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CuddleCore: Crushing the black female gamer stereotype

CuddleCore is committed to herself as a competitor and defying the odds.

Photo by: Heavenly Skies

CuddleCore: Crushing the black female gamer stereotype

I want to introduce you to a gamer I have admired for quite some time. She is an amazing Tekken player who has made a name for herself, causing people to respect her as a competitor with her skills alone. She’s a beast in Tekken. She’s humble, friendly, kind, respectful, loving, and will literally kick your butt if you dare to sit down and pick up those sticks.

She’s not new to the FGC either, but has been around for quite some time now. You can view her 2014 interview on The Player’s Messej as proof, where she was on the second episode. Or, her 2013 Winners Finals match versus Lil Majin at Frosty Faustings. She’s had multiple Top 3 and Top 8 appearances over the years, and most recently was a Top 8 finalist at Combo Breaker – a highly competitive tournament with nearly 200 entrants.

As well, she has also fought some of the best of the best in the Tekken world while holding her own – from StreamMe’s Anakin to JDCR of Echo Fox. Check her resume.

Proudly representing her gaming organization InTheSkies, she now has her sights set upon EVO.

Ladies and gentlemen, my interview with the one and only… CuddleCore.

Thanks for the interview Cuddle. First, tell us your name and where you’re from.

My name is Jeannail Carter, and I am from Romeoville, Illinois. I was born in Chicago, IL.

How far is Romeoville from Chicago? And with all of the news of the homicide rate in “Chiraq,” does that also take place in surrounding cities? Or is that really just Chicago?

I am about an hour from Chicago, the homicide rate seems to be concentrated in certain places in the city. It does not fully effect the ones neighboring Chicago, however I am sure the closer the city is, the more of an effect the homicide rate can have.

Is where you live inner-city, suburbs or rural area? And what was it like growing up there?

Growing up in a suburban area is and was enjoyable, not noisy at all, no fear of going outside. Growing up in the suburbs was a learning experience and a beneficial one. We moved out here in 2001. I was five and my sister was three. There were not a lot of black people in the area, so that was one adjustment any child or adult would have to make. My parents moved us to the suburbs because of how poor the school systems were becoming. To ensure that we could get a great education no matter where we were, they chose to migrate us.

Interesting. My son was the only black kid in his school, as well as my daughter. My daughter is in nursing school now, and my son now home-schooled. How was that experience for you though?

Sometimes I did feel out of place being the only black child in classrooms, finding it hard to belong, because many of the people had never seen many black people. However my parents always taught us to strive for excellence no matter who is present, just prove the stereotypes that people have to be wrong.

And you have a sister too, right? 

Yes, I have two sisters. One named Ashton, and one named Tiffany.

Do they play Tekken or fighting games? 

They both played Tekken with me when we were younger. Ashton and I played the most fighting games together. We would play Soul Calibur, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Capcom vs. SNK 2, King of Fighters, Tekken, and I’m sure more than that over the years.

Do they they still play? And why did you still play?

After a certain point, I just continued to be very enamored at the competitive nature of games such as Tekken. While Ashton and Tiffany became less interested in playing the game, I began to play Tekken even more.

Explain the name CuddleCore. What’s the story behind that?

I got the name Cuddle Core from a type of remix from a song called murmur twins on “Dance Dance Revolution Supernova.” Cuddle Core is actually a genre of music. I’ve never really listened to cuddle core music but the name sounded sweet yet serious. I automatically thought of a character when I read the term on the screen. So once I actually had to think of a new name on PSN, it didn’t take me long. I asked myself “what rolls off the tongue.” And seeing that the cuddle core remix of Murmur Twins was one of my favorite songs, and DDR were huge parts of my life at the time, I chose that name. The song Murmur Twins related so much to me simply because of how friendly and innocent the song was. And at the time I was still very unaware of what the real world was. I was 15. It’s like I kept a remnant of myself from the past with the songs name as my username. I’ve wanted to change it a few times, but I always think “everyone already knows me as Cuddle Core!” It’s like starting over with a new identity. It’s not meant for me to change my name, because Cuddle Core is who I am, and always will be. I’ve cultivated the name to be associated with determination, respect, and diligence.

