"Partnership is very important for the growth of the game": JessGOAT talks about VCT 2023 at Red Bull Campus Clutch
Valorant enthusiasts worldwide recently witnessed one of the biggest ever esports tournaments for the game. The Red Bull Campus Clutch World Finals, which featured the best 47 collegiate teams from all over the world, was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from December 13 to 16, 2022.
Rosters from 43 different countries battled it out onstage at the Estádio do Pacaembu for the 2022 edition of Red Bull Campus Clutch. Northwood Esports, a team representing the USA, ultimately emerged as the winners of the global event, claiming a €20,000 EUR prize check.
Several broadcast talents who are renowned in the Valorant community graced the Campus Clutch venue in Brazil. They delivered their emphatic commentary and analysis on the matchups to keep the audience entertained throughout the three-day event.
Hosts like Velly and Iain Chambers, analysts like JessGOAT, and commentators like Vansilli, Sully, and Upmind were among the on-air talent for Red Bull Campus Clutch.
Esports Analyst of the Year JessGoat talks about VCT 2023 and growth of Valorant Game Changers series at Red Bull Campus Clutch World Finals
In an exclusive interview with Adarsh J Kumar of Sportskeeda Esports at the Red Bull Campus Clutch World Finals in Sao Paulo, Brazil, award-winning esports analyst, Jessica "JessGOAT" Bolden, discussed her thoughts on the event.
She also spoke about the growth of esports for women and the emergence of the partnership program in Valorant esports, among other topics.
Q: Congratulations on winning the Esports Award for Desk Analyst of the Year. How do you feel after being crowned the best esports analyst in the world?
JessGOAT: I don't think it's really even hit me yet. You do something for so long and you do it with so much passion, ambition, and intensity. I think I've been very intense as an analyst over the past few years.
You move all around the world, you work all these different games, you hope that you're doing your best, and after a while, you don't just want to do your best anymore, you want to be the best.
So I thought, "How do I be the best?" I think that's subjective. Talent work is like art. Certain styles might resonate with certain types of people and whatnot. When it gets to the analyst desk, it's a mixture of both. I was like, "How do I mix my own personality with what is fundamentally the best as an analyst?"
I worked really hard to be the best in the world for 2022, and I think it's made me a little bit humbler. I had a bit of an ego before this. Now that I've won this, I'm not sure if I should really feel as big as this is. I don't think it will hit me for a while. Maybe ask me in another 6-12 months and maybe it will hit me then.
Q: Valorant is about to head into its first edition of the franchised leagues in a couple of months. What do you think about the roadmap of Valorant esports for the next few years?
JessGOAT: I think partnership is very important for the growth of the game. I think it can be done the wrong way. Don't get me wrong, but there are some that have done it in very much the wrong way.
But the fact is that Riot Games has decided to come in and have all of these organizations do the recruiting process to get into the partnership. You have to send in the application, and once you get in, Riot is the one supporting you, to begin with. I think that's important.
It's not all of these organizations trying to vie for the spot, pay "this" much and do "this." Riot turned around and went, "If you come with us, we'll treat you like a family and we'll help grow the scene."
That's healthy, and if you start it in a healthy way like that, it can get really big later on, just like League of Legends. You want to be a part of it. You want to be part of Worlds, you want your team in there, you want your organization in there, and everything. That's what my hope is for it for the next five years.
Riot is investing so much in these organizations and players, like having a purpose-built studio for the broadcast, just like LEC does. It seems a lot like League of Legends, but I think they want to do a few very key things differently, which I think will be better.
Maybe learning from the mistakes of League of Legends and then just making it even better. I agree with it. I don't always agree with it, but this one looks like it's good so far.
Q: If you've come across the confirmed rosters for all Valorant teams in 2023, at least all the franchise teams, which ones would you consider the most exciting prospects for the upcoming season?
JessGOAT: It's hard. You can see a lot of the star players get split up. You see teams getting split up and whatnot. I would hate to put expectations on a team that's still trying to be cohesive. I don't like hyping up individual players in a team environment.
