Unsung Heroes of the FGC: Saki Sakura

By on March 8, 2021

saki sakura's photo portrait

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.

Roughly 2,500 years ago, a Greek physician wrote a moral code that we now know as the Hippocratic Oath. Although famous for its insistence that patients not be injured, the phrase “First, do no harm” is not actually the first instruction in the Oath. Traditionally, the physician’s creed begins with a very different obligation, namely, the duty “to impart precepts, oral instruction, and all other education to my own children, the children of my teacher, and to indentured pupils who have taken the Healer’s oath.”

The lesson is one of humility. No matter how skilled or respected you may be by yourself, you’ll only unlock your true potential when you enable others to contribute as well. It’s an insight that the Fighting Game Community’s Saki Sakura takes to heart. “I believe in helping each other,” she says. “We all need to eat. Not just one person.” She sees incredible potential in the FGC. And to help unlock it, she’s doing everything she can to elevate those around her.

Each One Teach One

Saki’s story is one of change. Despite being a longtime gamer, her first fighter was Mortal Kombat 11. The design and gameplay of the 2019 release appealed to her, but it was the community that sealed the deal. “I felt like I didn’t really belong in other gaming communities. Coming to the FGC and talking with the most positive and supportive people, that changed immediately.” Through Babeality, a now-defunct group for women and non-binary MK players, Saki found a “space [that] was not only safe, but supportive and encouraging.” 

Around the same time, she was working towards a degree in TV production. But as she learned more about herself and her aspirations, that, too, changed. Now she’s pursuing a career in education. And while she studies, she puts all of her skills to use in the FGC. As a commentator, she draws on her teaching background to provide the type of technical match analysis that can help audiences to understand the notoriously complex dynamics of a fighting game match.

In her role as a TO, she uses her production skills to host Queen of the Hill, a tournament series that gives other women the same opportunities for growth and connection that Saki found through Babeality. As someone who joined the FGC for its warmth and openness, she knows how good it feels to be welcomed. “If you know no one,” she says, “it’s a very nerve-wracking experience.” By producing Queen of the Hill, she helps the community to learn that women aren’t second-class citizens and that they, too, are deserving of the spotlight.

Share And Share Alike

Yet for all the work she does in the open, some of her most important contributions happen entirely behind the scenes. In between doing commentary, running her own events, and going to school, Saki acts as a one-woman tech support team for streamers and content creators in the MK community.

To most members of the FGC, content just happens. Unless a broadcast crashes or experiences a major disaster, most fighting gamers are content to joke that “streaming is a blowup” and then move on. But tournaments and other events place ever-shifting technical and logistical demands on their staffs. Without sharing information with one another, event owners would still be back in the streaming Stone Age. By making herself available to her community, Saki prevents harmful information gatekeeping, thereby making the entire FGC a better place.

A New Oath

Of course, she also has personal goals for her own growth. She’s still polishing her Jade, Sindel, and Mileena, and she’s eager to pick up Zato=1 in Guilty Gear -Strive-. In the longer term, she wants to earn her Twitch partnership and commentate a major. But by answering her colleagues’ questions nearly every day of the week, Saki works towards a more lively, more Hippocratic FGC.

“People like that have every right to their opinion,” she says. But vitriolic negativity “doesn’t encourage new people to join.” By using her platform to elevate those who make concrete, selfless contributions to the community, she hopes to teach the FGC how to mature. Competitive matches may be winner-take-all, but a polished game, a compelling documentary, or a well-run event will help everyone.

She understands that her mission will have its challenges. There are still too many people in the FGC who actively flock to toxic media personalities. It will be hard to convince them to find a better way. But pre-modern medicine had a long way to go, too. So who knows? If she keeps pushing for the change that she believes in, future fighting gamers might look back on this era and thank the creator of Saki’s Oath.

To support Saki, follow her personal accounts on Twitter and Twitch as well as the official Queen of the Hill Series Twitter account.

Eli Horowitz is a writer who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Find him on Twitter and buy Bodied, his FGC novel, here.

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