squads is a sign of growth in the VCT Game Changers community.

The first women’s tournament in VALORANT was the FTW Summer Showdown back in September 2020, as a part of the Ignition Series. It drew 12 teams and birthed the top women’s VALORANT squad, in Cloud9 White. The team, even before they signed for the organization, were a powerhouse. They did not drop a map and defeated Dignitas en route to their first title.

The biggest differences between the community now, compared to the first women’s tournament, are the skills and experience of its competitors, according to Just Breath’s Kiara “milk” Makua.

“For the FTW Showdown a lot of teams were newer to VALORANT and were kind of just getting started because they just heard of them [Riot Games] releasing female tournaments,” milk said. “I would say a lot of teams are more caught up now so there’s way better competition and a lot more talent.”

The notoriety of VCT Game Changers has grown too

The improved level of competition is also evident in recent results from Game Changers II. Cloud9 White dropped their first map to an all-female team in their history, to Shopify Rebellion. Also, CLG Red qualified through the lower bracket, thanks to a loss against the unsigned Just Breath. The field of teams competing in the qualifier is also more recognizable than Game Changers I. Popular squads like Man I Love Fwogs and Gen.G Team Bumble competed in the crowded competition, but did not manage to qualify.

Some of the competitors say the consistent tournament structure has helped the scene grow. The stability encourages teams to stay together and continue striving for competition.

“The first tournament was a surprise to the community,” said GX3’s Madison “Maddiesuun” Mann. “But in this upcoming one, I think it’s even bigger than the last time and there’s a lot more people engaged in it. There’s a lot more social media around it and I think it’s just growing.”

The growth of the scene has encouraged former competitors from Counter-Strike to rejoin the fray, like Ali “alimonstr” Lew. The Counter-Strike 1.6 competitor founded Gx3 in 2003 and won six Electronic Sports World Cups before her retirement.

“When I first started playing Counter-Strike it was a long long time ago, I don’t even want to say the year because it would tell my age, but at that time I could probably count the number of female players on both my hands,” alimonstr said.

Even the sponsors for this event have increased in scale, as Dignitas partnered with makeup brand NYX for VCT Gamer Changers and the team.

“Back in the day we would be so ecstatic to have any even a small company be interested in an esports team,” alimonstr said.

The next step for the scene

The growth is inspiring said CLG Red’s Benita “bENITA” Novshadian, but there is still a ways to go for the scene.

“LANs are really important to any scene of a competitive video game, we need LANs,” bENITA said. “We need to start getting little crowds here and there when everything is fully reopened so we can meet a fan base, see eye to eye in real life.”

LANs are still difficult to pull off due to the ongoing pandemic, but they could give future competitors a goal to set for themselves. The CLG in-game leader said LANs were one of the reasons she began competing in the first place.

“That’s how I started. When I saw players like alimonstr and missharvey [Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey] flying to Paris once a year,” bENITA said. “I was so young and I was like ‘oh my god I want to go to Paris to play in a tournament.'”

Riot has yet to announce a Game Changers LAN event.

A true mixture of talent

The current women’s VALORANT landscape is full of veterans and new players looking to compete. While bENITA and alimonstr have competed for over a decade, some of their new teammates and opponents are dropping into VALORANT from other, younger titles.

Dignitas’ newest member Stefanie “Stefanie” Jones, and Maddiesuun, competed in Fortnite before making the switch to VALROANT.

“I find myself having to give a lesson to the little zoomers that don’t know her, [alimonstr] which is kind of fun,” said Dignitas IGL Emmalee “EMUHLEET” Garrido.

The VCT Game Changers main event starts June 24 and culminates on Sunday with the grand finals.

Declan is an esports journalist and part-time editor for Upcomer. He is an avid gamer and League of Legends player. You can find him at the bottom of the leaderboard in most games or on Twitter.
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