NOTE  — The featured image above was taken by photographer Chris Bahn. You can check out the gallery it came from HERE

I work 12 hour days Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at my job and this makes me unable to view tournaments that happen on the weekend as often as I would like.  Often I would find myself sacrificing some of the little time I have to sleep in order to watch a few matches of any game that was running in whatever tournament was going on at the time.  TEKKEN 7 happened to be on, and someone named “Cuddle_Core” was going absolutely crazy with Alisa Bosconovitch.

 The name was familiar, I recognized Cuddle_Core from a few tournament result listing on various gaming websites specializing in fighting games.  Also, I remember a video saying “TOP 5 FEMALE TEKKEN PLAYERS” on YouTube and the comment section had many mentions of “WHAT? NO CUDDLE CORE?!”.  Also, I remember seeing mention of her on BlackGirlGamers’s article mentioning that her team won ELEAGUE’s “TEKKEN 7 Team Takedown” event back in 2018.

I wanted to catch her in an interview and find out the motivation behind her strides as a competitive fighting gamer and a legitimate threat within the TEKKEN 7 community.

 INTERVIEW 

01.  Would you mind telling me a bit about the history of your tag “Cuddle_Core”? How did this name come about?

The history of my tag “Cuddle_Core” came from a love of the series Dance Dance Revolution.  In Dance Dance Revolution:Supernova there was a song called “Murmur Twins”. On YouTube there was a version of the song called “Murmur Twins(The cuddle core remix), it quickly became one of my favorite versions of the song.  In relation to that, I was trying to find a new name for my gamertag on PSN. The first name I thought of was Cuddle_Core; based on the genre of music used to make another version of one of my favorite songs.

02.  As a teenager, I played tons of Dance Dance Revolution myself, so seeing that you got your name due to it is crazy! Also, I did not know “Cuddle Core” happened to be a specific genre of music! Speaking of which, mind telling us how you got into Dance Dance Revolution?

How I got into Dance Dance Revolution was that I was visiting my friend’s house and she had a dance pad and the game out. She asked me, “do you want to play DDR?” I asked her “what’s that?” From then on I was hooked on the songs, the dance steps, the whole vibe that was DDR.  After that, I went and purchased my own DDR and dance pad at Gamestop. Because of my interaction with DDR, I was exposed to Japanese pop, rock, soul, and rap.

03.  What got you interested in video games? From what age did you know you were a gamer?

What got me interested in video games was playing them with my sisters and father constantly.  I did this from a child into my teenage years.  My father would bring home multiple games from the store and play them and I would sit and watch on the edge of the bed, so enticed by the animations, colors, worlds, and characters all brought to life. The age I knew I was a gamer was when I was 10-years-old. I remember hearing that Kingdom Hearts 2 was coming out in a few weeks and I started saving my allowance money so that I could get the game on release. I knew that when I started saving money for them that my love for video games was only beginning.

04.  Now that you are older and are still gaming, what is your favorite game of all-time? Also, did you pick up Kingdom Hearts 3 on release day?

My favorite game of all-time…I have way too many! However, I would have to say two of my favorite games are Kingdom Hearts 2 and God of War 1-4.

05.  What was the first fighting game that you played? Do you consider TEKKEN your favorite competitive fighting game series?

The first fighting game that I played was definitely TEKKEN 1. I was not born at the time of the release of the game. I was introduced to TEKKEN in the early 2000s. Without a doubt, I say that TEKKEN is my favorite competitive fighting game series.

Now just because I specialize in TEKKEN does not mean I have not played other fighting games. Because I actually own Street Fighter II, Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Marvel vs.Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, Soul Calibur 2-5, and Virtua Fighter 4-5. I enjoy those on a very casual level. However, from a competitive standpoint, TEKKEN allows for my own playstyle to stand out in regards to creativity while still being knowledgeable about the game.

06.  So you have been playing fighting games for quite some time, but seem to completely love TEKKEN on a competitive level. Have you thought about expanding your interest in other fighters beyond just a casual level? Any particular ones you have thought about delving into as seriously as you have TEKKEN?

I have thought about playing other fighting games on the same level as TEKKEN. Soul Calibur is a game I have been playing along with TEKKEN for many years. I felt like the techniques I learned in TEKKEN were always applicable in Soul Calibur as well. Not sure if Soul Calibur VI is a game I would want to dive into competitively since I have yet to break down the new mechanics of the game, but it is a possibility.

07.  When it comes to competition, how does your training regimen go?

When it comes to competing, I train by playing many of the strong players in the country on PC TEKKEN. I invite them usually to player match sessions set to 1 v 1. Moreover, if I find moves, strings, and anything that confused me or beat me during any of my training sessions, I go to practice mode.

In practice mode I find ways to fight against the challenging strings so that I am prepared for that same situation in another match. Another method I use is that my friend and I will watch some of my videos where I lost or struggled. We then analyze the fights piece-by-piece to help me fine tune my style.