There are some star-studded players, don't get me wrong. ScreaM, obviously, he's got his brother along. Things are looking good for the French organization. They have a huge amount of fans over there, which I didn't realize, but they've got a massive crowd to go to all of their events. That's good from a selling point.
But from a competitive standpoint, I think generally what I would like to do is see how they all play in Brazil. There's a lot of games going on, there are so many teams, and you're not expected to already be good. That's what I like about the upcoming one in Brazil.
We'll have everyone there, we'll start setting expectations for who's good and who's not. That's where I'm going to stand for now. I don't want to say anyone's good or anyone's bad. I haven't heard any scrim-bucks just yet, about how the scrims are going. But for Brazil, I'm going to be asking a lot of questions.
Q: As we know, you're signed to Talon Esports as a streamer. Now, Talon just recently signed a brand new roster for the 2023 season, fielding some of Thailand's best players. What do you think about their prospects of winning the VCT Pacific League?
JessGOAT: It started out as a joke to bring a certain Overwatch player back into the scene and I was going to joke about it on social media. Then, I got a message from Sean (Xiao Zhang), our beautiful CEO. He messaged me and he goes, "We're thinking about legitimately doing it" and I was like, "No, really?!"
He said not to tell anyone and it was in talks, but I said I'm not going to tell anyone because this is super exciting and I want everyone else to be just as surprised as I would have been if I didn't know.
There were big conversations as well. Especially with Thanamethk "Crws" Mahatthananuyut - you want someone who's going to be a leader, someone very experienced. I put Crws in that position, like you've got a lot of experience. You are going to be the one the rest of the team looks to for guidance. So I'm so glad we got him.
They're very illustrious, having players like Sushiboys. There are so many in the region as well that are great. I think we've collected, I wouldn't necessarily say the best of the best, but in the roles that we need, I think we've got a good group of people that can do well.
In just some of the recent sub-category of games that we have seen from them, it's not been too bad and it's still early days. So I think it's going to be good.
Q: You used to be a coach and an analyst in the Rainbow Six Siege competitive circuit until 2019. You’ve shifted to the role of an on-air talent over the last few years. However, is there any chance we can see you in a coaching role in Valorant, sometime in the near future?
JessGOAT: People still ask me to coach in Siege, let alone Valorant. Valorant is a tricky one because the coaching scene in most FPS comes from someone who's been an ex-player. I did play Siege, of course, but that doesn't always translate to a CS:GO-style shooter.
It's very difficult as a woman to be given the respect as a leader of something. To be a coach, you need a good group of people who are willing to trust you and your expertise and are willing to be guided by you. I absolutely have the capacity to do it, but do I want to work seven days a week, 24 hours a day again? I'm not sure. I'm getting older. It's a difficult job to do.
Being a coach back in the day, I almost never slept, you know. You're always doing something for the team. I love competitions, so I'm not going to say no. If ever I get a great offer, I would absolutely entertain it.
Q: You’ve been an active part of the Game Changers Series ever since it started. Riot Games has done a phenomenal job in promoting esports for women and marginalized genders. As someone who's been around since the start, what do you think about the pace at which esports is growing for women and marginalized genders?
JessGOAT: I think Game Changers will set the bar for what women's esports is for any esport. We're not just talking about FPS anymore, which is the one that's in focus. I would say that in any esports, everone would be watching Riot very carefully.
There's a very smart woman known as Ashley behind this. She has explained her thought process behind it and what she wants to do and the risks she wants to take.
When we're talking about women and marginalized genders in gaming, it's a tough, tricky, and dangerous subject to try and work around. You don't want to make any mistakes because it can come across as really bad.
She said she wants to take the risks. I said, "One, Ashley, you're a woman. You know what it's like to be a woman in gaming. I trust you more than anyone to make decisions on this." For everything she wants to do, Riot is listening to her and letting her do the things that she needs to get done.
I think we need more people who are going to say "yes" to women. If they keep saying yes to Ashley, we'll have the best women's esports in the entire world and I don't think anyone will complain.
