When VALORANT game designer Ryan “rycou” Cousart heard the news in a meeting that the Riot Games tactical shooter was making a character from his home country, he was thankful that his camera was off. The designer, the first of his Filipino family to be born in North America, couldn’t speak for a few minutes because he was so full of emotions, and tears.
“I’m a Filipino designer, so the opportunity to help bring a Filipina agent to life in VALORANT is an absolute blessing to me all the way down to the core,” rycou said in a press release for the new agent.
Neon, VALORANT’s newest Filipino agent, was a hit almost from her tease. The Duelist was quickly championed by the Filipino community, along with the usual excitement and dread from a new character release in a live-service game.
— ziegfield 🐕💨 | Commissions open! 🐸 (@mziegfield) January 6, 2022
The lightening fast character is voiced by a Filipino voice actor Vanille Velasquez, who also created an original song for the character for her trailer. Neon was given a seal of approval by Velasquez and the online community for the authenticity surrounding her release and representation.
btw to whoever at Riot added the Gilas jersey in Neon’s room: my dad approves very much 😂 https://t.co/XPm03uP65Z
— Vanille Velasquez 💚⚡️💙 (@vanillevela) January 6, 2022
That authenticity can be attributed to rycou and the South East Asian Riot team, according to rycou.
“I think [August ‘August’ Browning] and [John Goscicki] really put their trust in me and some of the ideas I had for driving her culture and making sure we’re doing a lot of things authentically like how we share it and some of the ways we executed on Neon so super grateful for that and I’m glad it came off as authentic,” rycou said in a Q&A session for the new agent. “And we couldn’t have done it without all the other Filipinos on the team as well as our SEA team.”
When asked about the Filipino community’s response online to Neon, rycou said that it felt heartwarming to see people from his country, and other communities who play the game, share and boost the news.
“It’s crazy, I’m kind of speechless a little bit because it’s too early to be crying but it’s been awesome because I think video games in the Philippines has been something that’s been pretty big and there’s been a lot of difficulties in gaming with each other, a lot of it is vey communal you know with the internet infrastructure in the Philippines being somewhat iffy in the past and we are seeing a lot more improvements in that area,” he said.
Neon is VALORANT’s nineteenth agent and is the sixteenth different nationally to be represented in the game. Only one country, America, has more than one representative, and two other agents are a robot and shadow monster without a stated home in the game’s lore or by the developers.
“It’s cool to see that we’ve been able to have this type of global reach and to have underrepresented communities, or cultures even, in gaming,” rycou said.
Editors Note: This article incorrectly identified Ryan “rycou” Cousart as being born in the Philippines. It has since been updated.