Valorant is an online multiplayer game designed by Riot Games that is available on the Windows platform. Originally, Valorant was under a title called "Project A" back in October 2019 before it was officially announced on March 1, 2020. On April 7, 2020, the game was released in closed beta. Players who wished to obtain a beta access key were required to first sign up for accounts with both Riot Games and Twitch and watch partnered streamers play the game for a randomized key drop. This beta period ended on May 28, 2020, with the game being fully released later on June 2, 2020. The main motivation for the development of Valorant was to make tactical shooters more accessible to new players while also resolving some of the core issues that games of the same genre had before. However, similar to other shooter games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Call of Duty, the game has raised several ethical concerns, such as about privacy, in-game cyber-bullying, and smurfing.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Valorant Esports
- 3 Ethical Implications
- 4 References
Valorant presents itself as a multiplayer shooter game with a variety of maps to play on and assortment of weapons to choose from each round. A standard Valorant game consists of ten players: five on each team with each team having a chance to be the attacking and defending team for 12 rounds before switching sides. Within each round, the attacking team’s main objective is to successfully plant a detonating spike on one of the sites present on the map and prevent the defenders from defusing that spike afterwards. If the spike is not defused in a given amount of time by the defending team, then the attacking team wins that round. On the other hand, the defending team’s goal is to ultimately prevent the attacking team from planting the detonating spike or to successfully defuse the spike if it had been planted. The defending team wins the round if they are successful. During the entire round, all players are also simultaneously trying to eliminate one another through gunfights and ability usages. If all five players within a team are dead before the spike is planted then the other team will win the round. The first team to win 13 rounds out of 25 will win the entire match.
Valorant is unique from other first-person shooter games because of its introduction of special playable characters called Agents. Each agent has their own special abilities in the game, and similar to guns, these are purchasable at the start of each round. This brings in a brand new aspect in comparison to the traditional FPS video game in that these abilities are able to harm, heal, distort vision, and even disrupt players and their movements within the game, which can drastically shift the overall pace of the game. This creates space for many different strategies to be formed outside of standard gunfights. As of March 19, 2021, Valorant now has 15 special agents, 12 of which were released at launch and Astra being the newest addition to the roster.
Valorant consists of an ever-growing roster of free and unlockable agents. Agents are broken down into classes based upon their intended playstyles:
- Duelists are the offensive line, specializing in attacking and entering a site for the team. Duelists include Jett, Phoenix, Reyna, Raze and Yoru.
- Sentinels are the defensive line specializing in locking down sites to prevent enemies from entering and protecting teammates from enemies. Sentinels include Sage, Cypher and Killjoy.
- Initiators plan out offensive pushes and focus on breaking through defensive enemy positions. Initiators include Skye, Sova and Breach.
- Controllers specialize in setting their team up for success. They use their heavy utility to control sightlines on the map. Controllers include Viper, Brimstone, Omen and Astra.
Valorant can be played on 5 different maps. Just like the with the agents, maps are still being added. The five current maps are Icebox, Bind, Haven, Split, and Ascent. Maps contain different "call-outs" which are used to help players communicate with their teammates about various locations on the maps in order to efficiently identify the locations of the enemies.
Before each round has started, there are barriers keeping each side restricted to their side of the map with a no man's land in between. While the attackers are limited in movement, defenders have access to the entire site before the round officially starts, allowing them to be able to set-up special defenses and get into proper position against the attackers. Attackers may also use their utilities on their side of the map before the round starts, however, no team may enter or setup in the no man's land before the round starts. Although each map shares some common traits, they all have unique features. For example, the map 'Haven' has an extra site for planting the spike, the map 'Bind' contains 2 teleporters to allow teams to rotate, and the map 'Icebox' contains zip-lines across parts of the map for players to get around the map quickly.
Unrated is the standard game mode of Valorant where players can play against other players in a non-ranked setting. Players usually will play this game mode if they are looking to test various aspects of the game or simply play for fun where the outcome of the game does not affect their ranking. This mode does not incorporate the “win by two” rule of overtime if the score sets at 12-12. The team that wins the next immediate round wins the game. 