Did you have a mentor or anyone that taught you how to play Tekken at a high level? Or did you learn it on your own?

No one in particular taught me how to play Tekken. When I was a kid I would button mash to try and win. The older I got I realized that there was a lot more to Tekken than just a button or two. By the time I was 18 I had begun to get some more exposure to what experienced Tekken was supposed to look like. My friend linked me to videos of Tekken tournaments, and spoke of high level Tekken players. Watching these videos made me more interested in getting more involved in the scene. Certain times I would ask more experienced players for advice. I remember I sent Lil Majin a message once asking what moves were vital in using Alisa. He sent me four moves that I should use in her neutral poke game, and I have continued to use those for years. Overall, though I have gotten advice from many different players, ranging from how to stay composed during tourney matches to how to approach a matchup better. No one holds my hand during this, I simply take the advice I’ve gotten and use it in a way that benefits my gameplay.

“Nobody holds my hand.” I love that. You’re an amazing Alisa and Xioayu player. Miharu too. Remember her? (laughs) Were they always your main characters?

Oh yes, I remember Miharu. And thank you, I work hard! They were not always my main characters. When I was very young I use to play as a lot of the female characters, and the one male character I use to play as was Lee. My mains were Anna, Jun, Xiaoyu, and Lee in the older Tekkens. Then when Tekken 6 came out, I was drawn to Alisa and Xiaoyu because of their energy and the swift nature of their fighting styles.

When did you first start playing Tekken competitively? Which tournament or local event was it?

I first started playing Tekken competitively about three to four years ago locally. The tournament was called Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament at the time. I started playing Tekken competitively about two years ago on a national scale.

Where does your competitive drive come from? It seems like you really dislike losing.

I was always taught to strive to be the best. I believe what I was taught, so I carry this with me always. In regards to me disliking losing, no one likes to lose. When you train for certain moments, you never want to lose, or not lose a certain way.

Are you hard on yourself?

Yes, I am hard on myself at times, but I always believe that we are our worst critics. We expect a certain level of success for ourselves, because personally everyone sets a standard. No matter what activity it is, I practice very hard so that I am knowledgeable and talented in what I am studying or practicing.

Let’s switch gears. It is no secret that the FGC is a very male dominated community. What’s it like as a female gamer in this scene?

Being a female player in the scene, is very manageable now.

Now? What do you mean?

I refer to it as me earning my place as a respected player, not just being perceived as a female. At first, when I began to compete, I couldn’t help but notice how many of the males in the FGC treated female gamers and female spectators. They either did not think females could get on the same level as a male playing a fighting game. And if you were a female spectator, you supposedly only wanted “relations” with the players or top players. These perceptions are unfair, and women have to have a very tough skin when you enter the FGC. It’s like a Boy’s Club. Once I started competing more, thanks to Heavenly Skies recruiting me, I got a lot of exposure from majors I would appear at around the country. My appearance on these streams and in pools and top 8’s, and me being on the same level as top players and very good players, removed the female title and replaced it with just a “good Tekken” player.

A couple of weeks ago a popular pro player said some very derogatory things about African-American women in the FGC. He said that black women are ratchet, suck at video games, and are promiscuous. I found his generalization to be unfortunate. I saw him at CEO, and all appeared well, as if nothing had ever happened. Had he not been popular I wonder if the community would have given him such a pass. I hear he also apologized, so it is what it is.  Anyway, I know you are aware of it. What were your thoughts on all of it?

Very ignorant on his part. This was an over-generalization which some of his “followers” agreed with. The men with these mentalities are toxic to a community which is supposed to be inviting to any type of person who wants to get involved. When people begin to ostracize and shame people, in this case women, for simply existing and-or being a certain color, it sets the community backwards. It is unfortunate that the men did not think about if people judged them like this. There were many men of color who responded positively to what this pro gamer said. I say the same situation could be applied to the media and individuals who stereotype men who are minorities. Like “black men steal,” or “black men can’t read,” very ignorant stereotypes. The fact that some of the men cannot relate and sympathize but would rather demonize black women simply displays the immaturity of some of the personalities of the FGC. I would say let these men be an example of how not to treat your fellow gamers no matter what gender, race, or sexual orientation they have. Do not let the community stifle the enjoyment you have for the game, but rise above the stereotypes they have by competing and being the best you can be.

