I've been playing a lot of Valorant lately. I'm a very social person normally, spending many weekends and weekday evenings out with friends, and I stream story heavy games in the evening. And even with all these other activities, I've got Valorant on my mind, wishing just a little bit to be at home playing the game. Hell, I'm at work writing this article because I know I have to play that game tonight.
It was hard to get used to Valorant at first, as I'd never played a Counter-Strike game. Coming from Overwatch was almost a hindrance as learning to stop moving before taking a shot, alongside brutal recoil, and spray patterns was a pain in the ass. But I've thrown myself into Valorant in recent months and it finally got me into competitive play too. Previously I'd been mostly a "I play games for fun" sort but Valorant beat that right out of me. Unrated is boring and ranked is the only good version of Valorant. What's the point of playing if you're not earning that shiny, shiny RR?
Months ago I started my ranked adventure, and placed lower than anticipated in Bronze 2. With the mindset of proving Riot wrong, I quickly ranked up into Silver and if you've played Valorant you know Silver is hell. You have the best and the worst players you've experienced rolled into one massive melting point of talent and getting out of Silver is hard because you have no clue what sort of players you'll get if you're not in a five stack. You could have appeased the Riot gods and be gifted on a glistening platter a smurfing Immortal player, or on the other hand, someone who doesn't seem to know a single call, sound cue, or smoke placement. According to Esports Tales, as of when I'm writing this article, about 25% of Valorant players are in Silver. That's a lot of people filtering into the same games.
Good as gold
Eventually I clawed my way out of Silver and reached the heady heights of Gold, where the player base stabilises significantly. The ability to predict other players is easier because we've all watched pros play, we're all making an effort, and genuinely want to win. Gold isn't exactly great but it's a much more consistent game-to-game experience than Silver ever is. Roughly 20% of players are currently in Gold.
But now I'm at the top of Gold. Gold 3. And I am one game away from getting Platinum. And I'm nervous. For me, ranking up to Platinum feels like I'd have gotten pretty good at the game. That's not to say that I'm brilliant or anything, and many people can find their way easily into Plat without resistance. But just months ago the game was saying I was Bronze, and now, I've proved otherwise.
The games are a different standard up here already. I'm sometimes queuing with Ascendants and Diamonds because of the nature of five-stacking with some higher level accounts, and I'm holding my own against them. Yet Valorant is a completely different game now. The confidence you have to have, the room for error, and the way you hold your breath as you try and clutch a round is a new level of tense. I know I'm practically a Platinum player, I can and have outfragged Plats in the past, including just yesterday. But knowing I haven't been playing my best recently, and knowing that I just need one win, one small little win to feel like I'm a competitive Valorant player, is just so… well, I'm sure many of you know what I mean. I know you do because a guy begged us to win a game just last night.
We loaded into the map Fracture (already grim) and a random player took to his comms to say "please, please can we win this game, this is my rank-up game for Plat". Rather than playing one of my mains, I decided, for the sake of this complete stranger on the internet, to fill as Sage so we had healing and some way to slow enemies taking sites. I'd do my best for this player. And we won, just about. It was touch-and-go but we made it and I could hear the sigh of relief as this random guy clutched the last round and mumbled GG into his mic. He had done it, he'd earned a new pixelated badge in a game.
And now I want that badge. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't mean much: Platinum isn't even that good in the world of Valorant. Making it to Platinum 1 puts you in the top 28% of players which means there is still considerable room for improvement. And honestly, I've climbed ranks so consistently over the past months that I'll probably be in Platinum by the end of the week, even if I lose this one game.
But here I am, willing myself to be the best, most focused version of Imogen I can be for this game tonight. And if you're like me and are putting off a rank-up game, know you're not alone. We've all been a little nervous about it before, and will be again. Hopefully I get the opportunity to be this nervous once I'm on the way to Diamond.
Update: I'm platinum now heh.