Riot discusses Game Changers and the future of women in pro LoL

Olivia Richman • September 2, 15:17

LCS Game Changers is finally here after years of development. Riot Games has noticed a lack of diversity in the League of Legends esports scene and this is the company’s first big step towards making League of Legends more inclusive.

LCS Game Changers is a program for female high-ELO League of Legends players looking to get into the esports industry. The goal is to get them into Riot’s amateur and professional competitions. A blend of mentorship, discussion panels, and training, the program will select 10 women to work alongside LCS coaches and staff for a two-week period. The fully remote event is purposed to prepare these women for their path to the pro ranks, according to Riot’s official blog post.

WIN.gg spoke with Matt Nausha, Riot Games’ head of academy, amateur, and scholastic esports, about the company’s decision to create this program and what it means for the future of women in pro LoL competitions.

WIN.gg: Why did Riot decide to create the Game Changers program?

Matt Nausha, Riot Games: This program has been in the works for a number of years. The team has been working hard to get this prepared. We are proud to finally make it a reality. We see this as an important step to help with making pro League of Legends more diverse and inclusive. 

Why do you think pro LoL hasn’t been as inclusive to date?

Representation has been difficult. We’re not seeing as many women participating at the highest level. This includes staff as well. Part of our new programming is focused on the player component, with opportunities to work with coaches and analysts. But it’s also incorporating other fields that include the competitive ecosystem, with panels on coaches, analysts, talent, and broadcast. We want to help connect the participants to other fields within the competitive ecosystem. 

Why do you think there have been so few women in the esports industry overall?

A number of things have surfaced. We did a lot of research for a number of years and found a couple of factors. This includes how women are being treated, and women feeling as if the ecosystem was guarding [against them].

We want to bridge ethos gaps. We implemented the mentorship program to have direct connections and help each participant help navigate their own individual journey and desires to pursue a career in this professional ecosystem. 

What new strategies does the program bring to help women break into the pro LoL scene?

This program specifically is a hands-on, individualized program. We are not creating a hypercompetitive environment where participants need to compete against each other to win a prize.

This is focused on each individual and helping them gain the skills needed to reach career goals. Participants will rotate through coaches and get experience working with both LCS staff and coaches. 

Why is the focus being moved away from competition in the program? It sometimes seems that women don’t have enough competitive opportunities.

Through our research, we’ve seen that opportunities for women to compete do exist, but we recognized that the necessary connections weren’t being made. 

How are participants selected for Game Changers?

We have an application process with a number of factors that we are looking at. But they are not the only ones. Because we are looking at bridging to the highest level of competition, and we are focused on skills. Then career goals. We need to find participants that align with the program. There are a number of factors. 

What is the ideal outcome for Game Changers?

Really bridging the gap. I would love to see opportunities being awarded to participants at the conclusion, whether it’s on the player side or the staff or coaching side. I’d love to see that happen. At the very least, we want participants to have made connections to these pro teams. That’s why we have the mentorship program, which continues after the event concludes.

How do you feel personally about being a part of an effort like this? 

I am very excited. For me, I see myself as being a male ally, so working with many women on the Riot side and being able to work and assist with this program is something I’m excited about. I’m really excited about doing this because it’s the right thing to do, supporting women in esports in general. Creating an opportunity and helping to bridge gaps. 

This is something that has been in the works for a number of years internally and we are really excited to see it live, to get the program launched. There’s a lot of enthusiasm internally.

What has the early response been from the LoL community?

The reception from the community has generally been very positive. It’s been motivating for the team that’s working on it. We’re excited to get it out and provide an awesome experience.

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