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How Sexism Is Affecting Women In the “Valorant” Community

How Sexism Is Affecting Women In the “Valorant” Community

An e-Sports tournament for the video game “Valorant – Valorant Game Changers” recently wrapped up. The event featured people of all genders competing for a $180,000 prize. Though many fans enjoyed the event, others believed that the tournament showcased the “Valorant” community’s capacity for sexism. “Valorant” professional player Zander tweeted about his experience viewing the sexist comments surrounding the event.

The pro player posted, “Throughout GC Champions, sexist/transphobic comments seemed to overwhelm what was supposed to be a safe space. More pros and creators in the community have to speak up against this stuff.”

Sexism is not a new thing for the “Valorant” community, as there have been several instances of sexism in the game’s community since its launch in 2020.

“Valorant” is a game that requires teamwork to eliminate enemy opponents or complete objectives. Because of the coordination needed to play the game, many players use the in-game voice chat feature to call out where enemy players may be located. However, some also abuse the in-game voice chat to harass other players based on their gender or race.

“Valorant” has tools to combat this built into the in-game communication system. For example, certain words or acronyms are filtered out when typed in the text chat feature. Some buttons allow you to mute players on both text and voice chat. These features have built a popular sentiment in the community that sexism can be combated as long as people press the mute button when someone is abusing in-game chat.

“Valorant” e-Sports analyst Jess Bolden does not agree with this notion. She has spent years not just playing “Valorant,” but also other tactical FPS games in the genre. In a recent tweet responding to a sexism study in “Valorant,” she explained why she thinks muting players on voice chat is not helpful.

Bolden tweeted, “Yes, I cannot wait to mute in a heavily tactical and objective-based game that requires communication. Any other handicaps you want to give me while I likely play a support agent because unless you top frag as a duelist as a woman you are dogshit.’”

Though muting does protect players from verbal harassment, it also blocks off a potential stream of information given the muted player does decide to give helpful information to their team. A team where all five players have open communication streams is at an advantage when compared to a team where at least one person is muted for harassment.

Bolden also speaks to another type of performance-based harassment in “Valorant.” There are four different roles in the game: duelists, controllers, sentinels, and initiators. Each role does something different, but generally, the most aggressive role is duelist. The role is characterized by bold, flashy plays, and people who play them usually get the most kills in a game, or “top frag,” to put it in game terms. Bolden points out that women who play the duelist are harassed unless they perform well, meaning that some may be scared away from the role.

Maggie McDermott is a player on Loyola e-Sports Ehounds Blue. Ehounds Blue is one of Loyola’s four “Valorant” teams, all decided by a two-hour tryout session. Learning the game was initially difficult for McDermott because of her gender.

McDermott said, “I used to experience it a lot more in the past when I was really new and had my actual name in my tag. Now, when I’m solo queuing I wait until I’m doing well to speak or I have to feel out the vibe of the team.” 

McDermott also explained that while she doesn’t receive harassment nearly as often following her name change, it isn’t completely gone.

“It’s annoying and makes the game a lot less fun. Even if it’s not explicitly sexism, people tend to assume I don’t know how to play,” McDermott said.

Harassment and comments aren’t just present in casual online play, sexism was reported in instances of collegiate organized play as well. In April 2021, Virginia Tech was facing Penn State in a collegiate match. While in the match Virginia Tech player Katie Dnos was subject to harassment in a pregame lobby where both teams could converse with each other. After Dnos initially talked, a Penn State player responded “Is that a female?”

While Penn State’s “Valorant” team was in a private chat during the game, another player insinuated that if they were women they’d be able to go pro, equating that the skill cap for women playing the game is much lower than for men. Dnos recorded, edited, and posted the clips of her harassment to Twitter.

Dnos tweeted under her video, “It’s ridiculous how even in a professional collegiate setting I still get ridiculed for being a girl then get sent an ‘apology’ that is full of gaslighting and ignorance. PSU retweeted and ‘supported’ my women’s team ManILoveFwogs but then half your team goes and does this? Do better.”

With sexism present in “Valorant” on a professional, casual, and collegiate level, women are left to wonder why? Why do men in the “Valorant” community feel the need to put women down? Dnos has some guesses. 

“We’re surrounded by edgy teenagers who love to say the most controversial statements to get attention from the safety of their own homes,” she said. “They don’t face any repercussions, so they love to take it out on women and marginalized genders because, ‘hehe haha shut up you’re a female, you’re inferior to me! I am a strong man.’”

Featured Image Courtesy of Nicholas Mangold.

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How Sexism Is Affecting Women In the “Valorant” Community