Sexism isn’t just a Street Fighter issue

Fists in the air, in the land of hypocrisy.

Last week a whopping great shitstorm erupted around Capcom’s online reality TV show Cross Assault, part of a promotional campaign for the company’s upcoming Streetfighter X Tekken. The crux of the outcry were comments made one of the show’s contestants, Aris “Aris” Bakhtanians, justifying sexual harassment in the fighting game community (FGC) in a discussion involving twitch.tv community manager Jared Rea. “This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20-years-old and the sexual harassment is part of a culture,” said Aris, head of Team Tekken on the show, “and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community.” In an earlier episode Aris had pestered his fellow Team Tekken member Miranda “Super_Yan” Pakozdi about her bra size. What a classy gent, eh?

Soon afterwards Aris released a statement to try and clarify his remarks. “What I was trying to communicate is that mild hostility has always been a defining characteristic of the fighting game scene,” he said. “Back when arcades were more prevalent, people didn’t like newcomers, and players needed to fight and pay their dues to get respect.” As excuses for siege mentality and elitism go that’s down there with the lamest of them. Professional Olympic-level athletes are fiercely competitive without having to call each other names or sexually harass women, and any who do are rightfully punished for it. If outright hostility was essential to professional StarCraft 2 competitiveness then South Korea would be full of mass graves and have the Bagger 288 on indefinite loan. As it is the FGC’s hostility to outsiders is really nothing more than a comfort blanket. They don’t need it any more, if they ever really needed it at all, but they’re still too scared to throw it away.

Everyone gave the FGC as a whole a sound thrashing last week over the actions of a vocal minority, so me putting my own New Rock boot in won’t accomplish anything more. I’m content to let them go home and be a family man for the time being, because if this incident doesn’t make the FGC more insular and withdrawn then positive change will occur. Fighting games are about learning lessons from each defeat and adapting to overcome them in the future, so change will happen unless the FGC wants to keep getting its arse kicked again and again over this kind of behaviour. Whether it’ll come about sooner or later is a matter for debate but it will happen, most likely at the grass-roots level from where it will then trickle upwards. One day the FGC will realise they don’t need to be hostile to be competitive, and they’ll throw the comfort blanket in the bin where is belongs. In the meantime they’ll also keep doing great stuff like Fight for Relief, a charity tournament for Japan that took place last year.

Anyhow, I’m not here to stick another knife in Caesar and call myself a saviour of the glorious gaming republic. No, my target is the hypocrisy of the wider gaming community during all of this. The united condemnation of the FGC as an insular, inbred underground of misogyny and hostility came in the same month gamers ganged-up on BioWare’s Jennifer Hepler, over things she never wrote about a game she’s never worked on. I’m calling it bullying because that’s exactly what it fucking was and if you say otherwise you’re no better than Aris Bakhtanian. Actually no, that’s a bit too unfair to Aris. His crime was no-less despicable but is dwarfed by the sheer scale of the Hepler hate campaign, originating on 4chan and picked up in earnest by the wheezing teenage Morlocks of Reddit.com’s r/gaming subreddit: a dank cesspit of rage comics, dead memes and other juvenile sewage.

Oh, but how this adolescent pondscum vehemently denied there was anything sexist about their witch hunt! “We’re only calling her ‘a fat, twilight-loving bitch’ because we’re worried about the quality of writing in our video games!” they wailed, tremulous entitled little vermin they are. They also threw other intelligent, incisive observations such as “the cancer killing BioWare” and “Hamburger Hepler” (“cuz she fat lol!”) at her, like monkeys with handfuls of their own faeces. As with Aris this minority of sad, emotionally-stunted idiots were also rightfully condemned. Would the wider gaming community’s lambasting of the FGC’s Aris’ remarks have been so severe if Hepler’s harassment hadn’t happened however, or were we all making the FGC a scapegoat for our collective sins?

Challenging Aris’ attitude, and those in the FGC who supported him, was absolutely the right and necessary thing to do. Doing so with a misguided belief we are clean, pure, wholesome angels devoid of any vice and iniquity however was sickeningly hypocritical. The FGC incident should have been held up alongside Hepler’s recent treatment as a symptom of something rotten in the entire state of gaming. Not only fighting games or only RPGs, all games. You have no right to smugly point at someone else’s mess and yell “clean that up you sexist pig!” when your own basement is knee-deep in enough excrement to fertilise every garden in England. The FGC, like any subset of the gaming community, is simply a microcosm of a greater whole: its warts and boils a dark reflection of our own. “Take ye the log from your own eye before you condemn the mote in your friend’s eye,” or however that particular bible quote goes.

Gaming has always reacted very defensively towards criticism. We can’t help it. Games have had a lot of shit flung at them over the years by self-appointed moral crusaders and other busybodies, much of it baseless and unwarranted. Some of it is quite justified however and we have to learn to react to that appropriately, not fling ourselves to the ground screaming like a toddler in a supermarket whose mummy told him he can’t have a bucket of Haribo. Sexist shit like this permeates every area of gaming to a greater or lesser extent, and if you don’t believe that then you’ve either never played online or you have a peculiar case of selective deafness. Women still get harassed in all areas of gaming and mature gamers should challenge it wherever it rears its ugly head, even if it’s in a game of Puzzle Pirates. The same goes for racism and homophobia.

We won’t accomplish that by throwing one subset of the wider community under the proverbial bus and then washing our hands of it. Like it or not, their crimes are also ours.

Matt

About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.