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·6 min read

The shark-infested waters of the fighting game community are not for the faint of heart. And what we mean by that is just how tough the competition is across a vast offering of fighters spread out across various genres. Over in the realm of 3D fighters, there's a female pro player that's managed to build up a huge following via her impressive performances in Tekken 7. And her name is Cuddle_Core. As a proud representative of Counter Logic Gaming and Red Bull eSports, she's proven herself to be one of the best American players on the Tekken scene. Cuddle_Core took some time out of her busy FGC-fueled schedule to chat about where her name originated, the reason she fell in love with fighting games, and so much more.

Image credit: Marv Watson

ONE37pm: Jeannail "Cuddle_Core" Carter...that name definitely rolls off the tongue! How'd you come up with that nickname everyone now knows you by?

Cuddle_Core: So the name Cuddle_Core has such a fun origin. When I was in about 7th or 8th grade, I was very much into the Dance Dance Revolution series. So games like DDR: Extreme 2, DDR Supernova, and DDR Supernova 2. When I would play DDR Supernova, I had a favorite song called "MurMur Twins." When I would do homework, I would listen to DDR music on YouTube and that's the song I would always have in rotation. Specifically, the song had a remix which was the "MurMur Twins Cuddle Core" remix. The song felt like it described my personality based on the music alone. Very jovial, whimsical, colorful. God, I loved that song and I still do.

Around the same time, I was looking for a new PlayStation Network username and I debated the decisions in my head for a good while. One of the other username options I thought of was "Broken Butterfly," which is the name of the magnum gun from Resident Evil 4 (big fan!). Ultimately I settled on Cuddle_Core - it suited my personality then and still does, to be honest. Fueled by emotion, bubbly, expressive, but dedicated, driven, and focused to the "core."

ONE37pm: What ignited your passion for gaming as a whole?

Cuddle_Core: I’d like to think that what ignited my passion for gaming as a whole was the fact that I could express myself in any genre of game. I was sometimes a quiet child, so I used hobbies to express myself when I couldn't find the words to. Gaming and art played a huge role in the hobbies I became passionate about. I could express myself through the characters I played, the games I picked, and the decisions I made in any game.

My dad was a huge reason why I was exposed to so many types of games early on. His love for the games he played made me see how much of a journey playing a game could be. When he would play fighting games, I think that's when my passion for gaming ignited. My father was my first opponent - he was the reason I learned how to practice instead of complaining, and his presence as the "person to beat" created a drive in me. A determination for sure. I understood on a basic level what work ethic looked like. The better I became, the harder it was for my dad to take rounds off of me. It got to the point where I was older and had a way better understanding of fighting games. So he couldn't just mash on me haha.

When I wasn't playing fighting games, playing iconic games like Kingdom Hearts 2 also ignited that passion in me. I remember I was maybe like 10 or 12 years old. Playing KH2 during the summer (such a long game, too!). I was along for the ride - hours of fighting bosses, traveling to familiar worlds, being invested in a great story, and lots of grinding for experience points to level up Sora. When I finally defeated the final boss, I remember crying. I couldn't believe I finished such an emotional story. I felt like I was a part of the story and I felt how hard the journey was for the main character.

Video games are art and I am a huge art appreciator. I'm also an artist. I know how much blood, sweat, and tears it takes to make a phenomenal finished product. And then you have to show that product to the world. Being able to experience interactive art from beginning to end, I’m able to understand the game dev team through it. I appreciated how difficult it must have been to make such an iconic game. Looking back on it, I think I felt that if a game can evoke emotions in me like that, then I wanted to play a lot more of them.

ONE37pm: And what made you gravitate so hard towards fighting games?

Cuddle_Core: What made me gravitate towards fighting games were so many factors. When I think about the number of options to choose from in a fighting game, I feel like it gave me a lot of room to be creative. I played many fighting games back in the day, from Tekken to Soulcalibur to Capcom vs. SNK 2 and many others. Each of these games has unique atmospheres, from characters, stages, dialogue, story, and so much more.

I ultimately decided on Tekken. My dad is the reason I play Tekken. He bought Tekken 1-3 (including Tekken Tag Tournament). I was always playing Tekken with him for hours - it was so fun. But I'd also get so mad while losing to him haha. Tekken appealed to me so much more than the other fighting games I played. It gave me way more options to shut down an opponent in a way I could understand. Being able to step into the foreground and background, not feeling limited by movement, and having a massive roster to choose from.

I also think the aesthetics of the game drew me in, too. Being able to play a game where I can express myself through fighting was so exciting. My dad, sister, and I watched a lot of martial arts and kung fu movies back in the day. The movies always made the art of fighting so fun and dynamic. I think that's also a huge reason why I gravitated towards fighters, too. I secretly always wanted to experience learning martial arts. Maybe through fighting games, I felt that's what I was getting.