Valorant closed beta promotional image. Provided by Riot Games

Valorant has been leading the viewership charts on Twitch since it came out. Of course, the form it’s in now is barely what you’d call a release. It’s still in closed beta, meaning there are plenty of bugs to be seen. Some of the animations still look clunky, and much in the way of balancing needs to be done before the game receives a full release this summer. Despite the game still being far from ready, an important feature is set to be released very soon. That would be none other than Valorant competitive mode.

What is Valorant?

Valorant is the newest game from Riot, the makers of League of Legends. It’s a 5v5 competitive shooter. Players choose a hero to play as at the beginning of the game, each with unique abilities that can affect the game. The teams then play 12 rounds on offense and 12 rounds on defense, with the first team to win 13 rounds being the winner. On offense, teams must defeat all players on the enemy team or plant and defend a bomb (called a spike) until it explodes. On defense, teams must defeat all players on the enemy team, defuse the spike, or run the clock out.

What does competitive mode mean?

For those who aren’t used to gaming online, here’s a quick primer. Most modern games can be played in two ways, competitively and casually. Casual play typically allows players to team up with groups of their friends or on their own and be randomly matched with other opponents online. It’s generally low-stress and used to either just relax or experiment with new builds and strategies.

Competitive mode is just as it sounds: competitive. Players are ranked based on their performances and can either climb or fall down the competitive ladder by winning or losing. Typically in competitive mode, you’ll be matched up with and against opponents of similar skill level. This mode also forms the basis for any esport in the modern era. The first step towards playing professionally is generally to climb the ladder and compete near the top of competitive mode.

Why does this matter for Valorant, a game still in beta?

So let’s get into why this matters. A lot is going to change about Valorant between now and launch. However, competitive mode should bring quite a bit to the game. First and foremost, it’ll give players a chance to play with people closer to their skill level. I am in a weird place with my ability to play Valorant. Coming from a Counter-Strike background, I understand some of the intermediate concepts of the game. Call-outs, rotations, and the importance of communication are not things I need to learn. However, I am not particularly skilled mechanically.

Valorant Esports
Valorant – Phoenix and Jett

This means that I’m generally above the lowest tier of players, but as soon as I meet someone who is good at the game, it’s a bad time for me. Unfortunately right now, everyone is playing casual mode so I’m frequently matched up against players who are far better than I am. While that does give me a good opportunity to see what I’m doing wrong, it more often than not leads to frustration as I weigh my team down like an anchor. Competitive mode will allow me to play against people more in line with my abilities.

This is where esports begin

Valorant giving us a competitive mode also lays the basis for the game to be played professionally. Already, many former Counter-Strike players and teams are shifting their focus to Valorant. A true competitive mode in the game will allow them to practice and train against high-level talent rather than just pub-stomping noobs like me. Over the next few months, we’ll be watching the genesis of the Valorant esports scene. I could not be more excited for that.

On Youtube this week, the Road to Rio tournament is going on. It’s a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament where winning teams can earn a slot at ESL One Rio this year. For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Counter-Strike is an amazing game to watch. No game allows you to see a team’s strategy play out quite like CS:GO does. If you’re interested in checking out Counter-Strike, I’ve written a beginner’s guide.

Valorant is basically Riot’s take on Counter-Strike and I cannot wait to see this esports scene begin to develop. Rather than being run in-house like League of Legends, Riot is letting third parties like ESL take the reins on Valorant. ESL has handled the Counter-Strike esports scene for a long time, and I’m excited to see where they go with Valorant. But that’s for the future. This week marks the first step as Valorant competitive mode drops. I’ll see you out there Agent!

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