Unsung Heroes is our series about the many members of the Fighting Game Community who work behind the scenes to make our community a vibrant, positive, exciting place to be. If you would like to submit your own Unsung Heroes, contact us here or @toptiergg.
In recent years, philosophers have begun to discuss so-called “epistemically transformative” experiences. Put simply, an epistemically transformative experience is one that provides information that can’t be acquired any other way. The classic example is having a child. Although all of us know that parents love their children, the only way to fully understand parental love is to have a child of your own.
The same thing is true of finding your place in the world. Just ask Flexiss, a Tournament Organizer, commentator, and streamer in the Fighting Game Community. These days, the Phoenix, Arizona native knows exactly who she is and where she belongs. But it wasn’t always that way. “I was always pretty hard on myself growing up,” she recalls. “Like most kids who didn’t want to get bullied, I ditched a lot of things that brought me joy.”
Those things included anime, goth aesthetics, alternative music – and, yes, gaming. But now, as a contributing member of the FGC, Flexiss is making up for lost time. Along the way, she’s helping to make her community a safer, stronger, and more fun place to be.
A Positive Voice
There are lots of people who want to have a voice in the FGC. For Flexiss, the dream is literal. Ever since a friend named Shaun “Shaundude” Oyakawa encouraged her to do some commentary for her local tournament, she’s been hooked on it. “I’d love to someday make commentary a full time job, or at least something where I can make a living off of,” she says.
In the meantime, she’s keeping herself busy with a range of other projects. She streams frequently, but unlike many fighting game streamers, she doesn’t beat her head against the wall of ranked mode. “It’s one way to measure your skill,” she says, “but I don’t think it should be the only way. I feel playing in lobbies give better opportunities for me to grow as a player and commentator. I get a chance to ask questions and test scenarios, and I love a little friendly competitiveness.” Her approach also helps her and her viewers to avoid burnout. “I’m big on fostering a positive mindset,” she says, “[and] I’ve seen some people in the scene put such heavy value on their points, that it tears down their self esteem as a player.”
Queen of Queens
Still, that’s not to say that she doesn’t appreciate the competitive side of the community. In keeping with her horror roots, Flexiss’s first fighter was Mortal Kombat. And even though she now focuses on sharpening her Chun-Li in Street Fighter and her Lei Wulong in Tekken, she also plays Hisako, the vengeful ghost from Killer Instinct.
She promotes competition in other ways, too. After running all-woman lobbies for Ladies’ Night FC, Flexiss got involved with Queens of Quarantine, an online tournament with an all-woman staff as well as an all-woman bracket. “As a woman in the FGC,” she says, “I’ve been able to connect with other women and form bonds with them on a level I never really was able to before…I can’t even begin to express the love, warmth, and support some of these women have for each other.” By providing dedicated spaces for women, she hopes to push back against the pressure “to go above and beyond just to show that, as a female, I’m allowed to be here.”
Equality, Strength, Responsibility, Piety
The challenges that women face in the FGC have been well-documented. But the benefits can be even more profound. Flexiss says that joining the FGC was a “pivotal moment” in her life because it “gave me this sense of belonging that I’d never had before growing up.” This is the epistemic transformation that philosophers have recently begun to study. What do people learn from reaching a turning point in their lives? How do they change?
For Flexiss, the decision was simple: she dived even more deeply into the FGC. She got tattoos of two of her mains, Hisako and Chun-Li, the latter of which is a celebration of her new community. (Better yet, the tattoo artist, Picasso “25ft Phantom” Dular, is a fighting gamer himself.) Taking even more inspiration from Chun as well as Lei Wulong, she also started taking kung fu classes before the outbreak of COVID-19.
The martial arts have helped her to form stronger bonds with her characters. They’ve also reinforced her commitment to using her platform for good. “It probably sounds cheesy,” she says, laughing, “but there are a lot of values built into kung fu that resonate with me, like equality, strength, responsibility and filial piety.” She describes her father as “the kindest man I’ve ever met.” To follow his example, she ran several charity streams in 2020, raising over $2,000 in total. This year, she plans on doing even more charity events, thereby doing her part to ensure that the FGC is an uplifting presence in the world.
In fact, you could say that this is the ultimate answer to the questions posed by epistemically transformative experiences. When someone undergoes one of those experiences, she changes – and because she changes, she becomes a force for change. Flexiss’s fighting game story is still only getting started, and no one knows how far she’ll go. But one thing is for certain: to give back what the FGC gave to her, she’ll never stop working to transform the community for the better.