Dominique “SonicFox” McLean is one of the greatest fighting game players of all time. The young non-binary competitor added to this legacy with a win at the Mortal Kombat 11 championship this weekend. It wasn’t quite as easy as some of their previous wins, but SonicFox used every opportunity to let the world know that this was their show.
The event, known as Final Kombat, wasn’t quite what Mortal Kombat 11 players anticipated. Concerns over the ongoing spread of coronavirus forced the organizers to cancel the last-chance open qualifiers that would have added one more competitor to the mix. (Clarification: 03/09/20, 2:45 PM ET: This final spot was instead awarded to Zoulfikar “Kombat” Dayekh.) The event also ended up prohibiting live spectating. But even without a raucous fighting game community crowd to cheer them on, SonicFox still stole the show with their colorful antics, both inside and outside the game.
SonicFox faced stiff competition in the first set of the weekend from Canadian qualifier D2Stabs, who went the distance against the reigning Evo champion. After seemingly clinching the deciding round, SonicFox used a Mortal Kombat 11 mechanic known as Mercy to bring D2Stabs back from the dead, giving their opponent a second chance. The move was mostly performative, however, as the small chunk of life provided to D2Stabs with Mercy paled in comparison to SonicFox’s full health bar.
From there, SonicFox notched several impressive wins against players like their Injustice 2 rival Curtis “Rewind” McCall and frequent challenger Zoulfikar “Kombat” Dayekh before coming up against the upstart Jarrad “Ninjakilla_212" Gooden in winners finals. As has often been the case in the past, Ninjakilla was the only player to defeat SonicFox over the weekend, sending them to the losers bracket after a brutal 3-2 performance. But after a quick win against Ryan “Dragon” Walker in losers finals, SonicFox stormed back for a rematch against Ninjakilla in the championship match.
Due to qualifying for grand finals via the losers bracket, SonicFox needed to beat out Ninjakilla in two best-of-five sets in order to win the tournament. This often proves to be more of a mental hurdle than anything, but SonicFox made it clear that the weight of the moment wasn’t getting to them. On the brink of resetting the bracket, they used a peculiar portion of Joker’s moveset to taunt Ninjakilla with the character’s Batman puppet.
This is an actual move—Joker will perform this routine for as long as a player holds his gunshot projectile—but it’s one that’s rarely seen in competition due to its unsafe nature. Down on life and unsure of when SonicFox would choose to unleash the ranged attack, all Ninjakilla could do was wait it out.
As you know by now, SonicFox won, taking home $40,000 in prize money for being the best in the world. They won two different world championships, Injustice 2 and Mortal Kombat 11, with Joker despite the character’s differences and, in some cases, weaknesses between the two games. SonicFox accepted the championship while carrying the head of their iconic fursuit and draped in the trans pride flag. And in the closing moments of the stream, they left viewers with one final statement: “Vote Bernie.”
SonicFox is a once-in-a-lifetime fighting game player, not only because they’re amazing at almost every game they pick up, but also because of the instances when they’ve used their spotlight for good. Upon winning the award for Best Esports Player at the Video Game Awards in 2018, SonicFox openly declared pride in their identity and rightfully called out an establishment that hates and discriminates against them. Since coming out as non-binary, SonicFox has radically shifted the way the fighting game community discusses gender and identity. It shouldn’t take being good at a fighting game to get respect, but SonicFox has used the platform they’ve been given to advocate for LGBTQ+ players who aren’t out there winning tournaments every weekend.
SonicFox peppered their on-camera appearances at Final Kombat with demands for trans rights and love for the LGTBQ+ community within the scene. And when all was said and done, they threw their weight behind Bernie Sanders, a presidential candidate known for progressive policy positions. In so doing, SonicFox reinforced the reality that politics are a constant and irremovable part of everything that we all do, including competing in a fighting game tournament.