The future of “Valorant”: Boise State Esports adds a varsity team

Photo courtesy of Cottonbro

Within the last year, Valorant has become a new staple in esports along with veteran esports like CounterStrike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Its popularity has leaked into streaming and YouTube alike. Its bursting popularity, though, has left people skeptical about it’s longevity. 

Valorant is a team-based, first-person shooter (FPS) released by Riot Games on June 2, 2020. Despite its newness, Boise State Esports added a Valorant team last semester. Because of the actual gameplay and Riot’s reputation, Valorant seems to be on the road to becoming another major esport and overall game. 

“There’s no bigger indicator to us of the strength of a game than its youth player base, and they’re playing it more than any other game that we play,” said Dr. Chris Haskell, head coach of Boise State Esports. 

Valorant has officially been around for a total of 18 months, and it was first revealed in March of 2020. By November 2020, Riot Games announced an official Valorant championship called the VALORANT Champions Tour, setting Valorant up to truly become the next major esport.

Boise State Esports added a varsity Valorant team after first having a “supporting team” for the game — the equivalent of a club team in esports. 

“Valorant was really our first tactical FPS game we picked up. The supporting team was headed by … a former Overwatch player for about a year,” assistant coach Alex Moore said.

The Valorant team competed for the first time last semester, and at the Fall 2021 Eastern College Athletic Conference Esports tournament, the team made it to round 2 of the playoffs

Photo courtesy of Cottonbro

Christopher Rodriguez is a member of the new Valorant team, and a veteran Overwatch player. 

“[Valorant and Overwatch] both have their strengths for sure. I think that Valorant as far as popularity and lifespan … is gonna be around a lot longer than Overwatch, especially when considering the difference between the companies,” Rodriguez said. 

Activision Blizzard Entertainment, the developer and publisher of Overwatch, was sued by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in July of 2021 for discrimination against female employees. 

However, Riot Games does not have a picture-perfect reputation either. The company was accused of similar discrimination in 2018. Although, the board claimed there was no evidence for accusations against the CEO, Nicolo Laurent. 

Despite these accusations, Riot Games’ reputation for making good games remains intact, with their biggest success being League of Legends, a game released in 2009 that is still popular today. 

Because of League of Legends, Riot has built a reputation of trust with players, so players are more likely to stick around, Moore said. 

Moore added, “Riot actually updates [Valorant]. CS:GO has not changed for nine years or something like that. Everyone’s kind of gotten tired of it.” 

Another aspect of Valorant is its use of fantasy violence rather than real-world violence. 

“I think [Valorant] will be bigger than CS:GO because it includes fantasy violence,” Haskell said. “When there’s gun violence it is [less] palatable. Fantasy violence … diffuses the combat part of it and makes it infinitely more palatable.” 

Fantasy violence makes the game more accessible to younger players, and a young player base is what will ultimately create the future of the game. 

Valorant seems to be the future of esports right now, but what comes after? Both Moore and Rodriguez hope multiplayer online battle arena games (MOBAs), like League of Legends, will make a comeback. 

“League of Legends is a fun game, and it’s really difficult to be fair. It’s one of the world’s most popular esports, but it’s lost a lot of popularity in North America … [I’d like to see MOBAs] become more popular in the United States and North America,” Rodriguez said.

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