Dominique "SonicFox" McLean took home the coveted title of Best eSports Player at The Game Awards 2018, Thursday night in Los Angeles. And after bounding onto stage wearing his trademark furcap and tail, the 20-year-old gamer who is also a four-time Evolution Championship Series winner and the highest-paid fight game player in the world, thanked his fellow LGBTQ+ community and spoke to why he competes.
"Wow! I really won this shit, oh my god!" SonicFox said as he reached the mic. "Hey, look mom!" The award, as described by presenter Joel McHale, "recognizes the most dominant athlete in eSports. Whoever wins this is basically the LeBron James of sitting." And SonicFox, who also identifies as a furry, has certainly put in the work--in 2017 he was added to the Guiness World Records 2018 Gamer's Edition book because of his eSports titles.
\u201c.@SonicFox5000 is officially the Best Esports Player presented by @OMENbyHP! #TheGameAwards\u201d
"I enjoy the rush of beating up people," he said laughing during the speech. "I've always done this just to make new friends and bonds in the community." Still, this year alone he won tournaments in Dragon Ball FighterZ and Injustice 2 as well as other games. In fact, his final match against Goichi "GO1" Kishida in an EVO tournament was also recognized at the awards, being nominated for Best Moment. During that match, SonicFox decided to switch play-sides, a legal, but controversial decision, where the two competitors swapped seats. The furry went on to win that tournament.
"As you guys also may know -- or may not know -- I'm also super gay," he said, winding down his acceptance speech as the words "PLEASE WRAP IT UP" flashed on a teleprompter. He had come out publicly earlier in the year. "I want to give a super shoutout to all my LGBTQ+ friends that have always helped me through life. Obviously I'm a furry, so shout out to the furries.... Guess all I gotta really say is I'm gay, black, a furry -- pretty much everything a Republican hates -- and the best eSports player of the whole year I guess. Thank you so much!"
While that comment riled up some on social media, bringing a flood of negative comments on both YouTube and on Twitter, it highlighted, in part, why SonicFox has cultivated such an impassioned fan base--in addition to his exceptional skill.
"We haven't really seen a queer person of color win an award like this," D.J. Kirkland, competitive gamer, graphic artist and self professed SonicFox stan told OUT. "The Game Awards is a fairly new award series but it has a lot of eyes on it and a lot of brand power and all this stuff behind it; the industry is watching. It's really cool to see someone who intersects across so many marginalized identities, be celebrated."
As has been happening in other industries and communities over the past five years, SonicFox's ascension amongst gamers represents important visibility for those who can find ways to identify with him. The result is affirmation.
"I think that's going to help other black queer gamers that don't see themselves on Twitch streams or in other tournaments often -- even though there are a lot of gamers of color that play competitively, not so many queer ones because of the gaming space having a reputation of not being so friendly to LGBTQ+ people," Kirkland said. "It's gotten better over time but it's so cool to see him being the top person and being awarded this title of being the Best eSports Player of 2018. It's a sign of some real change."
It's a point not lost on SonicFox himself.
\u201cI feel like I just made some kind of change yesterday.. idk how to describe the feeling! Feel like I got a whole ton of new eyes on me good or bad, as well as made tons of people be comfortable with themselves. \ud83d\ude05 I\u2019m interested to see what the future holds!\u201d
"I feel like I just made some kind of change yesterday" he tweeted this morning. "Feel like I got a whole ton of new eyes on me good or bad, as well as made tons of people be comfortable with themselves. I'm interested to see what the future holds!" As are we!