LAS VEGAS -- At the 2018 Evolution Championship Series, Dominique "SonicFox" McLean cemented himself once more as the best in the world in a new title, taking home the first Dragon Ball FighterZ in front of a packed crowd at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Sunday night.
Including side events, he has now won five Evo titles, and four of them in separate games. Standing in front of the swarm of onlookers in his blue fox costume to represent his "fursona," SonicFox felt at ease all night, rolling through his wave of challenges in a succession of dominant victories. In an winners-bracket match with rival Goichi "GO1" Kishida of Japan, he prevailed, showcasing the separation he has already made between himself and the rest of the competition in DBZ.
Through all the noise and theatrics on the main stage with new faces introducing themselves to the hundreds of thousands watching on Twitch, the one known quantity, the constant, was the skill and natural prowess of SonicFox. The world of competitive video games has incredible prowess across any game, but even then, there is no question: SonicFox -- a sly grin on his face with his fox head resting next to him as he plays -- is a one-of-a-kind talent. His ceiling is unknown, nor how many games at which he can excel.
After being known as the "NetherRealm God" for his championships in Mortal Kombat and Injustice, the consensus was that his limitation was being strong in games created by a company that catered to his strengths. Then, after getting the same top results in a game like Skullgirls, a departure from his norm, that limit became limitless.
All right, fine. Surely it was just that he excelled in games with the small-player niche pools?
Dragon Ball at Evolution was the most competitive title in the series of fighting games played at the event, with 2,575 entrants signing up to compete for the inaugural title. It didn't matter it wasn't a NetherRealm game. It didn't matter if the number of hands reaching for the crown were coming from every angle. When the dust settled, the last man -- well, fox standing -- was the 20-year-old prodigy who runs through games faster than your favorite speedrunner.
"The greatest part is I'm not even in my prime yet," SonicFox told ESPN following his Evo victory. "So I still have [a lot of time] ahead of me."
In Overwatch, the game's best player and current MVP, Bang "JJoNak" Sung-hyeon admitted in an interview that while in high school, he never got further than novice level at League of Legends. StarCraft, possibly the most difficult game ever created, produced some of the most mechanically gifted esports players in history, but when they hoped to make the transition to a new game like Dota 2, League of Legends, or a first-person shooter, a majority of them floundered, crashing into an invisible wall they never saw in their previous game.
That has not happened to SonicFox. Each proverbial mountain has turned into a molehill when he has actually come up against the obstacle.
When it appeared he might finally slip, dropping a match 3-0 to GO1 to reset the bracket in the grand final, SonicFox didn't flinch. Coming down to the last hit in the opening set of the final series, he didn't change from his aggressive style in the face of GO1's defensive approach, pulling through with the death knell to start the wave of momentum that led him to the championship.
Confident in and out of the game, SonicFox lifted from his chair to proudly put on the fox head that draws him stares wherever he goes. He doesn't care. Like the invisible walls that plague other competitive gamers, SonicFox doesn't adhere to what people think can or can't be done. While he spread out on the main stage, blowing a kiss into the camera, he took out his cellphone to send a message to the world on social media, "im gay also the best dbfz player on this f---ing planet dont forget it."
In the competitive gaming world, being yourself isn't often the norm. SonicFox, someone who thumbs his nose at the norm, is always himself. From his interviews to his onstage antics, to proudly walking through the halls of the Mandalay Bay in full costume -- before being asked by security to take off his fox head -- what he portrays at an event is who he truly is. To the people who don't have a voice in the world, feeling as if they can't be themselves, SonicFox is here to show that everything will be all right.
"The more fame that I have, the more I realize, why should I care what people think about me when I can just be me?" SonicFox said. "That's how I made my brand: You should just always be yourself and there will always be people who will like you."
If the best all-around fighting game player in the world can stand in front of a thousand fans, bearing himself to the world in his blue, fluffy costume, tail dragging behind him, confident in who he is, you can too. And beyond his current and future championships, maybe when SonicFox finally hangs up his controller one day in the distant future, inspiring others will even outweigh the impact of those trophies.