These gamers picked up the prize at ELEAGUE.

Cuddle_Core: How One Woman’s Win Streak Inspired Ladies Across the FGC

ELEAGUE’s Tekken Team Takedown was a hotbed of competition — but that didn't keep ITS | Cuddle_Core from running the gauntlet as team captain.
By Virginia Glaze
6 min readPublished on
Jeannail “Cuddle_Core” Carter was one of two women invited to the televised fighting game brawl. She and UYU | KawaiiFaceMiles stood under the same banner for the team tournament, and were part of the winning group, which took home a whopping $10,000, in large part to Cuddle_Core’s impressive four-time win streak in the semifinals.
Cuddle_Core’s performance flipped the usual script seen in competitive gaming: the opposing male players sweated beneath her dominance as she single-handedly eliminated the remaining four members of Team Anakin, and her strength inspired women across the fighting game community to send her a word of thanks via social media. While strong women in fighting games have busted heads before, to see Cuddle_Core so ruthlessly decimate her enemies round after round with a significant amount of cash on the line had ELEAGUE’s commentators slapping the desk in excitement.

Before the big stage

Cuddle_Core’s Tekken journey didn’t begin on ELEAGUE’s giant, decorated stage: it started as a child, and ignited an inspiration to that moved her to compete. “What got me into gaming was playing video games all the time with my father,” she said. “I loved playing them so much that when I got older, I continued to play and improve, because I wanted to be better than just ‘ok.’”
Her improvement lead her to attend local tournaments, where she gained experience that allowed her to shine at majors. Cuddle_Core gradually moved through the ranks, from regional competitions to major events, and saw her status rise. “Every time I would go, I would place better and better each time, getting Top 16s, then Top 8s and even a Top 3 once at a bigger regional event, and once at a major,” she recollected.
For Cuddle_Core, a major part of gaining her present strength entailed growing a thick skin on the outset of her journey. “How I got stronger was having a tough skin in regards to certain mentalities about women and gaming,” she stated. “I surrounded myself with people who never were ignorant in regards to a woman’s worth in gaming or in general. I realized early on that no one’s mentality can stop me from performing at my best.”
Cuddle_Core likewise dove right into the lion’s den and trains with some of the best high-level competitors. For ELEAGUE, her training was no different than any other competition. “I did what I normally do to practice for any tournament,” she said. “I play in ranked battle to create pressure-like situations, I go to practice mode and practice against certain match-ups I have had difficulty with, and I ask questions of other high-level players who would know the answers to some of my more in-depth questions about the metagame of Tekken.”
Cuddle Core's main character, Xiaoyu.

Cuddle Core's Xiaoyu can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the scene

© Bandai Namco

Cuddle_Core knew that her hard work paid off when she was selected for the show. “When I got selected I thought, ‘Oh, wow, my results at tournaments have paid off!’ I felt as if I were being noticed for my skill and not just being a woman, that I was being respected for my hard work.” However, ELEAGUE’s Tekken Team Takedown provided some tricky scenarios that Cuddle_Core had to think about in order to win.
“I think there are parts of me that were concerned only because I knew what each player was capable of,” she admitted. “I think it was a matter of having confidence in my knowledge and adapting as quickly as I could. What also helped was that my fellow teammate Kodee took out Speedkicks early on. I knew that since Kodee took Speedkicks out, then we could definitely take out the whole team. It gave me a confidence boost!”

Fight like a girl

Many were impressed at Cuddle_Core’s ability. She expressed happiness that her skill is providing women in gaming with agency, and hopes that this will continue a trend of women gaining confidence to begin their competitive ventures. “I feel honored that women and girls are so inspired by my efforts,” she admitted. “I never label myself as a female gamer because, well, I’m just a Tekken player. But I know that the color of my skin and my gender shocks a lot of people. Well, I’m here to tell them that we do exist, and I hope it inspires them to never be afraid to be themselves and practice as hard as they can.”
In-game battles aside, Cuddle_Core is no stranger to adversity within the esports scene at large.“My experience has been a bittersweet one,” she said. “With me being a black woman, I can't help but notice that a woman’s appearance is more concerning to some than how she plays. I’ve also seen that people would rather discredit the woman first before giving her any credit for being a knowledgeable player.”
Her advice comes to the benefit of those who have been victims to toxic stream chats or targeted online harassment: these issues affect multiple minority groups in the gaming sphere, and Cuddle_Core’s methods of combating them are as stalwart as she is. “At the end of the day, no matter what any random person says, I say just play!” she holds. “Your gameplay speaks for itself. You beat the sexists, the racists and the bigots by always being amazing at your craft and continuing to get better at it.”

“I’m stronger than I look!”

For Cuddle_Core, her newfound presence as a beacon for women in gaming isn’t a heavy burden. “How I handled representing women felt like another day playing Tekken to me,” she said plainly. “There will be people at home who will be [either] judgmental or highly supportive. But I knew that the Tekken players in the community see me for me, so it made it very comfortable to play on the big screen. Playing on the big screen reminded me of streaming from home.”
One of the strongest women in fighting games doesn’t see herself as her characteristics. Cuddle_Core is more than the sum of her parts: In her eyes, she is just another player, and her skill does all the talking. Her performance wowed audiences throughout the FGC, and provides a model for anyone looking to get into the competitive scene. If there’s one thing audiences can take away from her play at ELEAGUE, it is that everyone is capable of greatness — all one needs to do is begin.
Cuddle_Core took out four members of team Anakin in a row, after Anakin himself defeated two players on her own team. Her subsequent performance tipped the scales: she took out Anakin 2-0, with each game going three rounds to nil. She kept up her win streak for three more matches, completely decimating team Anakin and leaving both crowd and commentators speechless. Overcome by emotion, it seemed as though Cuddle_Core couldn’t believe her success; she was moved to tears by her wins, and the joy she expressed was bigger than her small frame when her team took the victory.
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Jeannail 'Cuddle_Core' Carter

From playing video games as a child to becoming one of the top gamers in the world, Cuddle_Core knows what it takes to level up.

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