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Beyond Gaming: VALORANT's Tribute to Chongqing's Vibrant Culture

By QIHAI DENG|Jan 30,2024

Chongqing - Connected with Wensen Zeng, Head of Valorant CN Publishing, Julius from iChongqing unveiled the behind-the-scenes story of creating Valorant's agent "ISO." From street fashion to local cuisine and to pop music, this new hero from Chongqing has become a conduit for the world to understand the unique cultural elements of Chongqing, allowing global players a glimpse into the distinctive cultural features of Chongqing people.

In the world of video gaming, character creation is an art that transcends mere aesthetics, embodying cultural narratives and regional ethos. Riot Games' Valorant, a groundbreaking tactical shooter, recently introduced a character named ISO, hailing from the vibrant city of Chongqing, China. This decision marked a departure from the conventional focus on major cities like Beijing and Shanghai, shining a spotlight on the lesser-known yet culturally rich Chongqing.

The inception of ISO was rooted in the desire to represent China beyond its well-known metropolises. The development team at Valorant embarked on this journey with extensive research and insights from their Chinese teammates, many of whom hailed from Chongqing. This local connection offered a treasure trove of nuanced details critical in crafting a character that resonated with authenticity.

"Dualist from Chongqing" poster of a promotional campaign in Chongqing. (Photo/RiotGames)

Chongqing is a pulsating hub for street and experimental culture in China, known for setting trends and inspiring others. This city's ethos aligns perfectly with Valorant's vision of creating trendsetters. As a dualist agent, ISO embodies the spirit of a pioneer, someone unafraid to push boundaries and redefine norms. His roots in a city revered for its trendsetting in fashion and music position him as a natural "Renegade" in the game's universe.

Designing ISO: weaving Chongqing into every thread

The streets of Chongqing are brimming with a cyberpunk vibe. (Photo/Visual Chongqing)

When it came to designing ISO, the focus was on mirroring the city's contemporary fashion scene, particularly its blend of techwear and streetwear. The aim was to craft an agent that felt like a modern player, someone you might encounter at a university, stylish yet relatable. Every element of ISO, from his clothing and shoes to his hairstyle and earbuds, draws inspiration from Chongqing's local fashion and culture. This approach ensures that ISO is not just a character in a game but a reflection of the people playing it.

Challenges in character creation

Creating a character like ISO was challenging. The biggest hurdle was ensuring a genuine and modern representation of Chongqing, a task laden with risks given the developers' geographical and cultural distance. It required a blend of conversation, research, and trust. The team was particularly mindful of avoiding generic representations, focusing instead on Chongqing's unique nuances and subcultures. This dedication to authenticity was a testament to their commitment to honoring the city's unique identity.

ISO's costume and hairstyle design were inspired by the streetwear in Chongqing. (Photo/RiotGames)

Thus, the Valorant team collaborated with local artists and cultural experts from Chongqing and Sichuan to ensure accuracy and authenticity in ISO's design language. This included their local publisher and partner, Tencent, who provided invaluable insights for this city. Their involvement was crucial in maintaining a balance between staying true to Chongqing's culture and making ISO relatable to a global audience.

A Continued Cultural Exploration

Looking ahead, Riot Games plans to continue exploring Chongqing's culture and potentially other Chinese cities. This exploration will be woven into ISO's background through various game elements such as lore, player cards, sprays, voice-over, and cinematics. This ongoing cultural integration reflects the game's commitment to diversity and global representation.

Bridging Cultures Through Gaming

The introduction of ISO is expected to impact Valorant's global player community significantly. It offers players a window into Chongqing's culture, including its street culture, cuisine, and fashion. This is already evident in ISO's soundtrack, 'Renegade,' by the region's rising underground rapper, 99God. The character serves as a cultural ambassador, educating players about a part of the world they might not be familiar with while enriching their gaming experience.

More than just a game

The introduction of ISO in Valorant is more than just the addition of a new agent. It's a celebration of Chongqing's vibrant culture and an acknowledgment of the diverse narratives that shape our world. Through ISO, players from all over the world are invited to explore the streets of Chongqing, taste its spicy flavors, and embrace its trendsetting spirit. In doing so, Valorant isn't just a tactical shooter; it becomes a gateway to global understanding and appreciation of Chongqing as well as China.

(Special Thanks To Wensen Zeng & John Goscicki from Riot Games.)


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