Competitive is the ranked version of the standard game mode in Valorant where players play against other players in order to earn special rankings. This game mode incorporates a ranking system which assigns a certain base rank to each player after they have played 5 placement matches in competitive mode. Any matches played afterwards return a rank rating. This rating is calculated based on a variety of factors like performance, MMR, current rank, etc. and is added to your current rank. Every 100 rating points will result in a promotion to a higher tier or division. Likewise going below 0 points will result in a demotion to a lower tier or division The ranking system consists of iron, bronze, silver, gold, platinum, diamond, Immortal, and Radiant, where Radiant is the highest rank a player can achieve in Valorant.  Each tier consists of 3 sub-divisions. Players who choose to play this mode are put up against other players who rank in a similar range and these matches tend to be more serious than the Unrated games. This mode tests players’ gunplay, character movement, and strategy, while incentivizing winning games in order to reach the top of the ranking ladder and be regarded as one of the best players in the game. In some cases, players who consistently play at a high level may receive interest from professional teams to play for their Esports team.  
Practice range is an offline training mode that features different training exercises. Players may run around the range, try out different weapons, practice their aim, and use unowned characters. Players can adjust the speed, movement, armor, of the shooting dummy to slowly increase the shooting test difficulty and improve their aiming ability. In the range, all characters(even unowned characters) are available for use with no ability cooldown in the range for players to practice. There also is a parkour course for players to practice their agent’s ability and their jumping skills.
Introduced in June 2020, the Spike Rush game mode is a shorter version of the traditional unrated/competitive game mode. Compared to a 45 minute long game of unrated/competitive, Spike Rush typically ends within 15 minutes. Unlike the traditional one spike for the attacking team, all players in the attacking team carry a spike. Everyone in the match starts the round with the same guns and all basic abilities unlocked. Attackers and Defenders swap after 3 rounds, and the matches end when one team wins 4 rounds. Unique to Spike Rush, there are orbs located on the map that players can pick up to obtain unique power-ups to help win the game.
Introduced in August 2020, the Deathmatch game mode is a free for all game mode where there are no teams. 14 Players are put into a randomly selected map with unique rules such as, no abilities and infinite money. A player can win the game by being the first to reach 40 kills or by having the most kills by the 9 minute mark. Each kill drops a health pack that lasts 10 seconds which heals you completely and reloads your gun automatically. Players will respawn at enemy-free locations every time they are killed. Players take 3 seconds to respawn after death and have an 8 second invulnerability on respawn that is voided by moving or firing.  Since there is no spike to plant, abilities to use, or an incentive to hide, this game mode is primarily used for improving a player's accuracy and gun aim while training the player's reflexes to sound cues. It can also be used as a warm-up exercise for players before they head to Competitive mode.
Introduced in February 2021, the Escalation game mode is a team-based "gun game" with 5 players on each team. This game mode picks a random selection of 12 weapons to move through. As with other versions of a "gun game", a team needs to get a certain number of kills in order to advance to the next weapon and the weapons also progressively get worse as the team moves through them. There are two winning conditions to escalation where either one team needs to get through all 12 levels or one team is on a higher level than the opposing team within 10 minutes. The game mode also has auto respawns activated so respawning players will respawn in random locations around the map. 
Valorant, like many other competitive shooters, has become highly active within esports. In December of 2020, Riot Games held a single-elimination tournament called First Strike: North America with a $100,000 prize pool.  In May 2021, the Valorant Champions Tour Masters will be held in Reykjavik, which will be the first in-person Valorant Tournament and will include 10 teams from around the world.  Riot Games is currently in the middle of the 2021 Valorant Champions Tour where professional teams will compete to make placements for the main event. Upcoming matches and previous match outcomes can be found on their website. 
Riot Vanguard is Valorant's anti-cheat software that was built in-house and aims to prevent cheating software to be run concurrently with the game. The implementation consists of a client and a kernel-mode driver that is installed on players’ computers during the installation of the game. In order to play Valorant, Riot Vanguard must be installed and active during any gameplay to ensure the integrity of the games. However, early versions of Vanguard received reports of compatibility issues with other Windows applications.
If Vanguard detects any cheating software from a player’s computer, the game would stop abruptly and present a report of the cheating incident. This player would receive some form of ban depending on the seriousness and legitimacy of the act. In some cases, cheating software can go undetected. However, skilled players who have played FPS games long enough can easily identify whether or not players are using any form of wallhacking or aimbotting. These incidents can be reported during or after the game where developers can review a video of the game to approve the report.
