We caught up with R6 caster Fluke to discuss her life in the limelight as a community figure, and how she navigates esports as an LGBTQIA+ person. (Image by Kirill Bashikov)
This week’s Pride Month interview is with a figurehead of the Rainbox Six scene, caster and community figure Emi “Fluke” Donaldson. Fluke’s journey in the Rainbow Six scene has been meteoric, rising up through the ranks of Siege tournaments to cast her first Six Invitational earlier this year. We discussed finding a community in the world of Siege, navigating her own identity as a trans person in a broadcast role, and how she navigates the concept of being a role model in the esports community.
For those who aren’t familiar with the world of Siege, tell us a little bit about yourself!
Fluke: So my name is Emi (although a lot of people will probably know me as Fluke), and I’ve been casting for about four years. Before I started casting I used to a lot of Youtube and Twitch content, but after a while I found myself getting really bored and disconnected from content creation.
I was looking for new ways to express my enjoyment of games- around that time I saw a post by Milosh talking about casting and hosting, and it hit me that there was this whole world of esports that I hadn’t explored. I’d recently gotten into R6 by playing in with some friends and so I began by just forcing ten of my friends into a lobby and casting over their games.
How did you discover Siege in the first place?
Fluke: I first crossed paths with Siege at Eurogamer- it was sitting quietly on display in a corner at the same time Battlefront came out. I was originally there to try out battlefront, but I saw there was no queue to play Siege so I went to check it out and just fell in love with it. I’d played Tom Clancy games before, I’d played Ubisoft games before, and this was just something that I immediately knew I’d love.
My friend group and I initially came together playing Swat 4, the old tac shooter from Irrational Games, and initially, we tried playing Siege like that- super-seriously, really focusing on tactics. But we also just found that we could really have a lot of genuine laughs and enjoyment playing Siege, so we’ve never really stopped playing it since that first trial at Eurogamer.
It’s just always the game we’ve gone back to as a friend group, and we’ve all followed it as it’s gotten bigger and bigger throughout the years.
You said you came into Siege with a friend group who already played the game- with that in mind, what was your experience of the Siege community as a whole? How has your perception of the scene changed as you’ve gone from a fan and a player to being a community figure?
Fluke: My experience with the Siege community has been, overall, really pleasant. You’re always going to have outliers, and it can be really easy to focus on the negative, but most of the people I’ve met through both the esports scene and the game itself have been lovely.
I’d never really dived into a game with the same kind of passion as I did for Siege. I wasn’t involved in the competitive scene, or streaming, or community commentary, for any game before this. The feeling of getting into Siege was kind of like the feeling of leaving home and going to college, where suddenly you’re surrounded by people who are all super passionate about the same things as you.
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As someone who is openly both queer and gender non-conforming, do you feel accepted by your community in gaming? After a recent instance of transphobia, the community came out to support you in a major way- what did that feel like, to see such tangible support?
Fluke: Oh, one HUNDRED percent. I get support from all across the community- from people who are just here for the game, from queer members of the community, from allies, from people who love the competitive scene. People are supportive because they know that I got here off the back of my passion for the game. I love Siege, and people can recognize that and welcome me in the community because of it.
When it came to community reaction to that particular comment, I was really pleasantly surprised. I’m incredibly thick-skinned, you sort of have to be in this industry and this job, and I know a lot of other people have suffered from toxic comments from outlying members of the community.
The fact that so many people shut that person down on my behalf was incredible- and not just people from the European scene, but from all across the world. There were NA players and talent, who I’ve never spoken to that much, that were some of the quickest to respond to defend me which I thought was super cool.
It’s a sad part of the job that you’re going to get comments from random fourteen-year-olds who just want to cause drama. For me, people like that are just a case of block and move on. I make a strong effort to make sure that none of this affects me to any great degree because I want to set a good example. If there are people in the community who look up to me or see my career as something they are aiming for, I want them to know that things like this shouldn’t affect them or make them feel any less than they are.
I hope that fans who are LGBTQIA+ are able to look at me and see the positives of being in esports as a queer person, and not that their life will consist of people trying to bring them down on social media.
How have you come to terms with the fact that you are a role model- whether that be for the LGBTQIA+ community in gaming or just for those looking to get into casting?
Fluke: I’ve come to terms with it in the fact that I’m always trying to be a better person. This is a job where I’m going to have eyes on me, and I don’t know if that’s something I’ll ever get used to. I’ll sometimes have moments where a fan will send an incredibly thankful or loving message and it’ll hit me that I do actually have an impact- even if I am just talking about video games for a living.
Who have been some of your personal role models- both in the queer community and in esports as a whole?
Fluke: For me, it’s always going to be people who boldly and brashly live with their own confidence. Sonic Fox is an absolute icon. They only came out as gender nonconforming semi-recently but they’ve always been vocal about their sexuality and their belief in themselves and their abilities as a player and I just think that energy is absolutely fantastic. I also think Froskurinn is incredibly cool- I admire that ability to be so vocal, the confidence to put yourself out there.
I’m generally quite an introverted person, and I think a lot of people in the gaming community are the same. So I’ll see my colleagues just saying ‘screw it’ and going for opportunities and stepping into new things and that’s an energy and a fearlessness that inspires me in my own life.
I’ve often said that I’d like to be able to just show up, do my job, and then disappear from the public eye. Kind of how Daniel Day-Lewis deals with fame. But I’ve realized that mentality doesn’t really work in esports. Our industry is a public space, and you’ve got to try and exist in that space the best you can, knowing that whatever you do there’s going to be someone that’ll criticize it.
You could be the most formulaic, uncontroversial, stereotypical person in the world and you’re still going to be the subject of criticism. So why bother trying to be someone you’re not? Why not just be exactly who you are?
Over the past year that’s something I’ve really come to terms with. Before I’d never really considered that casting was going to be something that lasted for me- it was a hobby that got out of hand. So I had come out as trans to all of my friends but I wasn’t talking about it publicly. Suddenly I went into casting and I was being asked what name I wanted to go by on broadcast and I realized casting wasn’t a temporary thing anymore. It was turning into a job. So I was like: okay, I’ve kind of got to come out because I refuse to hide who I am.
A word from Esports.gg
The esports world is an incredibly diverse one. With fans across the world from numerous cultures, gaming is a melting pot of the identities of millions- including the millions of queer gamers across the globe. However, queer people are often underrepresented as public figures in the world of gaming, and although the tide is slowly beginning to turn towards more universally representative and inclusive front-facing teams in esports, there is still work to be done.
Queer community members are working tirelessly to bring LGBTQIA+ representation firmly into the mainstream of esports. Throughout Pride Month, Esports.gg will be conducting a series of interviews highlighting LGBTQIA+ trailblazers in the world of esports.