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.
If you tried to understand Sheila “dapurplesharpie” Moore by combing through a list of her contributions to the Fighting Game Community, you could get overwhelmed pretty quickly. She’s a streamer, both of her own material and for tournaments. She’s a commentator. She gives career and brand management to newly sponsored players. She co-founded Combo Queens, a group that helps to ensure that all interested women have a place in the FGC. She’s been organizing and running tournaments since the days of Super Smash Bros. Melee. These days, she leads the FGC’s events at the largest arcade in the Washington, DC area.
And there’s more! Moore was also the driving force behind the Skullgirls Tour, a community-run tournament series that handed thousands of dollars in prizes. She writes the FGC Mom Twitter account and co-writes for FGC Dad. Her own Twitter and Instagram accounts are warehouses of fighting game memes and jokes. On her YouTube channel, she posts tournament replays, podcasts, money matches, and skits.
Starting to get the picture? The easiest way of answering the question “How much does Sharpie do for the FGC?” is simply to respond, “Yes.” But no matter what she’s doing, her motivation remains the same: to share the joy, gratitude, and strength that fighting games have given her. “I wanna make sure that everyone who comes into our community has that same feeling,” she says. “That’s what keeps me going.” It’s also what makes her one of the FGC’s most outstanding members and one of its most underrated heroes.
Breaking Out Of The Mold
Though she’s too young to have come up in the arcade days, Moore is a fighting game vet. The first one that really grabbed her attention was Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, “because it had Frost in it, and I, like, loved Frost. That was my girl.” From there, she’s gone on to play Sheik in Melee, Ramlethal in Guilty Gear Xrd, and a host of others.
Ultimately, though, all of the planets in her FGC solar system revolve around Skullgirls. Ask her about anything at all, from fighters to ice cream flavors, and you’re likely to hear something about the 2012 indie title. “Every single thing I say goes back to Skullgirls,” Moore admits jokingly. “I have a problem, I know I do.”
It would be more accurate to say that she has a solution. She picked up the game at a time in her life when she was still adapting to the realities of adulthood – “the basics of being a human,” as she calls them. As the elder sister to two younger brothers, Moore carried the childhood burden of being a role model. Moreover, her parents pressured her to evaluate every choice in light of its effects on her education and career. “It was never about me being happy or me becoming a better person, it was always about what was in it for my future.”
It’s hard to blame them for wanting the best for their daughter. Still, there were times when Moore struggled to reconcile her upbringing with the world she was entering as an adult. In most cases, she simply fell back on old habits, but that wasn’t possible in Skullgirls. The game “brought out this mental block that I had that I had experienced literally my entire life where, if something was too difficult for me, I just stopped. Because one of the things that my parents always instilled in me was, if you’re not going to be the best at it, don’t waste your time.”
It got so bad that she once “broke down in tears” onstream while trying to lab some combos. She thought she knew what was coming next. “I’m used to people making viral moments out of people breaking down or getting super-toxic, y’know what I mean? Like, that was the landscape of gaming back then.” But instead of ending up on the front page of some hostile subreddit, “people in the Skullgirls community would just come into my stream and be like, ‘Yo, you got this!’”
Their encouragement and support did more than help her finish the game’s trial mode. Her community gave her the opportunity to mature and find wisdom. Now, Moore reveres training mode. “Labbing isn’t about how much time you put into it,” she says. ”It’s about what you’re willing to learn from yourself, like, [how much] you’re willing to acknowledge what your faults and your flaws are.” Another lesson that she took away from the experience is that “time is irrelevant. Your happiness is important.”
This is her sunlight, the energy that powers all of her jokes and labors in the FGC. “It felt like Skullgirls was the very first time I was allowed to be myself” instead of setting an example or conforming to a preexisting standard. “You’re going to like something in here and it’s going to help you grow as a person and as a player,” she says. And she should know: it was Skullgirls, and the Skullgirls community, that helped Moore break out of the mold that had threatened to force her into a false and fearful life.
Putting The “C” First
These experiences inform everything that Moore does today. “I like to think of myself as someone that’s just very, very enthusiastic and very, very community-driven when it comes specifically to Skullgirls and overarching in general to fighting games,” she says. Receiving so much love was “what really blew my mind about the community,” and it’s why she chose to pursue a life in the FGC over her other gaming and esports interests, among them League of Legends, Dota 2, Diablo 2, Age of Empires, and Civilization III.
In her early days, she found it hard to fight the prevailing elitism, sexism, and racism that she encountered in various gaming scenes. “Not because I didn’t want to [speak out or stand up for myself],” she explains, “but because I was scared to.” For some, it can be hard to understand why people fear to take a stand against bigotry or bias. Moore’s story shows that it’s not just a matter of staying strong in a conflict. Those conflicts are taxing, to be sure, but what’s far more important is the fact that making yourself a target of a given group cuts you off from everything humane in that community. You can still participate and have fun at the periphery, but you’ll never be able to get the richness that comes from intertwining your life with the lives of people who are like you. This is the difference between Moore’s actual story and the possibility that she might have left the FGC after being flamed on some forum somewhere just because she was a woman who had one emotional moment on her stream.
