If you didn’t click the above links, you probably assumed I was referring to the sexual harassment (and general bad behavior) that was lit up earlier in the week thanks to Capcom’s misguided fighting game reality show.
But that’s not the case. No, the fighting game community isn’t crusading against the more repulsive part of their neighborhood – they’re attacking the journalists who dared to write about it.
For those uninitiated with the latest bout of competitive drama, Capcom’s reality show was supposed to highlight the fighting game community in order to hype up Street Fighter X Tekken. Unfortunately for them, immediately after the cameras started rolling, everyone’s attention was quickly plastered on anything but what game was being played.
Starting with the first day of competition, Aris Bakhtanians, captain of the Tekken team on the show, can clearly be heard berating another player, Miranda ‘Super Yan’ Pakozdi. The jeering isn’t what you’d expect to hear in a competitive environment. It isn’t minor jabbing and trash-talk – it is full-on sexual harassment. In what can only be described as one of the most awkward clips of competitive play ever, Aris can clearly be heard tossing numerous sexual-fueled jabs at Pakozdi. Laughter is clearly audible in the background, egging Aris on.
Pakozdi is clearly uncomfortable during the whole affair – even asking Aris to stop on multiple occasions. If her voice doesn’t properly convey “please stop,” her body language certainly does.
Then the ball dropped.
On day five, Aris got into an argument with Twitch.tv’s community manager, Jared Rea. During the day’s stream, Rea can be heard talking in the background about the more negative aspects of the community. In short, he appears to be disgruntled with the rampant sexual harassment, especially when compared to StarCraft 2 – a community he’d spent quite some time around.
Almost immediately, groans are heard in the background in response to Rea’s radical proposition that players treat each other with some modicum of decency.
“If you don’t like onions, you get your sandwich without onions on it, man. This is the fighting game community,” Aris replied. “The sexual harassment is part of the culture. If you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community.”
Then Rea pressed him some more, leading to one of the most ironic quotes in the history of competitive anything.
“It’s ethically wrong,” Aris said, specifically speaking of removing blatant harassment from the community.
You’d expect this behavior would be shouted down by the rest of the community. Clearly, this isn’t something that is acceptable – certainly not in a scene that desperately wants to be taken seriously. But that isn’t what has happened.
Instead, the hammer dropped on the outlets that initially reported on the controversy. The “FGC” isn’t interested in the sexual harassment that happened during Capcom’s show. They’re pissed that their scene hasn’t been represented fairly.
And that’s where I come in.
You see, prior to this weekend, I knew absolutely nothing about the fighting game community. I can’t name a single player. I don’t know what games are currently played competitively. I couldn’t tell you what the big tournaments are. The small bits of knowledge I do have are stolen from a few of my friends that are into fighting games. Outside of that? Not a clue.
After seeing this, though, along with the community’s response to it? That likely won’t change.
It’s certainly not that I’m afraid of competitive communities and trash talking – far from it. I’ve played Counter-Strike competitively – both on LAN and online. I’ve sat in IRC watching two teams trash each other non-stop prior to a match (about sniping, mind you, not someone’s bra size).
Likewise, despite not actually playing the game, I love watching StarCraft 2 – I follow MLG religiously, and I don’t mind dropping money for “PPV” events. I’m the target audience that the fighting community is trying to attract. I’m theoretically the easiest guy to bring over to your side.
But you’ve totally lost me.
And maybe you think that is unfair. Here I am – posing as a journalist on a gaming site – and yet I won’t do research. I’m not reaching out to people in your community. I’m not trying to get interviews. I’m not interested in seeing both sides. How dare I take the words of Bakhtanians’ as representative of the entire community!
But I’m not just looking at this event as a journalist; I’m looking at it as a potential fan. And, unfortunately for the fighting game scene, you don’t really get to cherry pick what I see and which I don’t. So, as someone who wants to be a fan of the scene, I have to ask, where was all of this outrage during the event itself?
Where were the cries of sexual harassment when Pakozdi first spoke up about what was being said to her? Where were the event organizers when things were starting to get uncomfortable? Why did the other members of the show simply sit there and laugh when boundaries were clearly crossed? How come when Pakozdi was clearly throwing the match the commentators didn’t even speak about what was going on? This would be huge in any other community as it was happening, but in this scene, it apparently wasn’t even worth a mention.
To me – to an outsider – editorials like this don’t look like apologies. They don’t look like serious attempts at cleaning up the scene. They look like an attempt to bridge the gap. They’re the equivalent of the phrase “we’re sorry you were offended.” They’re redirections and a whole lot of dodging with maybe a little bit of change wrapped up under layers of coddling.
Their goal doesn’t appear to be to fix anything, it’s just to save their own ass, to backpedal just far enough to appease both the manchildren and the advertisers that have yet to be scared off by a scene that clearly doesn’t deserve them. It’s to save “the hype” that some members of the fighting community apparently cling to – a term I can only assume means sexism, homophobia (just because you have gay members in your community does not mean you accept them, as is obvious by the taunting I’ve heard at your matches), and bigotry packaged up as something gamers should be excited about.
Without Giant Bomb, without Destructoid, there would’ve been no controversy. No outside attention would’ve ever reached the privileged shores of the fighting game community. And yet, many in the scene seem too daft to realize that.
Instead of trying to fix the problems that have been so blatantly pointed out by the gaming press, they’re instead acting like children who are upset that their hand has been caught in the cookie jar. It’s the equivalent of yelling at the cop who gives you the speeding ticket, claiming he didn’t do enough research about your driving habits.
The gaming press reported on what they saw. It isn’t their job to give out awards for meeting the minimum standard of human decency – it’s to report and pull attention to the stories that require a bit of extra attention. It isn’t their duty to act as your PR engine. That one is on you, and you screwed up by not immediately moving to counter what Aris said – not on day five after it was a big deal, but back on day one, before any “drama” had happened.
Instead of being mad at Aris for acting like a tool in front of an audience (not to mention everyone else involved with Capcom’s show), they’re flinging feces at the people that pointed out how problematic his speech was.
And really, that’s all you need to know about the competitive fighting community.
[As a note, I use “fighting community” and “scene” throughout the article. For the record, I am specifically referring to the Street Fighter and Tekken communities. Though, considering the response, you could extrapolate it to other scenes within the larger community as well.]