Last week, a local Street Fighter V event in Ontario, Canada saw 15-year-old "Toffee" take a major step in her competitive career as she sailed past a handful of her fellow competitors en route to tournament gold. Her celebration, a pop-off that was more elation than disrespect, has spread across the fighting game community like wildfire.
Rumble Corner, a tournament series organised in conjunction with Ottawa's Grand Capital Smash, hosted its first event on June 24, drawing in a dozen competitors from the local area to compete in Street Fighter V. Toffee was in attendance, hoping to build on a string of prominent placings in both online and offline events, the fruits of a serious competitive drive that was established a little over a year ago.
A couple of hours later, Toffee found herself in grand finals. Her opponent, Forest613, had sent Toffee to the losers bracket with a devastating 3-0 sweep in the winners finals, giving her the opportunity to exact revenge. What followed was an absolute nail-biter. Toffee, as the losers bracket finalist, had to take two best-of-five sets against Forest613 to win the tournament, both of which came down to the last round.
But despite what she later called "mediocre play," Toffee displayed poise that some competitors twice her age are still struggling to develop.
Once it dawned on her that she had won, Toffee flashed a momentary look of surprise before shaking her opponent's hand and jumping out her chair in celebration.
"I was definitely happy," Toffee told Compete. "It felt good to see the fruits of my labour, so to speak, but at the same time I felt like I hadn't really come very far. Neither of the two players I usually lose to had attended, and so I had no way to tell if I was moving forward. All I know is that I have a long way to go before I'm worthy of having all these eyes on me."
Her joyous celebration was caught on the player cam, and quickly caught the attention of the greater fighting game community. Even world-class players like Justin Wong, Seon-woo "Infiltration" Lee, and Kun Xian Ho extended their congratulations to the young up-and-comer, but like any true competitor, Toffee still isn't satisfied.
"After the tournament, I went home and posted a tweet on my Twitter page telling my followers I had won," she explained. "The tweet very quickly started to blow up. The amount of attention I was getting was overwhelming. I didn't know how to feel. It was definitely exciting, but on the other hand, I felt like I didn't deserve it."
While a number of older players can still throw down with the best of them, prodigies like Toffee have become a common sight in the fighting game community over the last few years. Capcom Cup's reigning champion, Du "NuckleDu" Dang, also began playing fighting games at a high level when he was only a teenager, and has since become one of the world's foremost Street Fighter V competitors. Similar to the unbalanced gender ratio in the community at large, however, these young players are typically boys.
For her win, Toffee was awarded a small cash prize, which she used to purchase a milkshake and, of course, pay her mother back for the tournament entrance fees. She plans on attending both Red Bull Proving Grounds and Canada Cup later this year to see how far she's come. At just 15 years old, Toffee's future in the fighting game community is bright, even if her age can act as a hindrance.
"I can't attend as many tournaments as other people," she said. "It's super scary because I'm always afraid that I'm gonna burn all my bridges by saying something a stupid kid like myself would say. I'm still growing up!"