Why SonicFox winning TGA’s eSports Player of the Year is so important for the FGC

Last night, Echo Fox’s own SonicFox raised an award on one of the biggest stages in games media- The Game Awards. He had won a category that was stacked with fantastic players and legends in their own rights- eSports Player of the Year. There was not a single small name on the ballot to be seen. Dominique “SonicFox” McLean was nominated alongside fellow fighting game legend Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi, League of Legends player Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao, CS:GO legend Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, and one of the greatest Overwatch players on the planet Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang. Not a single name on that list is to be taken lightly- all are some of the best gamers on the planet in their fields, but SonicFox walked to the stage as the most dominant player of them all.

It wasn’t to be unexpected, as reading the accomplishments of McLean throughout 2018 is akin to looking at a page in the Guinness Book of World Records for fighting game tournament wins. In 2018 alone, SonicFox made 1st place at DreamHack Austin in DBFZ, 1st place at VSFighting in DBFZ, 1st at Evolution Championship Series in DBFZ, 1st at SoCal Regionals in Injustice 2, 1st at Canada Cup in DBFZ, 1st at Canada Cup again in Soul Calibur VI, and finished off his winning year by winning the Injustice 2 Pro Series Grand Finals. That list is only comprised of his first place wins at each tournament- he ranked Top 8 at 12 other events this year. There is not a single fighter on the planet that can boast a winning record this extensive and across multiple titles.

This isn’t why his winning the award is important, however. It’s who he is and what came on stage that mattered most: SonicFox announced on national television that he’s “gay, black, a furry- pretty much everything a Republican hates- and the best esports player of the year, I guess! Thank you so much!”

The specific shoutouts to the black and LGBTQ+ communities and acknowledging his own sexuality on stage is virtually unprecedented at the level that SonicFox has done so. While the FGC often claims to be the most diverse fan base of gamers around, harassment of women and members of the LGBTQ+ community is quite commonplace in the scene, occasionally to the point of outright ostracization of certain community members simply for their identity or sexuality. Even calling out high-profile members of the FGC can net people harassment and bigotry- even if they are not women or part of the LGBTQ+ community.

In the world outside of gaming, LGBTQ+ youth are twice as likely to be homeless than straight youth, LGBTQ+ people are three times more likely to experience a mental health condition including depression or post traumatic stress disorder, and LGBTQ+ people are significantly more likely to encounter harassment, victimization, or violence than straight peers. All of these factors are added to the daily discrimination of being black in modern American society. SonicFox specifically called out Republicans, who have a long history of attempting to restrict or deny basic human rights to LGBTQ+ people and black Americans. Life does not exist in a vacuum- these are daily realities for LGBTQ people and black people in America.

SonicFox went onto that stage and announced that he overcame vast inequalities in the American societal system to become the most dominant fighting game player in the world. But more than that, he did it as a black, gay furry. PrinceZexu on Twitter detailed a comprehensive thread on why this is even more important in competitive gaming and articulates it better than I probably could, so be sure to check his thoughts out there. But SonicFox went onto that stage, accurately declared himself to be the winner, and threw his identity into the faces of the largest group of people who held him back throughout the journey in ways not limited to competitive gaming. That is important, that is notable, and, frankly, that is awesome.

At the end of the day, there are three tweets from SonicFox that sum up his win:

sonic1sonic2sonic3

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