Valorant released during the pandemic. Codenamed Project A, this game was designed and built during normal world operations, only to have social interaction collapse on itself when a potentially deadly virus swept the planet. As we all rushed to understand this new isolated way of life, Riot had a game almost ready for release and kept its head down, determined to release it anyway.

Instead of a trip to see Riot Games and meet everyone behind it in Barcelona, ​​it was 2020 and I was sitting in my parents’ basement with my cobbled-together new set-up in a Discord of hundreds of people. We listened to the developers explain little bits about what the game was, what it was supposed to do, and how it was supposed to be played. I then got to play with some of the best shooter players in the world, making it the hardest and possibly most personally miserable introduction to a game I’ve ever had. Fast-forward a few years and not only is Valorant a huge shooter that boomed during the pandemic, but it also boasts one of the most successful esports scenes in the world. And so much of that happened from people’s homes.

I attended Masters in Copenhagen earlier this year and had the opportunity to speak with Arnar Hrafn Gylfason, Valorant’s senior game director, about building a game and esports in a pandemic. At the time, Masters 2022 marked the first time Riot Games held an in-person esport for Valorant, more than two years after the first physical event was set to take place. A lot had changed for everyone, but I was still interested in learning more about what it took to make Valorant the success it was, even when the world was turned upside down.

(Image credit: Riot Games)

And while of course we always hoped in our hearts that it would be a successful esport, I wouldn’t say we built it specifically for esports.

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By wy9m6

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