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Riot Games announced the Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) Game Changers program today. It’s an esports tournament initiative to supplement the competitive season by highlighting women and people of marginalized genders.

The year-long effort will help build a tour that is more representative of the diversity of the Valorant community, Riot Games said.

“Game Changers will provide tournaments and development programs for women who want to take their game beyond competitive ladder play,” the company said.

Whalen Rozelle, the senior director of esports at Riot Games, said in a statement that the tournaments and development programs will also help foster an inclusive environment for competition and create safe opportunities for women to compete without fear of identity- or gender-based harassment.

Game Changers will consist of two core competitive initiatives: the VCT Game Changers Series, and the VCT Game Changers Academy. The VCT Game Changers Series is a set of top-tier competitions that will take place around the world over 2021. These events and their prize pools will be similar in scale to last year’s Ignition Series tournaments, with the first event scheduled in late March for North American competitors and hosted by Nerd Street Gamers.

The VCT Game Changers Academy program will host monthly tournaments, giving players even more opportunities to compete at the semi-pro and grassroots level. Academy events will be organized in partnership with Galorants, one of the largest communities within Valorant.

Galorants previously helped organize the “For the Women Summer Showdown” tournament in September 2020. Both the VCT Game Changers Series and Academy will help build the next generation of leaders who aspire to succeed within the competitive Valorant community.

Valorant executive producer Anna Donlon said in a statement that competing in games can be daunting for women, resulting in a real competitive disadvantage. Riot Games is seeking to address such issues in chat, voice communication, and griefing.

At its debut in April, the free-to-play game reported 34 million hours watched in a single day. It also surpassed 1.7 million peak concurrent viewers, a record second only to Riot Games’ 2019 League of Legends World Championship Finals. Over the course of Valorant’s two-month beta testing period, an average of nearly 3 million players logged on each day to play.

Fans also watched more than 470 million hours of the 5-versus-5 tactical shooter’s closed beta streams on Twitch, the world’s leading service and community for multiplayer entertainment, and Korean video-streaming service AfreecaTV.

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