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South Florida’s prominent LGBT players in the fighting game community scene are focused on maintaining their high ranks and perfecting their skills, while the community embraces their acceptance.

Xaltis, a transgender woman from Lake Worth, is a professional “Super Smash Bros. 4” player notorious for her strategic yet aggressive gameplays of Rosalina — a princess who first appeared in “Super Mario Galaxy” in 2007.

“Rosalina is meant to be played very defensively, but she can be aggressive,” Xaltis said after finishing a round match. “I’m one of the more aggro Rosalina players in the ranks.”

Xaltis’s gameplay paid off as she won first place during the “Super Smash Bros. 4” weekly tournament match held on March 30 at Versus Gaming Center in Pompano Beach against 67 contenders. Last year, she ranked 10th on the South Florida Smash 4 Power Rankings and moved up to fifth as of January.

While Xaltis started playing video games since childhood, in 2007 she began to practice her abilities with “Smash” and gaining interest in the local fighting game scene once another player — dubbed “Afro Thundah” — recognized her talent.

“I didn't get into the competitive scene until early [Super Smash Bros.] Brawl,” Xaltis said. “I always entered the Brawl tournaments and usually got top three, and from there I kept growing and growing with the rest of the South Florida Smash players.”

Even though the local Smash community scene within Versus and beyond recognize and accept Xaltis, she mainly deals with rude comments and looks from strangers both online and offline.

“In the [local] community, nobody’s ever really done anything in person to harass me or anything,” Xaltis said. “There have been random people, like at restaurants if we go out to eat, they would give me stares. You just gotta ignore them and try to ignore people who give you hate and all of that.”

Currently, Xaltis has an active Twitch channel — an online streaming service for gaming platforms — where she plays “Smash” and other video games, that is sponsored by Aether eSports, and attends numerous tournaments such as Evolution Championship Series and Community Effort Orlando, commonly known as EVO and CEO respectively.

Kendall resident Tayson Defas, much like Xaltis, started playing video games during his childhood while living in Ecuador, but it wasn’t until his first CEO invite in June 2010 that he got hooked.

“My mind was blown away by the fact that there were so many people just as strong as I, even stronger, that liked the same games as me,” Defas said. “I got super jealous there were so many personalities, that I felt I deserved to be recognized too.”

During a stage run of newcomers versus top-ranked players for “Marvel vs. Capcom 3,” a popular fighting game featuring crossover characters of its titular franchises, Defas signed up, played and won against EVO World Champion Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez.

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Tayson Defas. Photo courtesy of Tayson Defas.

“I didn’t know Filipino Champ was the one supposed to be featured, hell I didn’t even know he was a top player,” Defas said. “So after I beat him, he looks at me mad ‘cause I don't get up, and I reply ‘Why would I get up? I beat you, let him play’ as I point to the dude next in line.”

Defas rarely disclosed his sexuality during his early years in the local fighting game scene. But he wasn't hiding it out of fear or shame — he just didn't want to shock his colleagues. 

“As my friends describe me, I'm pretty manly, have a martial arts background, reliable, friendly and always up for beer,” Defas said. “So when people discover I'm actually gay they have such an expression on their face.”

However, it was one experience that made Defas realized how he could educate other players by openly embracing his identity instead of playing it up as a prank revelation.

“There was this friend who had a pretty narrow view of gay people. And he had known me for a while now, but at a tournament he was told I was actually gay,” Defas recalls.

“He loves me so he practices hard to be on equal footing with me or anyone in the scene.” — Tayson Defas

“His mind had trouble grasping the fact, but after that we talked and since then, he’s been more open to LGBT [people],” Defas said. “I was letting him know LGBT people come in all shapes or forms, and maybe [you] could get past narrow views if you get to know people.”

Nowadays, Defas is practicing and playing both “Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3” and “Street Fighter V” in local and state tournaments alongside his boyfriend, Bastian Oliva, who is both a supporter and new player since being introduced into the community by Defas.

“He loves me so he practices hard to be on equal footing with me or anyone in the scene,” Defas said with admiration. “Proudest moment was seeing him getting this complicated punish and winning his own tournament match at our [local] weekly.”