The Women of EVO
Photo: Christine Solis / Checkpoint XP
This is my first year at Evolution Champion Series (EVO). I admit that I’m not as knowledgeable in the fighting game community (FGC) category as my fellow Checkpoint XP colleague, Norris. But EVO is the biggest FGC event of the year and it took place my backyard, Las Vegas. I was curious about this community of gamers and esports pros, and I planned to check it out. I’m happy that I did as the FGC is more welcoming than any other convention that I’ve ever been to. Here, I’m highlighting the women of FGC as they are the true fighters!
“The Women of The FGC” Panel
The first thing that caught my eye for EVO was a panel called “Women of the FGC,” hosted by Combo Queens. I just had to check this out. The room was packed! Not just with women and LGBTQ+ folks, but men also came to the panel to support this wonderful group.
The panel is moderated by Carolyn Dao, also known as “Mama Dao” and co-founder of Combo Queens. Another member of the panel is Samantha “Persia” Hancock, commentator and founder of XO Academy. Both XO Academy and Combo Queens help and support women in the FGC.
The panelists covered all facets of the FGC, both front and back end. Some of the players included Ricki Ortiz, Sherry “Sherryjenix” Nhan, and Marine “Mahreen” Sivongsa all of which are pro Street Fighter V players. Ricki is one of the veteran players, having placed 2nd in the Capcom Pro Tour in 2016. Sherryjenix has a program called eFight Pass, which helps foreign players get their visas to travel to United States. If it wasn’t for eFight Pass, we may have not seen Arslan Ash become EVO’s Tekken World Champion. Mahreen is the baby of the group. She is an XO Academy alumni, but already has the FGC keeping a close eye on her progress.
Caitlyn “Eidelonn” Thiher is a veteran to the FGC. She works behind the scenes as a tournament organizer, and is also co-director of Combo Breaker, another huge FGC event during the year. Emily “NyxRose” Tran is CEO and co-founder of Equinox Gaming (EQNX), a competitive FGC team that started at CEO 2018. Last, but certainly not the least, Junae Benne is an esports journalist as well as a streamer and caster. She helped launch The Black Girl Gamers, and during PAX East 2017, her panel “Creating A Safe Space for Black Girl Gamers” took off.
Each woman on the panel took turns answering questions, sharing their experiences, and giving advice to the room. Listening to each of the women tell their stories hit my heart with emotion and belonging, and I started crying during the panel. This is the kind of space that is needed to show we are not alone in the gaming world! Despite each having their own story of harassment and trolling, these women put on their toughest skin and continue doing what they love to do. This panel was recorded, courtesy of Cross Counter TV. You can check out the archives of the panel here.
The Climb to Top 20!
I admitted on Not Your Player 2 that I was not into the FGC scene as much and have not heard recently of women succeeding in the space. After that statement, I was proven wrong! Mahreen had done well in CEO 2019, taking a win over long time FGC veteran Ryo “Dogura” Nozaki. This year’s EVO also proved even more that the women are out there fighting and ready to take the reins.
Ten years ago in EVO 2009, Marie-Laure “Kayane” Norindr placed 9th in Soul Calibur IV, which is still in the Top 10 win. However, Kayane was determined to make it to the main stage. This year, she rose to the Top 8 of Soul Calibur VI and placed 7th out of 746 entrants, giving her a spot on the main stage.
In Tekken 7, Jeannail “Cuddle Core” Carter of EQNX Gaming put in the work! She made her way out from one of the most difficult pools before she faced Arslan Ash. Arslan Ash eventually became EVO’s World Champion in Tekken, but Cuddle Core still put up a fight! She walked away with a smile and many supporters congratulating her! Cuddle Core placed 13th out of 1,899 Tekken entrants. That’s still a win in my books! We’ll also be keeping an eye out for her in Tekken World Tour as she is currently placed 49th. We hope to see her in next year’s EVO, dominating once again.
Unfortunate Situations at the After Party
I fully enjoyed my time at EVO 2019. However, after all the excitement dwindled down, unfortunate news came about a day after. Two women, including content creator, Zorine Te, revealed that they were sexually harassed at EVO’s Official After Party at the HyperX Esports Arena. In other reports, CEO Gaming Tournament Organizer, TongNeverSleeps, claims he was drugged by a drink intended for a female friend. Before we put any blame on anyone, the after party was open to the public as well. So, there is no telling who did these acts. However, instead of focusing hard on what happened, we need to focus on the lessons learned and steps for the future.
We applaud HyperX Esports Arena and Luxor security and personnel for handling the situation quickly. Reports of these unfortunate situations angered the FGC. It banded gamers together and reminded us to watch each other’s backs not just for women, but for everyone.
The Winners at EVO
Despite the unfortunate events after EVO, the women and the FGC together come out as the winners. I’ve seen more women enter the FGC and the men become accepting and welcoming of them. I wish that I could have listed all the women at EVO. Each is a winner at heart! Check out Combo Queens on Twitter as they gave a shout out to some of the women of EVO, whether they were competing in a tournament, covering for media, at their own booth at the Artist Alley, cosplaying, or even casting for a tournament.
I also have to shout out to the FGC and EVO as a whole. It was the most welcoming experience I’ve ever had. I rode solo for the event. I sat down to eat lunch at the food court, and a couple guys just started talking to me about EVO and our love for video games. Watching pools, there was always someone who would turn to me and just start talking about the action going on. Thank you, FGC and EVO! I find myself looking forward to other FGC events and EVO 2020!
EVO 2019 Championship Sunday & Final Results
Go1’s Emotional Win and The First Two Days Of EVO
Interview with Justin Wong, Pro FGC Veteran Player
Interview with Samantha “Persia” Hancock, Founder of XO Academy
5 Things to Check Out At EVO 2019
Need a podcast about esports and video gaming from a female perspective? Check out Not Your Player 2, hosted by Christine and Sarah!
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