JessGOAT on VALORANT's path to pro, Agent FOMO, and Red Bull Campus Clutch
The Red Bull Campus Clutch has come and gone in a flash for its third annual instalment, highlighting the world's best VALORANT upcomers and giving them a platform to showcase their talent, bottle, and creativity on a world stage.
But with a seismic shift in the amateur scene afoot in VALORANT, Red Bull's American-style collegiate-level competition is now beginning to become more than just a celebration of studious competitors, but actually a ecosystem pillarstone in the advancement of young and obediant VALORANT rising starts.
It's quickly becoming a pipeline for how students can become professionals outside of the Challengers and Premier grind, and now more and more VALORANT scouts and talents are scanning over the Finals with a keen eye to see what talent can be preyed and warped into the next VCT superstar.
Following the Red Bull Campus Clutch, GGRecon sat down with popular desk host and analyst Jess "JessGOAT" Bolden, to discuss just how the event has solidified itself as an essential tournament for VALORANT, and the future of the title including how Riot Ganes leans into Agent FOMO to avoid over-confusion akin to titles such as Rainbow Six: Seige.
Red Bull Campus Clutches already produced quite a lot of fantastic storylines over the years. Yeah. Now it's back for its third run, your third run as well. What do you think this tournament means to fans, players, and the wider VALORANT world?
This is the biggest international showing of any tournament that has ever existed. Red Bull broke that record last year, and so to bring this many teams into a LAN environment again, especially at a grassroots level, it will never be done again.
I can't even begin to try and imagine how many resources go into getting this many players, support, staff, and production. I just sit on screen and hope that I give it justice.
So, what does it mean for me? You have Red Bull giving justice to a level of play that is not necessarily given the spotlight often. I went and did my bachelor's degree at one university, and my master's degree at another, and I loved university. So to give these players legitimacy in the early parts of their career, they might quote this one day when they win champions of being the start of their career as well.
I consider this a very serious part of the VALORANT ecosystem now.
It is interesting as it's primarily an American system where they have collegiate-level competitions and look to promote and develop players from within education.
Do you see this style and specifically the Red Bull Campus Clutch as a good and viable path to pro? Obviously, not many TOs have deployed this system before in esports and VALORANT is the only time we ever see a collegiate-level tournament on this scale. Do you actually see it as a good viable path?
Absolutely. This event has continued throughout the years, more eyes have been put on a bunch of players after "shalaby" got spotted and scouted by Vitality. That was such a massive moment and we really highlighted that in the second year in Sao Paulo where we got together and said, "We can't believe that this actually did work as intended". It is a path to pro. We can prove that it is a path to pro. There are other players who play competitively in tier two too. I can only imagine what the LAN experience can give them.
I've been a coach. I know what it's like to scout players. If a player comes to me and goes, "Yeah, I have LAN experience and I can give you the VOD," my God, what a goldmine. That is awesome on your CV.
I know we've had a bit of discussion recently about the VALORANT tier two scene and the leagues underneath the VCT. What do you think needs to be done in order to give players like this and elsewhere in the pipeline a little bit more of a chance to get into the elite teams?
I think it's tricky because the moment you start to dismantle how important tier one is, and you start to give more chances to those underneath, the less foundation and seriousness tier one can be given.
So I think a lot of it is a bit self-made. It's hard to say that because if you come from countries where accessibility is a problem or language is a problem, that's always going to be tricky. But that's the lay of the land, even for traditional sports. So you really have to put in the hours. You really have to be able to have the resources to do so.
Do I think it needs to come from the publisher? Yes and no. I think there needs to be a viable way to make it into tier two. I think that scene is not under-resourced per se, but I think it's underrepresented in the way that it could be used as a scouting ground, the same way it was used in Siege back in the day.
Whilst people are here it's going to be a lot of learning about how deep your map pool is, how deep your agent pool is, and playing against compositions you've probably never played before because each region has their own nuances that are displayed in their gameplay
But, what do you make of the most recent agent to be added to Iso, and is he competitively viable?
In the current meta, I wouldn't personally take Iso.
I've watched a lot of different pros and content creators of high level speak about ISO being fun and gimmicky on certain maps to an extent. Maybe there are certain strategies that could work, but if you're getting that far down in the duelist realm of things to go "it could be viable here, it could be viable there," at that point, he's too niche.
So I think ISO fits in the niche area. Maybe if things change up in the meta, maybe if a certain map got added where it'd just be insane to have his kit, but it's not unique enough and not powerful enough compared to the other duelists where I would say that I would run him over a bunch of others.
Even in a double duelist setup, I wouldn't even be putting him in my comp nine times out of ten. So at the moment, no. In Ranked, sure, I love it, I love the Ulti, and I think it's fun, but fun doesn't win games.
Given your Rainbow Six expertise at what point does the VALORANT agent pool begin to confuse newer players and subsequently deteriorate the amateur scene given the vastly growing team comps?
I think what VALORANT has going for them is that Riot markets VALORANT so heavily. It's one of the most marketed FPS games in the world. It started off with a bang for a reason. They had the resources to do so.
Ubisoft wasn't able necessarily to do that with Siege and they still don't do that with Siege. I think, while the learning curve for Siege is really high, there are not enough resources to learn all of the operators either in or outside of the game, unfortunately.
Whereas VALORANT has such an ecosystem it's like FOMO. If you're not playing VALORANT, you're missing out. Whereas if you're not playing Siege, it's like, "Oh, it's okay. I'll play CS. I'll play Val. I'll play whatever." You're not really missing out on Siege strats, necessarily.
I think that with the FOMO and the marketing that goes with it, players will just have to play VALORANT. So for me, I just think players, even if the amateur scene might crumble a little bit, there is always going to be a meta, and if you keep up with the meta, you'll probably do well enough.
Just to add on to that a little bit, when you get to this level (of the Red Bull Campus Clutch standard), does it create a void between the pros at the highest level who can dedicate eight hours a day to learn agent competitions, in comparison to those who have full-time education or employment and yet are still looking to spark a career at this level?
I would say without a dedicated tier two and tier three scene, there's not a lot of incentive to want to put the hours in. You're not getting resources to do so, so you do have to get jobs, you do have to do all of those other things in life, so there will be a gap.
The divide will grow as more agents get added as the game becomes more difficult, more maps, and everything's rotated in and out.
But that's the growth of a game, and unless you keep it stagnant the way CSGO did, or rather CS2 now, where it's the same map, same guns, same recoil power, and no other abilities, you can't avoid it. The best you can do is educate the player base.
I think Riot needs to add a little bit more inside the game to make sure that the amateur scene does have an opportunity to rise up.
Would you have any advice for anybody here today who's been competing over the weekend that can help them spur on their career?
If you played this weekend, especially if you played on camera at all, clip it, take the whole VOD, put it in your CV, and make a showreel out of it.
This is what talent does to get picked up. They send this off to people. You send a video of you playing on LAN and fist-bumping someone else and a coach of a tier two or tier one team sees that they will instantly give you extra credibility. You will get picked up if you take yourself seriously, you treat it like a traditional job outside of esports.
Build your resume, and make it look flashy. Being here at a very big, flashy, high-resource event is going to add to that. That's all you can do really and beg for people to look at you because no one's just going to see you unless you're the wonder kid. So show them what you can do, explain it, and then hopefully, yeah, you get more trials.