08.  Analyzing your style has made you a stronger fighter then? This is something I too have learned over time but did not always have in mind.  This was especially true when I first started. Do you ever remember when you were a victim of the “Scrub Mentality” that overcomes most new players? If so, how did you get past it?

To be honest, I never thought about the scrub mentality. I remember just wanting to improve, and reaching out to players I felt I could trust to give me advice. I was so hyper focused on wanting to compete and learning more about the mechanics of the game that nothing stopped me from wanting to do that. For people who are suffering from that certain “mentality”, here is my advice.

You have to understand that improving takes time, there is nothing wrong with being critical of yourself, just ensure it is healthy criticism. Patience and hunger to grow will be your allies along with surrounding yourself with players who want to improve as well.

09.  What influences do you feel have turned you into the person that you are today?

The influences that have turned me into the person I am today are multiple people. I would have to say my parents and sisters, along with the influential people they taught me about. My mother would read books to me that had black people in them. Some of the books taught me about historical black figures and their influence on history, where other books taught me about wearing your ethnicity with pride. Around my family, anything my sisters and I enjoyed was never dismissed. My parents would be supportive of it because we loved those things. Overall, I thank my family for influencing who I am today.

10.  Do you feel that being able to take pride in who you are and freely be embraced for it by your family influences your thinking during gaming? In fact, do you feel like it was their support that has groomed you into being a top tier competitor?

Yes, I truly feel that because my family embraced and promoted my individuality it allows me to do the same in TEKKEN. In TEKKEN there are so many ways to express your individuality within your playstyle. No person plays exactly the same; that what makes players stand out, it is what makes some of the best matches.

11.  What, if any, adversity have you faced while pushing your way into a top tier competitor?

Emotionally, some of the adversity I have faced while pushing my way into a top tier competitor were things like the toxicity of some of the male competitors who do not welcome women into the community. When certain top competitors in various games openly disrespected whole groups of women and to make it worse, those said men did not receive harsh punishments or removal from their teams because of it. Factors like the ones I mentioned above have stopped multiple women from wanting to get involved in the community, and for good reason.

At one point in the past I was set on not competing. I had to teach myself to remove any negative noise, and surround myself with the best amounts of positivity. I had to grow my mental fortitude. I have been able to create that positive space, and have only improved as a person and a player because of it. I was taught by many members of the community that there is so much more positive than negative. Do not let that 10% negative cancel out the 90% positive that has touched your life. Overall, no one can ever stop me from gaming or competing.

12.  A lot of people tend to think that negativity in the form of men speaking out against women in the FGC is more myth than fact, especially since we have more within the scene now. Do you feel like things have improved from the time you entered the FGC until now? Do you still feel you have to be as on guard today as someone who is known within the scene? What specific advice would you give women looking to enter the FGC?

I do believe that things have improved in regards to women being negatively received in the FGC. I believe it is improving though because of strong women in the FGC who are creating spaces and opportunities for other women to thrive within. Yes I do feel like I have to be on guard because naturally, I do not know everyone. The more I interact with people the more I let my guard down. The advice I would give to women entering the FGC is 

01.  Always go to events with people you trust.

02.  Play whatever characters you want

03.  Be proud of who you are

04.  Surround yourself with positive people

05.  Never limit yourself

13.  Tell me a bit more about you as a person; what other hobbies and interest do you have outside off gaming?

Gaming and competing was actually a hobby I was passionate about while I actually went to school for Illustration. I went to school for 4-5 years to study studio art and Illustration. I create artwork for my portfolio along with doing commissions for clients and place my work in galleries. When I am not doing those things I enjoy traveling, going to museums, painting, and spending time with my boyfriend, family, and friends.

14.  Art is something I am also passionate about, I never had formal schooling, but I do love to draw! Would you mind giving some examples of your work for everyone to view or a link to your gallery? What do you find yourself drawing most of the time? Mind listing your commission prices?

Yes, of course I can give a link jeannailcarterarts.com.

What I find myself drawing most of the time are pieces that evoke emotion with a lot of detailed linework and vibrant colors. My commission prices vary, I discuss that with my clients. I have had from $150.00-300.00 for work so far.

15.  What goals do you have as far as gaming in the future?

Goals I have as far as gaming in the future is that I want to continue to become stronger as a competitor, travel to more events this year, grow my twitch channel even more, and branch my gaming experience into other fields. With all this experience I want to get, the ultimate goal is to get a career in the gaming industry where I can utilize my Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art.

16.  It’s incredible that you are competing and are still open to being a real part of the industry, reminds me of Peter Rosas (Combofiend) in how he has transitioned from a player to someone who makes the games possible behind the scenes. Any specific companies you got your eye on? Is that your end game plan when it comes to gaming in your life?

Companies I have my eye on are Namco Bandai and Disney. The end game is for my art to benefit the gaming community in a company I feel would benefit from my style and my perspective as an artist and a gamer. To bring diversity to the industry would be ideal, with my experiences as a woman of color as well.

 SOCIAL MEDIA 

You can keep up with Jeannail “Cuddle_Core” Carter on her social media platforms!