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in it to win it

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  You insisted the only reason people called you over competitive was because they were the ones losing. It was all or nothing for you since you were a girl (there are some that insist you still are, but you know you stopped being a child much younger than most). You either got what you wanted or didn’t, you either improved or you failed, you either won or you lost. People didn’t understand why, so they asked in brightly lit interview rooms what was the root of your competitive nature? They had no right to know your story, all you had to do was giggle and say it was just who you were. If it was executed in the perfect idol like manner, people forgot your defining feature.

  What you told them: “I was always a bit anxious, school was starting up, and I needed an outlet for all the stress I built up! Some people picked more studying, joining a band, things like that, but I just picked up video games and before I knew it, I became #1!”

  What you didn’t say: “I needed to be in control and strong and I’ve never been taken fucking seriously my entire life so I decided to prove myself. The sleepless nights, the throwing up in stalls, the short stays in hospitals where I checked in under a different name, they were all expected and worth it. But this fucking idol act? There’s nothing cute about what I do, what I had to do to feel alive, this is a joke.”

  You were glad they don’t ask about your parents, it’s easy to say the gaming community is your family. They’d never give a shit about the threats and the “fantasies” sent to you on a daily basis. There was no protection they can give you that you couldn’t give yourself. Annoying for them to insist otherwise, you’d known from the moment you said you’d rise that you were going to be alone.

  When you were seventeen, you were placed on a panel with three other female professional gamers. Four was always the lucky number for a 60 minute program. You sat in a game show setting, asking questions that were supposed to probe at your lives. All of them had to be single, though celibate was the more correct term. It was rare that girls could play video games and be adorable and perfect, right? That had to be kept in tact. You knew this well, and instead spent your time observing the other gamers. You were lined up in order of ranking: you, Dragonslayer, Sunny-Blizzard, and Wolfina. Their looks and demeanors all aligned with their users to an extent, but they all had to be a certain type of idol. Of course. You wished you’d brought gum, you know you could sell it, if only you’d remembered.

  “Sunny!” the interviewer, a loud man in neon colors, said, “I love your necklace!” he pointed to the sunflower necklace hanging on her, almost like a choker. You could tell the cameras were zooming in.

  “Thanks,” Sunny said, her smile soft and subtle. You never paid much attention to other gamers, but you wondered how she did her streams. Something about her felt too quiet to belong in a place like this.

   “It feels like a gift,” the interviewer paused for an audience reaction. Fucking annoying. He continued, “who did you get it from?” It was always the quiet on--

   “A dead person. It’s a memento,” Sunny said, “it’s a bit humble, but it’s very precious to me. Thank you for noticing!” You took your thought back. It was always the quiet ones who bit back the hardest. You wanted to face her, see what strategies she’d use before taking her down. You were sure it’d be a fun fight.

   The interviewer didn’t try and pull anything else on Sunny-Blizzard, and you allowed the time to pass.

  In the shared dressing room, you came up to Sunny, “Nice one! That one’s sneaky, and your response tells me you’re a good player!”

   “I do my best, it’s a pleasure to meet you D.Va, I don’t think anyone expected you to come to a show like this.” Sunny smiled, and you couldn’t help but smile back.

   “Ah, you gotta please the people, and I know my place isn’t going anywhere. It’d be nice to have a challenge for once, don’t you think?” You said, shrugging for emphasis. Sunny’s smile gained a sharpness, and when she asked you to follow you to the restroom, you didn’t expect her to kiss you. It was your first kiss, and it tasted like strawberry lip gloss. You hoped there were no photographers. She said she’d find a way to defeat you, give me three years , and you agreed, because you didn’t think you had anything to lose. You kept in contact with her, outside of matches and without incentive, so naturally, two years later you both knew that there were MEKAs that needed to be piloted.

   She saw it as an opportunity to one up you, and there was no way you were going to let you win. You sent her pictures on your pink MEKA, on the set of the movie you were filming, she was the first to see your battle stream. When she died, you were nineteen and knew there was going to be more loss surrounding you than you ever wanted. The ache came in like a migraine and never went away, but that didn’t mean you weren’t expected to be the idol freedom fighter your people deserved.

  You weren’t called Hana anymore, but there was no need for that. You would rise alone, because if Sunny, and everything she stood for, told you anything, it was that you stopped being a child the moment you replaced faith for competitiveness. There was no way you wouldn’t win when it was a match to the death. You chose not to acknowledge that the only reason you backed up your competitiveness was because you were the one losing.