Given Vanguard is installed on a player’s computer, its kernel-mode driver starts up as soon as the computer boots up. If Vanguard does not start with the computer, it will not trust the computer, and therefore, the game cannot be played. The kernel is the main part of the operating system, which means that any software that is run at this level has huge control over one’s computer. The main concern with Vanguard incorporating a kernel-mode driver is that any vulnerabilities in Vanguard could result in damages far worse than if it was run at a higher level. However, other multiplayer games such as Apex Legends, Rainbow Six Siege, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds have continued to run anti-cheat software on the kernel level, but have not received as much attention and criticism.  Another big issue that many players had with the anti-cheat system was its level of access to a player's PC when installed. Reddit users quickly made this topic aware with posts from self proclaimed individuals working in IT departments.  Valorant's anti cheat was running in the essential system-level of the player's PC. In short, this would have made it nearly impossible to disable the anti-cheat system without being experienced in information technology. It also gives the the Vanguard anti-cheat even more power than an admin-user over the PC. Since the Vanguard must be running from the beginning of PC boot-up, this also meant that maximum access was given to Riot anytime the PC was turned on. Even despite the best intentions of Riot, no system is considered un-hackable. If someone was able to hack in to Riot's Vanguard-Control Servers, it would grant them access to a net of millions of player clients. 
Data Transparency Measures
After several patch releases, the Riot Games’ security developers loosened up the restrictions for Vanguard, and more programs that do not pose a threat to its security such as Core Temp, have been unblocked for the time being. 
Another common complaint was that Vanguard was always present on a user's computer. Riot Games addressed this concern by adding a system tray icon allowing users to turn off Vanguard at any time. Users would be allowed to play the game after restarting their computer to re-enable Vanguard. 
In October 2020, Riot Games released a privacy statement regarding more transparency about the information it collects in efforts to relieve any players or potential players of any uneasiness they felt about Riot services including Vanguard software. The statement included information collected from its services including account information, computer or device information, and information shared to third-party applications.
Smurfing is the act of making a new account or deranking a player's current account to play at a rank that is far below the player's skill level. This is a major issue in almost all first person shooter games with a form of skill-based matchmaking, but Valorant is more favorable for smurfing than other games. As Valorant is free to play, a player wanting to smurf can simply make a new account. Additionally, there is no two-factor authentication that restricts players from having more than one account. All a player needs to do at this point is play twenty unrated games to be able to play competitive at a lower skill level. Riot Games have explicitly stated that they do have a system behind the scenes to catch smurfers, however the community still complains of the major smurfing issue. In the last few months, Riot Games addressed this issue again saying that it is at the top of their list of issues to fix. They have not given explicit details into what kind of changes they will be making to counter this issue, simply stating that they are working on it.
Other Games' response to smurfing
As hinted to above, smurfing is an incredibly common issue in first person shooter games, but other games handle smurfing much better than Valorant. Recently, Valve, the releasers of Dota 2, announced that smurfing is now a bannable offense. Additionally, they employ an algorithm that attempts to match smurfs with other smurfs to even the game. Valve also attempted to counter smurfing in their game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive(CSGO) by having a "prime" system. Originally, CSGO was $15 to buy on steam and to make a new account, the player would need to make a new steam account and then purchase the game again on the new account. They made CSGO free to buy, but cost players $15 to play on "prime dedicated servers". These servers are specifically to counter cheating. The result of this change didn't eliminate smurfing, but relegated most smurfs to play on non-prime servers.
Flaming occurs in Valorant as in any other online video game. Flaming is a form of cyberbullying that intentionally acts on writing hateful and hurtful comments to another user online. Within Valorant, flaming is very common as many players become frustrated with their teammates and will resort to degrading them because of their poor in-game performance. Currently, the punishment of flaming in Valorant is a chat restriction/limitation where a player is prevented from using the chat feature in the game for a set period of time. However, this form of moderation is not as effective in games likes Valorant that rely mostly on voice chats as the primary form of communication between players in a match. Players have the option to turn off such in-game chat features but they then risk shutting off vital communication aspects within the game that are necessary in order to work together and win as a team. Other than that, the toxic community in Valorant flaming other players based on poor performance is a troublesome issue to effectively deal with.
This sort of toxic behavior online inflicts emotional pain to other users who are undeservingly harassed, which can easily affect their mentality within the game and even outside of the game. As an online video game, Valorant gives users a sense of psychological freedom to act aggressively and threaten other users without any serious repercussions. Due to the anonymous nature of online games like Valorant, this allows players to sign up under an alias and bully individuals all while safely hiding behind a screen. As a result, players can often be driven away from the game and can potentially suffer from real-life consequences as many players tend to experience all sorts of unpredictable emotional pain from their in-game experiences.
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