Very well said. Do you think that gamers who are female are given the same amount media attention as their male counterparts?

I do not feel female gamers get the same amount of media exposure as males do. I know there are not many competitive female gamers, however, even when they are very good, you do not hear much about them. The media exposure seems highly biased at times, where they focus on male gamers, or they’ll focus on international players more. The females deserve more media coverage because we are apart of the scene and are on the same level as the men – even higher than them at times. Great female players are not seen often, and that kind of news should be recorded and noted. If the media covered top female gamers, the community would be less harsh and critical, because there would be proof that these women exist and are breaking down barriers.

How do you feel about the phrase “female gamer”? 

The phrase female gamer has a positive and negative feeling for me, positive in the fact that I am a female who competes with some amazing players, and can hold my own. The term female, displays that people like me and other talented females do exist. The negative of the term “female gamer” starts when people say if a woman is pretty or cute, she is seen as a sex symbol before her skill is discussed. I have even been asked “so do you make all these men cry?” You do not see men referred to as cute or hot, when they play, or that they make other men cry when they beat them. Females should not be treated any differently for the hard work they put in to compete. Or even if they are just casual gamers they should still be respected.

That reminds me of a video I saw just yesterday by Street Fighter player Tania Miller. She said many of those same things. It has almost a thousand likes and hundreds of retweets.

You mentioned Heavenly Skies earlier. How long have you been with InTheSkies? And y’all just partnered with Qanba too. Congrats.

Being on the team InTheSkies has been a very exciting and interesting experience. I joined the team in 2015, and the first tournament I was sent to was KIT. A lot of character growth has occurred for many of us in the group because we are a family. It has been so enriching being on a team with so many different personalities and dear friends. When Heavenly asked me to be apart of her team, I was so shocked. At the time I was playing Tekken seriously, but didn’t have a team or anywhere to belong. She saw something in me, potential, and she still does. She and my members have helped me to become tougher in this community. Since I am still in college, my funds are always fluctuating. The team always makes sure I am taken care of because they are understanding, they love me and I will always love them. We came from small backgrounds with lots of talent. We just needed someone to believe in us. Heavenly did that for us. And thank you! Qanba sponsoring us is a phenomenal step for ITS, and we will continue to step higher and higher.

Did you watch CEO?

Yes ,I watched CEO. I thought it was a great event with a lot of amazing talent – 250+ entrants I believe. Tekken needs that kind of love, and I hope it continues to grow in numbers. The stream did get a little laggy at times, and there were a lot of commercial breaks. Overall though, CEO seemed like a enjoyable time by the players I spoke to.

Will you be at EVO? 

Yes, I will be at EVO thanks to ITS. This is my first time, and I am truly honored to be sent out to the event. I hear EVO is always stacked, and that is a great way to see where you stand amongst other players, what you can do to improve, and what you’re already doing correctly. Also, no major would be complete without seeing old friends and family, so overall its going to be an amazing time in the Tekken community.

What do you do to prepare for a tournament?

Usually anything that has given me difficulty in the game, I go to practice mode and recreate the situation. When I am able to recreate the situation, I learn how to defend against it, just in case I have to deal with that situation in tournament. I also ask questions of players I respect in regards to certain match ups, just to get other ideas on how to approach, and constantly improve in the game.

Are there any players you admire?

Why yes, there are a few top players I look to for inspiration, such as Joey Fury, Maknificent, SperoGin, PLing, and Fuko. There is a certain type of mentality they have when they play, this calm demeanor where nothing effects their gameplay. They are strong minded when they play, and that is what I have been aspiring to have as well lately.

Interesting that you said Fuko.

Him and Tekken Rules have supported me non stop.  He’s a beast. I played him in a tourney last year.

You know he had only played Tekken 7 for 10 days leading up to CEO? And he beat players like Speed, PLing, and Pokchop.

