Women battle bias in gaming industry with all-female ‘Valorant’ competition

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — For the first time, an all-women gaming competition gets underway Friday night, with thousands of dollars up for grabs.

Fishtown-based Nerd Street Gamers is hosting the All-Women “Valorant” Invitational, along with Comcast Spectacor. Twelve amateur and professional teams are competing for a total of $50,000. 

“We have the first female ‘Valorant’ Ignition Series event in partnership with Spectacor Gaming, through their FTW initiative, which stands for ‘For the Women,’ ” explained Paige Funk, Nerd Street marketing director.

Funk said FTW was launched last year to address misogyny in the gaming industry. The first two gatherings featured women in marketing and finance who operate in corporate settings. But, Funk said, that’s not where the blatant sexism was taking place.

“Although misogyny can still exist, although hate speech can still exist, it doesn’t exist at a level that it does within these games, whether you are casually playing or competing in a tournament,” she said.

The original tournament called for eight teams and $10,000 in prize money, but when Riot Games — the parent company of “Valorant” — heard about the tourney, it chipped in an extra $40,000.

Funk said Riot Games, which debuted “Valorant” in June, focuses on community issues.

“That's why we chose it, to really showcase female competitors who may be wary of competing in an actual tournament because of what they make themselves vulnerable to, in terms of the hate they get online,” she said.

The tournament runs through Sunday. Funk said the esports startup aims to get more women involved in the gaming industry, whether playing casually or launching a career.