Who says women can’t own at video games?
Well they definitely haven’t meet Amber, a woman of many names (some people know her as Lady Kohaku or Mz Hoodless) and even more responsibilities (she’s the manager for Team GXR, coach, gamer, girlfriend, and mom!). Currently one of the people to watch in the Dead or Alive (DOA) fighting community, she’s got big plans for expansion and is really proving that black girl magic is powerful.
Appei: Esports have become such a huge thing right now and I’m just glad that you’re holding down the fort, representing, kicking butt, and I think it’s just so cool. How did you get started playing video games competitively?
Lady Kohaku: First of all, I had always wanted to go to a tournament, but my mom was that type of mom that would buy me the video game consoles with any game that I wanted but I could never play online. So I’d been gaming since I was 6, but couldn’t play online until I turned 18. While playing online, I heard people talking about video game tournaments and I was like, really? I want to be a part of this. Then they broke it down to me and told me I’d have to buy plane tickets, find somebody to room with, this, that and the third—it was going to be a lot of work.
I ended up meeting this guy who is now my boyfriend, Hoodless, but back then we were just friends, and he told me he was going to Summer Jam 2012 and he invited me to go with him (he’d been planning to drive up). I started saving up so I could go on the trip and that’s how Summer Jam 2012 became my first tournament. It was the flyest tournament ever, I met so many of my online friends there and I just loved going to tournaments after that. I did horribly though, I was like, I have to practice.
A: Well, I feel like everyone’s first time at a tournament they get their butt beat. I heard that playing online is completely different from playing at a tournament.
LK: It is. You have the tournament nerves. You freeze up sometimes. Plus you’re sitting right next to the person you are trying to beat.
A: I’m just glad that you finally got to go to a tournament and you got to experience it, like, I’m just thinking about how many people you inspire just by being you. I can’t really think of any other black girls that are really in the competitive fighting game tournament scene so when I first saw you I was like, I want to do that too!
LK: I did not know I had any impact on anybody, I just go to tournament because you know, I like going to tournaments.
A: Yeah! Keep going! Whenever I see you commentating or even just playing I’m like, “Go Lady Kohaku! Go Amber! Go MzHoodless!” Like I always root for you, if I could go to tournament, I would have on a shirt that says, ‘Go Lady Kohaku!’ I am that big of a fan I’m not even joking.
LK: Oh my gosh! You are making me smile so hard right now!
A: Do you see yourself going super hard with the competitive gaming scene? With where you are right now as one of the prominent people in the Dead or Alive community, do you see yourself taking this even further and making this a full-time job?
LK: That is actually the ultimate goal, I want to get paid doing what I love the most—playing video games and commentating. You have people that are universal commentators, where they commentate on every game even though they might not know the mechanics of that game but they have this energy that just brings the commentating to life, that is what I would love to do.
I’m also trying to save to build myself a computer so I can get my Twitch stream more professional so that more people can notice me.
I also have created and team called GXR. I started off with two people who are really good at video games but just kept getting overlooked by the bigger and more well-known teams. It’s a really good team and the roster has changed a few times but we’re really strong, I’d love to get some Mortal Kombat and Injustice players. I don’t have the type of sponsor who will help me send my players out just yet, but I’m working hard on that. I’m doing a lot of stuff out of pocket, I created the jerseys for the team. I used to have a co-manager but life got to her so she had to drop out, but I’m fine with doing this by myself. I work a full-time job, I’m a full-time mom, I’m a full-time manager, and a full-time girlfriend so I have a lot on my plate, but I know how to manage it well.
A: Wow! Well I know you’re the manager for GXR but I didn’t know you had so much stuff on your plate! That’s amazing that you’re able to do all this stuff! I didn’t know you were a mom!
LK: Yep, I’ve got a six-year old son, I took him with me to KIT (Kumite In Tennesse) this year.
A: I think it’s so cool what you do and I think it’s so funny how you almost never got to do what you do because you almost never got to go to a tournament! I bet your mom was just looking out for you, are you her only daughter?
LK: No, I’m the youngest, that’s what it is.
A: While you were at a tournament, has anyone ever been mean to you, have you ever had to prove yourself? Does that happen often, what do you do about it, does it piss you off?
LK: I know a lot of people who just hated me online. When I went to the tournaments they would say stuff like, “Oh you really showed up,” trying to be slick. People would underestimate my abilities, some of the top players would underestimate me but then I’d show up and show out and I’d get my props for it.
A: That’s mean that they’d underestimate you. Why would they do that though?
LK: Because I was really bad back in the day and they thought that I wouldn’t make progress.
A: So they were trying to judge you by your past! But you showed them.
LK: And they would never really play with me! Like for real for real!
A: Really?! That’s not fair! The best way for someone to get better is if your practice with them!
LK: Well my boyfriend helps me out, he’s a top player and I’ve gotten so much better thanks to him. I do rage when I play against him because he’s so good.
A: Hoodless is really good! I can remember when I first got into DOA and I watched a tournament, it was one of the Summer Jams. Hoodless was on and he picked Zack and I thought, why would you pick Zack?! But he put that Zack to work and showed that he’s actually a good character! I always thought Zack was just a joke character.
LK: Don’t sleep on Zack.
A: Have you ever considered coaching?
LK: I do coach other players. I coach my boyfriend, if you go back and watch The Fall Classic (TFC) 2016, you’ll see me coaching him on stage. I also coach the members of my team. If I see someone playing Ayane, Leifang, or Momiji, I go over and coach them, just to help them out.
A: Which is your favorite fighting game?
