Despite gaining legitimacy in the eyes of mainstream fans and business leaders in recent years, esports continue to hold a certain reputation in the eyes of others in the general public. The field can be so toxic that it has its own jargon for such.
While the source of that reputation is typically eyed as isolated incidents, it is hard to ignore that the industry requires a good hard look at itself. Especially after 2019 saw multiple allegations of sexual assault and a fist fight between Smash competitors occur alongside heartwarming and emotional moments of triumph.
An example of the overwhelming positivity that esports competition provides for its young athletes and fans alike was needed, and Sunday’s Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour Finals understood that. But not because the field of 16 felt the need to correct the negatives of 2019. They cultivated that positive environment because that is the culture of the scene.
The Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour’s two year history has been defined by its rivalries, most notably the matchup that seems to end nearly every tournament: Dominique “SonicFox” McLean vs. Goichi “GO1” Kishida. But that rivalry, much like others within the scene, saw a foundation of friendship being built underneath their competitive natures.
That depth of relationship was on full display last weekend in Paris when the top 16 players in the world gathered to crown a Dragon Ball FighterZ champion. The crowd was denied that familiar SonicFox/GO1 battle for the second year in a row though as SonicFox failed to advance out of their pool. They lost out to fellow American and close friend Jon “dekillsage” Coello. It was their worst finish in Dragon Ball FighterZ competition ever.
So proud of @dekillsage . I watched everyday how much he trained and grinded this game, especially with a unique off meta team. To the best US player in the world. You let no one down Sage. I love you homie! Let’s meet in grand finals together next year— SonicFox (@SonicFox5000) February 9, 2020
But the notoriously upbeat SonicFox immediately jumped to the side of their friend, celebrating dekillsage’s accomplishment. They even symbolically handed over their fursuit head to dekillsage as a trophy and helped coach him to a third place finish. All while sporting a trans flag as a cape. “I think [dekillsage] can win the whole tournament, but that’s not what I’m going to support him for. I’m going to support him for just having fun,” SonicFox said in an interview during the broadcast. “I want him to just have fun … I’m proud of my man. He almost made me cry earlier.”
This behavior isn’t foreign to fans of SonicFox, but it’s more indicative of the Dragon Ball FighterZ scene as a whole. The tightly knit field of Japanese DBFZ pros at the tournament exuded that same attitude. Training partners Naoki “Matoi” Yasuda and Tsubasa “Maddo” Imai competed against one another and coached fellow rivals and teammates GO1 and Shoji “Fenritti” Sho during the grand finals.
The French crowd latched onto Japanese player Tachikawa “Tachikawa” Toru after he defeated hometown hero Marwan “Wawa” Berthe in pools, cheering him on to a fourth place finish. They picked up an emotional Matoi during his post-elimination interview. They enveloped a teary-eyed dekillsage following his elimination. Everywhere you looked, support and adulation mixed with the day’s intense competition in a way rarely seen.
GO1 may be the strongest this year, but everyone present in that Parisian hall racked up a W for showing just how enriching and positive esports can be. Season three can’t come soon enough.