Q: Valorant Game Changers has grown substantially since its inception. Are there any kind of improvements that would you like to see in the Game Changers circuit next season?
JessGOAT: The biggest thing I need to see is that if I'm someone who's never played competitive before, which was me many, many years ago, how do I even do it? You're probably sitting there going, "How do I even start? I don't have a team, I don't know anyone, I'm alone." This is all very scary.
A lot of people say that's too much, that they're too scared or too nervous, and they're not going to do it and then they stop. This happens to probably 90 percent of the people who ever thought of playing competitively. Then there's another section of getting people involved.
What I would like Riot and Ashley's team to do is to find a way to integrate solo or duo players who are interested in playing but don't have a team or don't know how to get a team, those who are forced to find players on Discord over the internet with LFT posts. No one knows you, you have no proof to play competitively.
I want them to find a way to integrate pick-up teams or PUG teams and force them into a competitive environment. That pick-up team might not stay together, but you have proof that you can play in a competitive environment. You can test it to see if you like it and you can work out what goals fit you.
I don't know how that functionally works. That's not my expertise. However, they can integrate the individual women and marginalized genders and get them involved. Mix them together, make them sign up, randomly spit out a generated team, and that's their team. If they do something like that, I would love it.
My biggest dream is that we get players who don't otherwise know how to get in. How else do you get into a tournament? You need five players and maybe a coach. It's a lot of work. If I want to do that right now, do I have women and marginalized genders? No. They're already on other teams. So what do I do, how do I get involved? That's the question they need to answer.
Q: As an analyst, you've seen all kinds of talent in Valorant's competitive circuit over the last two years. How much of an impact do you think a global event like Red Bull Campus Clutch will have on the grassroot level Valorant players?
JessGOAT: I always bring up last year's winners, Egypt, because they had a player named shalaby on their team and he shook us all. He was incredible, he was flashy, he was consistently high-tier in what he did, and Team Vitality liked what he did and picked him up.
That's a real-world example of playing in an event like this, coming from a region where it's otherwise very difficult to get noticed. He came from Egypt. Not a lot of people are unfortunately taking notice of the MENA region. You can import players for nothing these days. You can import them as much as you want. Visas are the only problem, but with the world right now, you can fix it up pretty easily.
You look at all these cracked players from all these regions, you come to an event like this, and you show everyone how cracked you are. All of a sudden, they think, "Maybe we don't need to pay $10,000 a month for this person, we can go for a newer player, bring them in and grow them up with us," and all of a sudden they become the new cracked kid on the block.
It's my hope that these events shine a light on players who would otherwise not have a light to be shone on them. We have living proof that this works. To anyone that tells me "no," I'm sorry, I have proof that this works.
Q: How do you like the pace at which Valorant is growing? In terms of the game, is there anything different that you would like to see Riot Games do with Valorant next year or in the near future?
JessGOAT: I don't think there are too many big changes that need to be made right now. I think they've made a couple of really good small and very efficient tweaks to Agents and their utility.
For example, Yoru was obviously a problem. There were people who wanted to bring him into the mix and he needed a couple of changes. Phoenix had changes and players like ScreaM are like, "Lemme try it."
So these little things that they were able to put in very fast and change, I'm glad that they're doing that. My hope is that, moving forward, they don't keep nerfing things all the time.
Obviously with the Chamber change, he did need to be nerfed, don't get me wrong. Out of all the Agents, he is the one that needed it. But then to also add in a Viper nerf when she was already a very difficult Agent to play and master, I don't like that.
I would like to see the game go more into a strategic area. I want the future of Valorant to be strategic, objective-based, tactical FPS. I want gunplay to be the secondary thing and I want everything else to come first.
To do that, you need to be able to make supportive players accessible and not weak. You don't want them to be unideal, because you don't want players to feel like they're useless on the server.
So, I need them to prioritize the supportive Agents in the pool and make them seem viable for players so that they can learn them, want to play them, and be good with them in the end. Mastering the supportive aspects of this would be my ideal way of moving forward.
Abu Amjad Khan