A month ago at Wednesday Night Fights, a local weekly tournament in southern California, Dawn "Yohosie" Hosie was matched against a player who goes by RazorX. His Adult Gohan lineup was a familiar sight, but Hosie's lead-off fighter was Gotenks, who used to be one of Dragon Ball FighterZ's more obscure characters. It's a fighter that Hosie has touted from day one and together the two have shot to the forefront of the Dragon Ball scene.
Illustration: Chelsea Beck (GMG)
Hosie got the first big combo string off, and RazorX was on the ground almost instantly. She had built up the first bar of meter, and Hosie immediately spent it to bring out Gotenks' Super Ghost Kamikaze Attack, blowing explosive ghosts out of her character's mouth. An average player would release these ghosts in one immediate burst, racking up as much damage as possible. But Hosie had some tech prepared for this moment.
Normally, charging up your ki in the middle of a round of Dragon Ball FighterZ is a rookie mistake. It leaves you significantly open to any form of attack. But by holding down certain buttons, Hosie delays the rate at which they fly at her opponent, letting her eke out the pressure in doses rather than one big onslaught.
RazorX is a bystander. The commentators lose their minds over what they're seeing. For Hosie, it was Wednesday; if you've seen her Twitter, you know this is just another tool in the bag.
Hosie is the self-dubbed "trash mum" of Gotenks, one of the stranger characters in Dragon Ball lore. He's formed when the young children Goten and Trunks dance and fuse together to make one warrior: Gotenks. The two arrogant kids make one super-brat. Hosie didn't like Gotenks in the show all that much, as she recalls, but from a gameplay perspective she's fascinated by him.
In a research setting, Gotenks is a blank slate for her innovation.
Hosie is many things in the FighterZ community: an innovator, a rising star, its most visible female player, and sometimes the subject of vitriol. She frequently finds herself at home in the lab, poring over frame data and beating up training dummies to discover just what's possible in this game, and with Gotenks.
"I liked him because everyone thought he was terrible," said Hosie over a phone call with Compete. "When the game came out, everyone was like, this is just not a good character, right? They thought he did no damage, he was weak, he didn't have the tools he needed, he has short normals. But it turns out that if you mix someone up 20 times, and they can't do anything about it, that's really strong and that's what Gotenks is good at. He's really good at locking people down and just opening them up, and that's my playstyle, is high offence."
Gotenks carries a daunting amount of potential for mix-ups and combos, thanks to an arsenal of attacks that can hit from any number of directions. While he's seen some use from top competitors, he's nowhere near as ubiquitous as fighters like Cell, Vegeta, or Bardock. While Gotenks can put on the pressure, he's small and has trouble closing the gap between fighters.
His neutral game, or "footsies," can be lacking compared to more all-around fighters, and his move set isn't as easy to pick up as more vanilla characters like Goku.
A lot of new players were turned off by his complexity, but you can find Yohosie — both her screen name and Twitter handle — online breaking down a different aspect of the game nearly daily.
— CLN | Yohosie (@yohosiefgc) January 26, 2018
"People, you know, they don't mind putting in work," said Hosie. "But Gotenks plays so uniquely and understanding how that character works is such a time investment that I think people aren't willing to put the time in."
Hosie's Gotenks is a spinning top of destruction. Getting opened up by him means a whirlwind of spins and short-range jabs are coming your way from strange directions and angles, and then while you're on the ground trying to stand back up, Hosie is setting up the response. Her other team members — who have oscillated from Goku to Bardock, Kid Buu to Vegeta — pitch in, but the core of the trio is the spinning jerk at the centre of it.
Over the four months that Dragon Ball FighterZ has been out, Hosie has tallied up some good wins. A second place at Michigan Masters, a top 8 showing at Texas Showdown, and a top 16 at NorCal Regionals.
Where she's impressed with her bevy of tech, she's also struggled with consistency and nerves. She's caught somewhere in the middle of the power rankings, well above your average player but still working to take down the likes of SonicFox or Go1. As she told me in an email, "if you think I'm an underdog, you're right. It's important to recognise where you are as a player and how you can improve."
This isn't Hosie's first competitive game. She's played BlazBlue and notched top-eight appearances in Persona 4 Arena. As the competitive scene for the latter faded, though, she started to look for something new.
She "fell in love immediately" with Dragon Ball FighterZ, despite not having overt reverence for the source material. "It's one of those things where you're at home, you're playing World of Warcraft and you're 11 and you're just hanging out," said Hosie. "And Dragon Ball's on the TV on Toonami, and you're just tuning in and zoning out. [...] You know, sometimes you're 11, you ain't got shit to do, right?"
Gotenks, as he appears in the Dragon Ball Z anime.Screenshot: Dragon Ball Z
Hosie is also, right now, the most visible woman in Dragon Ball FighterZ, and she says that while "stream chat will be stream chat," she's been broadly accepted. Like many women in competitive gaming, she's struggled with her own goals and the burden of being a rare representative for women in the fighting game community.