It’s about heart. Playing with heart!

Indeed. And being fundamentally sound. Shoutout to Fuko and Tekken Rules Venezuela!

What’s your goal as far as the Tekken World Tour? Are you hoping to make to the King of the Iron Fist?

I’m not sure if I exactly have goals for the Tekken World Tour since I’m in school. That will probably conflict. But I will be going to tournaments during some of my school breaks. Ideally I would love to go to the King of Iron Fist, but I take each day one step at a time.

 You made Top 8 at Combo Breaker and faced Kodee. Looking back, do you wish you had used Xiaoyu instead of Alisa?

I should have switched to Ling, but I kept Alisa. Heavenly calls it the “stubbornness” when people don’t want to switch when they are down a game. She is and was right. If I am ever down a game, there is nothing wrong with switching characters. Personally I always felt that if I switched that that meant I was defeated, that that person has forced me to change. However, that is not the case, switching changes up momentum, and I plan to switch characters if I am down a game. I also have Tekken 7, and am practicing with Alisa and Ling, so that they are both strong enough to deal with any character matchup, so that I don’t always have to switch.

How are you liking Tekken 7 now that it’s finally out?

I am enjoying Tekken 7 very much, playing all of the different patches over the last 2 years has been an ordeal. I went from playing with no sidestep and movement, to learning boundless combos, to learning new frames, and then being able to play one of the final patches at Combo Breaker. Tekken 7 feels great and looks beautiful. I am thoroughly pleased at the 1v1 aspect of the game. I always feel in control of the situations that occurs compared to certain tag mechanics. The stages are well designed and have great sound incorporated as well, which my ears enjoy. I think waiting for Tekken 7 was worth it. Though, there are some difficulties with the servers, but Namco is patching that, so hopefully the online aspect of the game improves.

We’re almost done. You’re an artist. What’s your preferred medium, and where’d your love for art come from?

Yes I am an artist! My favorite mediums would have to be colored pencil, ballpoint pen, oil paint, and digital mediums. My love of art came from when I was a child. My parents and uncle always drew and painted with me. I enjoyed it so much as a child that that love carried on into my adult life.

You said you were in college. Is art your concentration?

Yes, I am in school for art. Specifically I am in school to get a Bachelor’s in Fine Art, my major is Illustration.

What kind of careers are you interested in?

The kind of career I am interested in is being a freelance illustrator and creating concept art for things such as graphic novels, video games, and stories in general. I would also like to be an art director for an art magazine, possibly one I make that gives exposure to aspiring and professional artists.

You mentioned digital mediums. Do you use adobe Illustrator or Photoshop?

Yes I do digital art along with traditional art, I have taught myself that it is important to be versatile in both, to be completely marketable. I do work with Illustrator and Photoshop as well, college courses have helped me improve in that regard.

If not playing Tekken or creating art, what other things do you like to do?

When I am not playing tekken or creating art I enjoy time traveling, working, and spending time with family, friends, and Maknificent.

For those who don’t know, Mak is Cuddle’s boyfriend. (smiles)

Before we go, a lot of new players are joining the Tekken scene. What advice would you give them?

Don’t feel discouraged when you aren’t improving as quickly as you thought you would. Getting good at anything takes time and patience, and a lot of losing. Never be afraid to ask questions, or ask for advice on gameplay. When you do not understand a certain aspect of Tekken, YouTube has many tutorials now to help with the things that leave you stumped. The community also has players that are more than willing to give advice. And if you have players in your area that are better than you, do not feel afraid to ask them for sessions. Be proactive. You want to get better and improve in anything.

Thanks Cuddle.

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Keep up with Cuddle Core on Twitter, Twitch, and YouTube.

Aziz Peregrino-Brimah aka Zee the CEO | Founder / Editor-in-chief of TekkenGamer | Gaming has been a passion of Zee’s since the early days of Atari and ColecoVision. His first experience with Tekken was in the early 90’s, and it was Tekken 3 that sealed the deal. True story… As a teenager Zee once received his Winn-Dixie paycheck and spent it all at the arcade the same day. Needless to say, his mother wasn’t pleased.

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