Competitive Gamer's Inflammatory Comments Spark Sexual Harassment Debate [Update]

Competitive fighting gamer Aris Bakhtanians has prompted some ire with inflammatory comments he made during a recent episode of Capcom's "Cross Assault." "Cross Assault" is a promotional competitive web-TV series that pits a team of Tekken players against a team of Street Fighter players. On the show, Bakhtanians made remarks about the entrenched sexism in the fighting game scene, and how it was fine if things never changed.

Giant Bomb's Patrick Klepek has posted a thorough story on the matter. Included in the story is a transcript of Bakhtanians from one one of the episodes. His response when asked, "Can I get my Street Fighter without sexual harassment?":

You can't. You can't because they're one and the same thing. This is a community that's, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it's not the fighting game community—it's StarCraft. There's nothing wrong with StarCraft if you enjoy it, and there's nothing wrong with anything about eSports, but why would you want just one flavor of ice cream, you know? There's eSports for people who like eSports, and there's fighting games for people who like spicy food and like to have fun. There's no reason to turn them into the same thing, you know?

Later, when asked about whether shouting "Rape that bitch!" at a match is acceptable behavior, Bakhtanians replied, "Look, man. What is unacceptable about that? There's nothing unacceptable about that. These are people, we're in America, man, this isn't North Korea. We can say what we want. People get emotional."

The Giant Bomb story also shares some of the reactions and discussion generated during the program, including responses from one of one of the female competitors on the show, Miranda "Super_Yan" Pakozdi. Pakozdi voiced disappointment about the events of the day on Twitter, though she eventually deleted the tweets.

Capcom has apologized for Bakhtanians' comments in a statement to Giant Bomb, stating, "The views and opinions expressed by cast members in the live internet program 'Cross Assault' do not reflect those of Capcom. As a company, Capcom believes that everyone should be treated with respect. This particular issue was brought to our attention and has been addressed. We sincerely apologize to anyone that was offended by any comments expressed during the show."

(Update: This story initially stated that Bakhtanians talked about the entrenched sexism and racism of the fighting-game scene, when he actually just equated the scene's sexism to racism more broadly. It has been updated.)

(Second Update: The Penny Arcade Report's Ben Kuchera has also written an extensive story on the matter, providing a good amount of additional context.)

2/29 Update: Bakhtanians has posted the following response to Twitter:

I understand that I said some controversial statements on the Cross Assault show, and a lot of people are deeply offended with what was said. When I made these statements, I was very heated as I felt that the culture of a scene I have been a part of for over 15 years was being threatened. I unfortunately used extreme examples in the heat of the moment and feel that my statements don't actually communicate how I feel. This is similar to what people say when they get into an argument with their girlfriend, and they say things that they deeply regret. I sincerely apologise if I have offended anyone. My statements do not reflect those of Capcom or myself. The last thing I want to do is get them in trouble for giving me and the fighting game community the opportunity to have an amazing show like this.

What I was trying to communicate is that mild hostility has always been a defining characteristic of the fighting game scene. Back when arcades were more prevalent, people didn't like newcomers, and players needed to fight and pay their dues to get respect. The debate I was in was with a person who supported professional leagues, who have intent to censor the community to make it more accessible. I think the sink or swim mentality is something that defined our culture, and if that succeeds it removes something which has been important to help create some of the best fighting game players of our time. I was unfortunately unable to make this point clearly. Again, I am deeply sorry for offending anyone. This was a combination of the people taking things out of context and my own inability in the heat of the moment to defend myself and the community I have loved for over 15 years.

Aris

When Passions Flare, Lines are Crossed [Giant Bomb]