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From Game Changers to Game Cheaters: Two Pro VALORANT Players Implicated by Riot Games in Cheating Scandal

VALORANT’s Game Changers league has some of the best players in the world – and as it turns out, some of the sneakiest too. Here are the juicy details on the latest cheating scandal that rocked VALORANT esports.

Game Changers is one of the most prestigious VALORANT competitions in the world. The Riot Games-sponsored tournament aims to bridge the gap between genders in competitive esports – and send a message that every player has the potential to become a star. Viewership of women’s esports is rising, VALORANT had the highest prize pool for women in esports in 2024 and Riot Games has constantly supported its female competitors and those of marginalized groups. 

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This care has fostered incredible players such as Sonder, mimi, meL and florescent who are paving the way to co-ed esports and inspiring millions of players. The hard work these talents put into their career and the great strides they are taking make what Riot has just announced even more upsetting: two high-level Game Changers players were revealed to be cheating and blacklisted from future Riot Games tournament participation. This is the story of malibu and summertime, and how their actions resulted in a Game Changers team’s fall from grace.

Round One: The Beginning of the Suspicious Saga

Players Madelyn “malibu” Campos and James “summertime” Edwards both competed under noot noot, a Game Changers team that participated in the 2023 Qualifiers and competed against well-known teams such as Complexity G3 and Disguised (DSG). Watchers took special note of malibu – her shots were clean, almost unnaturally crisp. Signed to a professional esports team, malibu was talented, stunningly beautiful and personable – she was poised to become a VALORANT star. What could go wrong?

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The answer: members of noot noot had received allegations in October 2023 of cheating in a Qualifiers match against Complexity G3 in 2023. The team has won over $5,250 in tournaments – while nowhere near Cloud 9 VALORANT’s winnings of over $230,000, this is no small change. The cheating players in the allegations were not originally specified and noot noot was incredibly vague in its statements, leaving many followers confused. The disgraced team posted a single comment on Twitter, accompanied by an image from Riot Games notifying them of a disqualification ruling: “Unfortunately our GC3 run ends as we have been disqualified by Riot. We have no more information as to why this has happened, we are waiting on more information. Sorry to all the fans.”

Trailblazing In: The rabbit hole deepens

While noot noot and Riot Games were clandestine during the ordeal, fans and industry members began to speculate – and some were right on the money. YouTuber Disguised Toast, who owned a Game Changers team that played against noot noot, immediately called out malibu for cheats stating in a video “Check her PC.” Renowned Twitter account VALORANT News commented on the later ruling, “Certainly remember posting the videos of Malibu [...] and some of you were saying they weren’t that bad” (of course with the obligatory VALORANT ‘skull emoji x7’).

As conversation simmered, users took to Twitter to hilariously post their VALORANT clips that seemed crisp enough to be aimbot and adorn them with ‘noot noot malibu’ related captions. Another ingenious Twitter sleuth ran malibu’s official profile image through an image analyzer, revealing that it was likely AI-generated. Others noticed certain accounts that played the same agents as malibu would often queue with noot noot members, and one of them was overtly tagged “#mali”. News also surfaced that VALORANT once banned malibu on an alt account named “spazddd” and she was thus ban evading on the malibu account.

Twitter discourse grew more contentious by the day, with fans torn whether malibu was guilty or innocent. Game Changers star florescent originally commented that malibu and noot noot’s overall play “seems normal in the vod idk what to tell you [sic].” Others fumed against malibu’s behavior and believed DSG should be reinstated in the tournament due to an unfair loss if the noot noot allegations were true.

The Real-Life Cypher Ult: Riot Games reveals the truth

The noot noot investigation continued throughout November and December until Riot Games finally released a scathing official statement. On January 16th, 2023, Riot Games condemned Campos, a competitor in the Game Changers qualifiers match, for “providing false information, playing with another player’s account and circumventing a hardware ban imposed on her by the Riot Games anti-cheat team.” The assertion comes with no small punishment – future tournaments will likely blacklist malibu, and the company has stated that “Madelyn is permanently banned from any association or affiliation with a team in any Riot-sanctioned competition, as of the day of publication of this ruling.”

Riot Games confirmed that malibu had been previously warned for her cheating behavior but had used a new computer and account to participate in the Game Changers tournament. In addition, teammate summertime had knowingly assisted her in evading Riot Games’ AnyKey tournament verification process. The company confirmed what Twitter had already discovered: “Summer selected and submitted an AI-generated picture (to represent Madelyn) to the Tournament Operator with Madelyn’s consent.”

Of the noot noot team, Riot Games only found evidence that summertime knew of malibu’s shady behavior. It is unknown if any other parties participated in the violations. Riot Games did confirm that higher-ranked players may have boosted malibu: the company cited Article 7.1.14 of the Riot Games Terms of Services against her stating “Playing on another person’s account or otherwise engaging in activity intended to “boost” an account’s status or rank” as a violation.

Sage Walled Off Forever: The future for malibu and summertime

As for malibu and summertime’s official punishment, Riot Games decided that

“Due to the severe nature of the above described violations, Madelyn ‘Malibu’ Campos is permanently banned from any association or affiliation with a team in any Riot-sanctioned competition, as of the day of publication of this ruling. James ‘Summertime’ Edwards is banned from any association or affiliation with a team in a Riot-sanctioned competition for one (1) year, as of the day of publication of this ruling.”

After such a scandal, how can a player continue in esports? Even Riot Games-unaffiliated tournaments will likely turn malibu and summer away for their unsavory histories. The allegations utterly destroyed noot noot’s reputation, and malibu and summertime will be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to sign them with an official Riot Games statement pinning damning cheating evidence to their names. Even though summertime’s punishment is limited to a year, its effect and implications will follow far into the future.

Game Changers participants, sponsors and partners have worked tirelessly to advance women and marginalized genders in esports. This scandal casts a dark shadow over the organization, which strives endlessly to be positive and supportive. Riot Games wrote in their statement,

“By providing false information during the AnyKey verification process, Madelyn’s actions impacted the program at its core. Considered in its entirety, Madelyn’s behavior jeopardized the integrity of the match and the competition as whole, bringing into disrepute Riot Games and its affiliates. Her behavior also had a negative impact on her teammates and other tournament participants.”

Notably, Riot Games “opened formal disciplinary proceedings against Madelyn and Summer, providing them with an opportunity to submit a statement. Neither responded.”

As VALORANT players say, after a loss streak, you should probably hop off the game – malibu and summertime might do well to stay out of the spotlight for a while.