FaZe Clan signed its first all-female esports team last week, and the five-woman team will begin competing this year in a spinoff of Riot Games’ “Valorant” pro league.
This is the first all-female esports team FaZe’s invested in since its 2010 launch. Before signing with FaZe, the five pro players – Jennifer “refinnej” Le, Emma “emy” Choe, Vannesa Emely “panini” Emory, Madison “maddiesuun” Mann and Diane “di^” Tran – first became teammates while competing in Riot’s “Valorant” North American Champions Tour last year under the team name Hamboigas.
The fivesome won’t compete in the pro “Valorant” league since that’s all-men. But they will make their debut as a FaZe team this year competing in a spinoff of the league called “VCT Game Changers,” which was created last February by Riot Games to offer new opportunities for “women and other marginalized genders” in its esports community. The esports industry largely still has yet to embrace co-ed esports at a professional level, though many collegiate programs under the National Association of College Esports do. This has led some esports fans to wrongly speculate that it’s just a skill issue and that female pros just aren’t good enough to play on pro teams.
Erik Anderson, FaZe’s head of esports since 2016, said the organization went “out of our way” to make it clear in the announcements that this was a FaZe team just like its other all-male ones. Anderson said FaZe tried to make it clear in the branding that the all-women team didn’t seem like “some other sub-brand… they’re part of FaZe Clan, it’s not some sort of spin-off.”
Anderson wouldn’t directly say why FaZe waited so long to sign female pros, but claimed it was partly waiting for the right opportunity. Anderson noted “Game Changers itself is a pretty new structure,” having launched in 2021.
But Anderson hopes Riot will continue to update “Valorant,” adding he hopes to see it move into collegiate competitions which could further democratize its player base and encourage new women to consider becoming pros at it.
Prior to signing the quintet, FaZe had one other female gamer on staff, a content creator named Kalei Renay who joined in 2021 and boasts over half a million followers on Twitch. But until now, the organization that’s nearing its 13th birthday has remained largely male-dominated.
Still, FaZe figured that it was better late than never to diversify its ranks. All five players are represented by the same agent, who pitched them as a package deal to various esports outfits looking to recruit more women. Each player wouldn’t disclose contract terms but Emory told dot.LA “FaZe pays us very well, and compared to my last contracts it's technically been more or [about] the same.”
The company’s staring down the barrel of a potential stock delisting, having seen over 95% of its value wiped out since its $725 million IPO last August. Still, its audience remains loyal and demanding new content. “We got a great response from our community” about the all-female team, Anderson said.
Tran added however that she’s optimistic that this team can help change how gaming treats female pros, and noted that over the years as esports has grown in popularity, the acceptance of women in the field has too. “You do face discrimination no matter what in gaming, just because it’s a male-dominated area,” Tran said. “But I do think it’s gotten better and now to be competing as [a] female, I don’t think it's actually as bad as you would think.”
Emory, who splits her time between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, agreed. “Now on ‘Valorant’ you can't type certain things and you just get chat banned,” she said. Adding that, “moderation has gotten so much better. People just get banned left and right, there’s certain words you can’t even type anymore. I think Riot’s doing a really good job… and I’d say the moderation has gotten a lot better, because in other games you really didn’t really have that luxury.”
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