LK: It’s DOA! I have a love-hate relationship with DOA. I grew up with DOA, I always wanted a fighting game that had girls on the cover, my mom took me to the store and I saw DOA1 on PlayStation. My favorite has to be DOA3.
A: I came into DOA late – my first DOA was DOA5. I too have a love-hate relationship with the game. What’s the reason for your love-hate relationship with the game?
LK: When you play against someone who’s really good they just eliminate any option you have for a setup, when you play against other players, they do stuff that’s not real but I’m too slow to react to it so I get beat out for it.
A: I feel that people don’t take eSports seriously, especially the fighting game section of eSports, how do you deal with that?
LK: You know what, Overwatch is my favorite game right now. That’s another reason I want to put my computer together so I can practice and stream Overwatch and potentially put a team together. I love Overwatch. Some fighting games do get huge pot bonuses like Mortal Kombat X (MKX) or Street Fighter. People may not like it but it has to be respected because fighting games are nice and they’re not easy to play or learn how to play especially if you want to be good at multiple fighting games, it’s not easy. You got to figure out situational things, frame data.
A: Have you thought about joining Overwatch League?
LK: I have! I want to put together a team for Overwatch, just need to build that computer first.
A: Who’s your favorite character in Overwatch?
LK: Widowmaker! I love Widowmaker, I have over a 100 hours with that character.
A: What is one mistake that you’ve made over your career that you’ve learned a lot from?
LK: Helping some people that shouldn’t have been helped, it only happened one time so I’m OK with that. To be honest it doesn’t sound as bad as it does. I don’t really go out of my way to make friends with people, if you come up to me and we talk and I feel good vibes then I’ll rock with you but it’s not like I go out of my way to make friends. A lot of people call me a b*tch and say that I’m mean but I’m not being mean, I guess they don’t like my resting face but it’s whatever.
A: That’s rude! So what, do they expect you to smile all the time?
LK: Yeah, they think that because I’m a girl I should walk around being all giddy and smiling and being, you know…
A: Well that’s stupid… And from what I’ve seen in the tournaments, you’re usually the only girl there, do you get any hate from other girls that show up.
LK: Yes and no. Some girls hate on me but not most, they respect what I do. I love female gamers, I really do.
A: Do you ever feel that when you lose, people say you lost because ‘you’re a girl?’ Do you feel extra pressure to do well because you don’t want guys to say, ‘oh girls can’t play anyway?’
LK: Yes, I feel extra pressure to win because I’m a girl and I’m that underdog. No one has said I lost because I’m a girl because they know how I feel about competing and I practice really hard to get better.
A: Who do you look up to ask your biggest inspiration for your eSports career?
LK: I would say my boyfriend because he practices hard and he taught me a lot and also SonicFox because he’s the top player in every game he plays, that is real talent, and he got into the Guinness Book of World Record for winning the Injustice tournament.
A: And I heard that he’s really nice! You know how people win stuff and then it gets to their heads, I heard he’s not like that at all.
LK: He’s really nice. His elder brother, Kwiggle, is actually my drinking buddy.
A: Do you have any horror stories of people getting upset when they lost to you because you’re a girl?
LK: Nope. I get respect for what I do.
A: How do you pick your mains?
LK: Well, in DOA, I picked Ayane because she has purple hair and I love the color purple.
LK: Yep! And Widowmaker has purple skin so, yep, purple’s my favorite color.
A: Now I understand! But that is so cool that you picked Ayane and you stuck with her because Ayane is one of the most difficult characters to use in the game – she has so many inputs, a lot of her moves are based on timing, and you play her so well!
LK: And let me let you in on a secret – I did not know frame data until DOA 5 Ultimate.
A: What made you pick Leifang and Momiji?
LK: With Leifang, I wanted a challenge because she has a lot of parries. I played with Leifang a lot in DOA4, I love her character design, Leifang is Top 5 in DOA4 – one of the best characters in the game. Momiji’s just fun to play with, her inputs are not hard to do.
A: Do you cosplay?
LK: I’ve thought about it, but it’s really expensive.
A: What is one moment from a tournament that made you laugh so hard that you couldn’t stop?
LK: We had ordered pizza the night before and then we realized we didn’t have anything to eat the pizza out of. So we tore up the pizza box and used the pieces of cardboard as plates. I put my pizza slice in the microwave and went to get it out when it was done, the cardboard was so hot! I bite into the pizza and the pizza was cold and I walk like, “How is the cardboard hot but the pizza cold?” and I was so mad about it!
A: How many hours a day do you spend practicing? What’s the recommended number of hours to spend practicing a day?
LK: Oh wow! How do I even answer that? I play the video game all day so I don’t even know. I work, sleep, play video games, and eat.
A: Why do you think that people don’t take women in video games and eSports seriously?
LK: Because a lot of guys think girls don’t know what they’re doing in video games. It’s a sexist thing. You know how it is when you go online and they find out you’re a girl and they say, “Go make me a sandwich” and I’m like, “Tell your momma to go make you a sandwich.”
A: Which tournament would you really like to win?
LK: I got Top 8 in KIT but I’ll just be happy winning any tournament.
A: How many people are in Team GXR?
LK: I have 13 people.
A: What advice would you give to a black girl nerd trying to get into the competitive fighting game scene?
LK: Be on your guard at all times, a lot of guys don’t see many girls at these tournaments so they could be really helpful, really spiteful, or just trying to get what they want. But as far as gaming goes, practice, go to tournaments event if you don’t think you’re going to do well because the experience is helpful and it’s going to inspire you, it’s going to make you want to do better.
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