It is the first round of the first map: Tech’s very first stand against the enemy team from North Carolina State University (NCSU). Both teams load into the map, antsy with anticipation as the members of Tech’s Valorant team hype each other up with cheery banter. The round starts. Everything is quiet and still as Tech’s team waits for NCSU to attack. The hit finally comes 20 seconds into the round and all of a sudden, two players from the team are down as the enemy team rushes onto the bombsite.
The coach is down but not out as he calls out directions to the remaining team members, who turn the 3v5 into a 2v3, swinging out enemies in perfect coordination and closing out the round with a magnificent win as GT sultan 1v2s the enemies with five HP, clutching the round and setting the pace for a spectacular game to come.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, Tech’s primary Valorant team competed in the Southern regional qualifier for Redbull Campus Clutch. Redbull Campus Clutch is one of the largest eSports tournaments for university students specifically, hosting more than 50,000 students and holding more than 400 events all around the globe.
Though the tournament started last year, the hype around the event is stronger than ever, with students all over the world gearing up to compete for a spot in this year’s World Finals in Brazil.
In addition to the merit of winning, Redbull provides the winning campus team with a cash reward and also with a personalized gaming center at the winning school.
One team in the running was Tech’s very own Valorant team, who spent weeks of bootcamping and scrimming in order to prepare for the qualifiers.
“Getting a gaming facility at Tech would be amazing,” said Mechelle Chen, a second-year BIO master’s student and the manager of Tech’s Valorant team. “A lot of colleges have gaming facilities, and it would be a great way to bring people together.”
“Valorant” is a free-to-play 5v5 tactical shooter game developed by Riot Games that reads like a mix of “Overwatch” and “CS:GO.” Players can take four main roles: Duelist, Sentinel, Controller and Initiator. Additionally several agents — or characters — fall into each role, and are selected based on their viability and prowess on various different maps.
The aim of the game is simple: the first team to win 13 rounds wins the game. Competing teams play as attackers and defenders, switching sides halfway through the game; the attacking team must explode onto defender territory known as site, plant the “Spike” and fend off the defenders until the Spike explodes for the attackers to win.
Conversely, the defenders are meant to hold down the site no matter what using a combination of abilities and gunplay, and if the Spike is planted, defenders must hunt down the attackers and defuse the Spike in order to win.
Because “Valorant” is relatively new as it was released in June of 2020, there is constantly new content, maps and characters being added to the game. Additionally, the novelty of the game allows for a whole new avenue of competitive gaming, as first-person shooter (FPS) gamers with experience in other games like “CounterStrike: Global Offensive” (CS:GO) began moving to “Valorant” and were able to establish themselves relatively quickly in a whole new scene.
One such player is the in-game leader (IGL) of Tech’s Valorant team: JPARK (Jun Park, third-year CS). Jun had his FPS beginnings in CS:GO, competing in semi-pro leagues with renowned players like Zander, Asuna and Stellar before transitioning to “Valorant” in June 2020 when the game was released. Jun played on and off in the competitive scene for a year, playing for various teams such as the Prospects and Slimy Boogermen.
However, “with school taking a bigger role in my life, I decided to stop pursuing competitive ‘Valorant’ and instead focused my sights on Computer Science. My competitive drive still hasn’t left me, so I captain rosters and give players at Tech [who] are eager for pro-level competitive experience exactly that,” said Jun. “I like leading [players] and competing in tournaments, and collegiate Valorant fit that need right on.”
As Jun transitioned to the collegiate scene from the pro scene, he aimed to choose a “Valorant” roster based on compatibility and team chemistry, finally arriving at Tech’s current “Valorant” roster.
Currently, Tech’s Valorant team consists of “JPARK” as coach and in-game leader playing a flex role, “Alex” playing Initiator, “sultan” playing Duelist, “Ezra” playing Sentinel, and “teddyisfluffly” playing Controller.
However, for Redbull Campus Clutch specifically, a different roster played as “dev” and “duper” filled in from other Georgia schools to compete on Tech’s team.
The team’s synergy came to light during the aforementioned first round of the first map.
After the game-making clutch of the first round, Tech made sure to carry their momentum, taking a well-deserved victory over NCSU.
Bolstering his teammates onwards, Coach JPARK focused on reading the opponent’s patterns and predicting their positions and strategies.
Frequently, Tech would use timeouts to predict the opponent’s weaknesses, calling on his team to exploit the gaps in NCSU’s defenses and closing out the map with a stunning 13-4.
In the second match of the day, Tech played against Gator Esports from University of Florida. Suddenly trouble-struck as one of the team members, duper, had to restart his PC at the game’s beginnings, putting a hitch in the match. However, the team pressed on and stayed focused, finishing match two similarly with another 13-4.
With high spirits, Tech continued on to face Converse Esports from Converse University. It was a close match the entire first half, as Tech went neck and neck against Converse. However, Converse took the lead at 9-7 and kept it, beating out Tech and knocking us out of the qualifiers.
But it was not over yet. This coming weekend, Tech is playing again in another qualifier for the same Campus Clutch tournament, practicing daily in order to best the formidable opponents up ahead in a whole new region.
Though the competition scene last weekend and this weekend are nothing short of thrilling, JPARK not only wants to compete himself, but make “Valorant” more accessible to interested students at Tech.
While JPARK is a “Valorant” coach, he is also one of the coordinators for the GT Valorant Discord server, which hosts over 900 members. Through the Discord, events are always being coordinated as GT Valorant regularly hosts 10-mans, which are 5v5 custom competitions, often between Tech students and Kennesaw State University students.
But GT Valorant has bigger dreams. Tech used to host a yearly local area network (LAN) event known as GameFest, where students gathered to compete against each other in a huge variety of games including “Valorant,” “League of Legends,” “Smash Melee,” “Rocket League” and many others. GT Valorant wants nothing more than to bring LAN events at Tech back — to experience the joy of being with each other and competing against and alongside one another.
However, GT Valorant is not just about competing; it is about getting more people involved in the world of eSports and to bring people together. Gaming is a hobby that has a reputation for solitude, but Tech’s Valorant team wants to prove that gaming is really just meant to bring people together — to broaden their horizons and allow people to connect with each other over their passions and hobbies.
This past weekend Tech Valorant did just that; they came together, achieved and got ready to do it all over again, paving their very own path to success.