But this is not to say that all of her experiences in the FGC have been uplifting. In college, she chose Melee as her first truly competitive title because the culture surrounding the traditional fighters at her school “was not super-open.” Moore learned early on in her life as a gamer that “you never had voice chat on, you never talked on forums and explained that you were a woman.” So it affects her deeply when she encounters spaces in the FGC that fail to put positivity above prejudice.
To redress these shortcomings, Moore works extra-hard to bend the moral arc of the FGC towards community. One way that she does this is simply by putting herself in the spotlight. Initially, she says, “I realized that there was a pocket of content that was not being represented properly. I watched a lot of content on YouTube and a lot of videos on – do I date myself when I say this? – MySpace…and I felt like none of them were about specifically black women or even women playing games.” Just by itself, her presence in the community sends the message that black women belong here.
She also takes care to make her content as constructive as possible. “It’s entirely too easy for negative press to get hella far” both within the community and outside it, she says. She still remembers the days when major media outlets depicted the FGC as the video game equivalent of a Jerry Springer episode, and she doesn’t ever want to go back. This is why her work as a memer and content creator are so vital to our culture. She believes that laughter is the best medicine, because if you can make a group of people laugh then you can make them share a moment of empathy with one another. By portraying our swagger, comedy, intensity, and creativity in lighthearted ways, she guides people away from the behaviors that are destructive to both themselves and the FGC at large. In this way, she works not only for herself or her friends but for the future of the community itself.
Everything Counts, Everyone Matters
Like a high-level competitor, Moore understands that greatness lies in the details and that a decision that seems small in the moment can loom large later on. “Sometimes,” she says, “I think about the fact, man, what if I hadn’t just played Skullgirls? [Or what] if I just got this game, got really frustrated, didn’t talk to nobody, and then never picked it up again? Cause it would be so easy. It would’ve been so easy for that to happen, and then [for] me [to] just not be inside the community.”
This mindset helps her to act with mindfulness, attentiveness, and focus. Her knowledge of the games themselves is deep and technical. As a content creator, she distinguishes between jokes that are merely “topical” and ones that are “relatable,” and she’s careful to promote only those community members who share her strong sense of ethics. She intentionally learns new skills inside the community just so that she can teach them to others. And in all things, she takes her cues from the best, citing among her inspirations Skullgirls designer Mike “Mike Z” Zaimont (@MikeZSez), Combo Breaker director Rick “The Hadou” Thiher (@TheHadou), meme virtuosa Frogmom (@evangelifrog), and two pros-slash-content-creators, Jeannail “Cuddle Core” Carter (Twitch, Twitter) and Jon “dekillsage” Coello (Twitch, Twitter).
“It takes a lot of effort,” she admits. “It takes a lot of energy.” And thanks to her perfectionist streak, it “always feels like I’m supposed to be putting more into another aspect of the community.” Moore worked three jobs to put herself through college, so it’s hardly surprising that she’s bringing her imposing work ethic to the FGC as well. As a reward, she gets to live at the forefront of a community that promotes egalitarianism over hierarchy and interpersonal connection over self-interested calculation.
“When you’re around other people that are passionate about what you’re around and they still manage to just enjoy it for being fun, it’s a completely different type of environment,” she says. Here, “it genuinely just makes people happy” to see others grow. “The emphasis is always more of you bettering yourself as an individual,” and on that level, everyone is equal and everyone is important.
The good news for Moore is that her favorite game is finally going to take to the big stage at this year’s online version of the Evolution Championship Series. That should give a big boost to her one-woman mission to convince “every single person on this Earth to play Skullgirls at least once.”
In the meantime, she’ll be working to overcome her greatest demons, namely, grapplers and Dominique “SonicFox” McLean. “My boyfriend played solo Cerebella [a brawler who has command grabs], so that’s the only thing I labbed against,” she explains. “I like characters that win in the neutral before you even get the touch. I love characters like that…Like, I won the neutral and now I win. Like, not to say grapplers. Definitely not grapplers. NOT GRAPPLERS.” And as for McLean, Moore has one simple message: stop playing her characters at such a high level that they get nerfed.
All jokes aside, though, Moore is already a community all-star, and she isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. To keep up with one of the FGC’s absolute best, follow her everywhere: Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, Instagram, and her official website. And if you live in the Maryland/Virginia/DC area, go see her in person at one Xanadu’s tournaments (on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays) once it’s safe. Whether you talk to her about Skullgirls, ask her for some sci-fi or fantasy recommendations, or attempt to win her over with pro-grappler propaganda, know that you’re interacting with someone who truly deserves to be known as a hero.
Eli Horowitz (@BODIEDnovel) told Moore that he plays Bowser, and she told him that she wasn’t sorry for any of the mean things she’s said about grapplers. Anyway, Eli lives in Pittsburgh, where he works in software and writes fiction. His first novel is set in the FGC; you can learn about that novel and the rest of his work at his official website.