When I first started attending FGC events in 2016, at age 18, I was the only person of colour at that tournament. To me, this was nothing out of the ordinary. I was very used to being the only minority in any given situation. But that also usually came with a little bit of anxiety and worry of “Will I fit in” and “Will this community accept me for who I am”. Thankfully, my fears were misplaced. Pretty quickly, I realized that most people in the IFGC will sooner judge you for your character selection than judge you for the colour of your skin.
As time went on, I began noticing a drought in Smash events (I used to play smash at the time) and I wanted to try and amend this and run events myself. So I contacted AJ, for him to help me & show me how to run events. And AJ, noticing I had the passion but absolutely zero expertise, began taking me under his wing and I began volunteering and helping to organise tournaments. As time went on, I noticed our events started to become more diverse & I started meeting international students from all over the world who came to show us what they are made of. The IFGC, much like Ireland, was becoming more and more diverse. It was a great thing to see.
I also started getting more and more involved in other aspects of our events, and so, I began commentating for some events, which was a big deal to me. A brown guy basically representing Ireland to the outside world as a commentator is something I never thought would happen. That was only the start. As I started giving more, I started getting more responsibilities, to the point where I was placed in charge of running the Capcom stage at CT 2019 and even having my avatar pasted on the player cards that every player got at the event. I still can’t quite believe some of my inspirations in the FGC like IFCYipes and Daigo were wearing badges that had my face pasted on it.
In fact, I think that is a pretty amazing summary of my personal experience in the IFGC. I went from worrying that I won’t fit in with the IFGC to literally having my face on the player cards like I was the mascot for the event. Even if I discount myself, the IFGC as a whole is now a pretty diverse place. Our weeklies now attract attendees of all shapes and sizes all playing, talking smack or having a drink, as we all use Fighting games as a way to bridge the perceived differences that divide us.
One of the most eye opening experiences for me regarding diversity was CT 2019. Of course, the diverse variety of attendees that came from all corners of the earth spoke for itself, but it was more than that. It was what outsiders thought of our community that really put things into perspective for me. While I initially thought that our scene is less diverse than others due to its size, I was surprised to hear others say differently. To them, it seemed like everyone gets along with everyone in Ireland, as opposed to other places where, while they may have a bigger, more diverse community, people grouped up in their little cliques and did not always interact much with others. CT was even praised for its relative gender balance compared to other events, despite the fact that the lovely ladies who run admin at CT have been around for so long that I didn’t even recognise that as something special. Our events director & on the floor leader is also a woman.
So, what is the point of me saying all this. These all may seem like small things to some people, but all this means a lot to me. Throughout my life, I have tried to preach racial diversity in many different spheres & in many different ways. I have been an activist, fighting to end systemic racism and I have been in business, trying to sell businesses on how diversity can be an invaluable asset. These experiences have made me come to appreciate the inclusive community we have in the IFGC. The community didn’t see me as a foreigner or a weirdo, but as someone who also has a lot of love and passion for fighting games. It provided a rare space where for once I didn’t feel like the odd one out… I felt like I was part of a family.