"There's that weird thing of, in fighting games, gender doesn't matter," said Hosie. "If you play and you're good, you're good. But there's an honest truth that women aren't that visible in the scene in Dragon Ball and also in fighting games in general and there's a lot of reasons why. I think a lot of them just don't feel welcome, or in general there's just less women that play. But my gender doesn't impact my ability to perform, right? So it's this constant thing of like, my primary goal is being the best Dragon Ball player I can be and win a major. The secondary goal is, it's a community game and part of the community is the women in the community and how do I support them and teach them that hey, women can succeed at this and get that?"
Hosie is probably best known for her technical and tactical innovations. Avid players will sometimes share their techniques developed in solo playtime, sometimes referred to as "lab tech," on social media in order to bolster the community and add to the pool of knowledge.
Commentators will frequently mention Yohosie when talking new techniques or concepts: moves like the ghost pressure from above and others, like Gotenks's signature spinning-top attacks that earned him the "Beyblade" label have all been featured and innovated on in Hosie's Twitter feed. She had done some tech sharing for Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, but as Hosie put it, she went 1-2. In Dragon Ball FighterZ, she's found a game that suits both her tech-savvy mind and her gameplay chops.
And again, it all comes back to Gotenks.
— CLN | Yohosie (@yohosiefgc) January 26, 2018
Gotenks has a 236[S] beam special that Hosie calls the "honk honk" where if you hold the beam button, you can hover for a moment and then air-dash, staggering your offence in an unexpected manner. It's a promising tool for a character filled with mix-up options, but she struggled against local sparring partner 2GBCombo, who responded to it with a "fuzzy" guard, which blocked high and then low for a certain amount of frames, that worked particularly well against it.
"I went to the lab and said, 'what do I do? How do I crack this?'" said Hosie. "And I just research offensive tool kits. 'How do I crack this person open?' And by doing that you find new technology, you advance the character, and I think that's again mostly credited to Gotenks. He is a character where you can do whatever the hell you want, so how do you make that in your favour?"
— CLN | Yohosie (@yohosiefgc) February 19, 2018
Hosie says she spends two hours a day in the game's training mode, give or take an occasional day off. Alongside that, she spends six to eight hours once a week playing with local competitors, where they will tally up sets against each other with interspersed workshops. According to Hosie, online play can only get you so far when you're working with frame delay and lag. For the most optimal training, you need to be physically sitting next to your opponent, and focus on practicing the fundamentals as much as just playing sets against each other.
"Cell is really hard to block, so we have a Cell player and we'll say, 'Hey, can I get 30 minutes of your time, can you just run offence on me and I'll try to block it,'" said Hosie. "That's something I'll do too. And also if I'm having trouble opening someone up, I'll say 'Hey, can we take 15 minutes, let me try to open you up for a little bit.' And if it's not working, I'll go back to the lab and refine. 'OK, how can I make this more dirty, what am I missing? Or is this character just not, can he not open people up that well?' Really offline casual sessions is where the majority of the training happens."
Six years ago, our Jason Schreier interviewed Hosie about a different undertaking: breaking Final Fantasy VI. "Yeah, I really like breaking shit, as it turns out," said Hosie. "Final Fantasy VI was the game of my childhood, I played that game all the time. And as an adult, I read some things on it about how to get General Leo in your party. And I'm like, 'how does that work, oh ok, it works like that, what else can I do with this?' So I guess yeah, in the same way, cracking open Gotenks is the same process, except I was the one on the forefront, right? Just figuring out every single thing a character can do is the same concept as figuring out every single thing that you can do in that Final Fantasy game."
A set from Michigan Masters, where Hosie placed 2nd overall in Dragon Ball FighterZ. For Hosie, the horizon of what's possible is still expanding. She's attending Combo Breaker 2018 this weekend, and recently nabbed a spot in the Summit of Power through a fan vote, where she will compete against some of the top players in the game.
This was a move that stirred up some of the aforementioned haters; the Summit vote-ins let fans purchase votes to put towards their favoured player's bid for the tournament, and Hosie narrowly edged out fellow player BeyondToxin. The two are friends and she's "heartbroken" for him, she told me in email, but not enough so to let the trolls win.
"I've gotten a fair share of nasty messages," Hosie said in an email. "Normally it's confined to Twitch chat, but it's leaked a bit more into my Twitter than I would have liked. I think it's mostly bullshit and comes from a sexist mindset. Having The Woman Vote(TM) definitely factors in, but again, I think people discredit me. I had a lot of top player support, because a lot of people know that I used to SUUUUUUUCK and now I'm pretty damn good, and it happened in a short period of time."
In the meantime, Hosie intends to prove herself worthy of the spot with actions rather than words. She's training with fellow competitors like Apologyman and Supernoon over the next month, preparing for both the Summit and Combo Breaker. She tells me that she deals with issues like consistency and nerves. Being a lab technician is one thing, but reliably performing those same perfected plays on stage is a different story.
She tells me her aim isn't to be, as she said, "esports" (with air-quotes). Hosie enjoys her current job and isn't really interested in the concept of doing nothing but playing a game like FighterZ for a salary. What's the goal for the Twitter queen of tech, the trash mum of Gotenks, then?
"I just want to get really freaking good at this game and beat the top players," said Hosie. "I gotta take down Goichi or SonicFox, one of those two. And I'm not there yet, but I will."
It's impossible to know for sure whether or when that day will come, but Hosie seems unfazed by the road ahead. Gotenks is her new pet project, and what she can already do now might be good enough to carry her to those heights.