Apparently, it's okay to make fun of sexual harassment in the fighting games community. That's what happened last night, as one of the biggest fighting game streaming broadcasts mocked the controversy that followed an episode of Capcom's "Cross Assault" web series.
Wednesday Night Fights, produced by Level|Up and sponsored by fighting game mecca Shoryuken, aired an episode where you can hear the commentators start referencing harassment at 0:24 in the video above. At 1:24, you hear "Giant Bomb can write an article", an allusion to journalist Patrick Klepek's coverage of comments made by Aris Bakhtanians. The clip above comes from last night's Wednesday Night Fights broadcast that can be seen here.
The defensiveness on display doesn't do much to quiet criticism of the hostile environment that many say exists in the fighting game scene.
The genre's enthusiasts say they deserve respect. It's their passion for video games' various martial arts franchises that keeps the entire category viable. Devotees of Street Fighter, SoulCalibur and Tekken go deep into their games of choice, learning movesets, teaching each other strategies and meticulously cataloguing changes from one iteration of a release to another. And when they feel like they're getting nickel-and-dimed with incomplete games that get filled out with paid DLC, they'll hold a publisher's feet to the fire.
But they haven't learned to take criticism.
Adherents talk about The Scene or The Community with reverence, citing their devotion and years of dedication. Here's what the mission statement says on the Level|Up website:
Level|Up actively works to improve the cohesion, collaboration, and awareness of local and worldwide communities by focusing on elements that are socially accepted; gaming and entertainment.
Level|Up brings a positive recreational atmosphere in gaming with others at events such as Wednesday Night Fights, Specialists, and premier tournaments. These events help defeat society's video game pessimisms through infallible community appreciation, acceptance, and encouragement to any generation of gamers.
Wednesday Nights Fights is a gathering where friends, new comers, and veterans grind out the highest quality fighting game competition Southern California has to offer.
You can't use the "just having fun" excuse when you want to be taken seriously. And with tournaments, prize money and recognition, partcipants do want to be taken seriously. Sexist macho posturing doesn't deserve respect. Skills get you respect.
Denouncements from on high, like the one Capcom issued yesterday, work on a symbolic level but there's very little trickle-down to the actual individuals. The meet-ups and tourneys fighting game players organize feed into a larger ecosystem that goes all the way up to the genre's biggest stage, the EVO Championships.
When harassment gets mocked and excuses get made that sexually and racially demeaning trash talk are just part of a scene, acolytes are really showing that they're not as inclusive as they say they are. Some may go to a gathering to blow off steam or shed social norms and other people of differing genders and races may be showing up to find a welcoming community. If that's not what they find, then ultimately The Scene or Community will wither or, worse, become solely the domain of a surly few. There's nothing positive or infallible about that.
Level|Up's released the following statement following last night's Wednesday Night Fights stream. In it, they indicate that the commentators who made the controversial remarks won't be back on WNF:
Last night on Wednesday Night Fights (2/29/2012), remarks were said by community commentators that alluded to recent events involving the Fighting Game Community (FGC) and the sexual harassment controversy that surrounds it. From time to time, members of the community will come onto our broadcast to provide match analysis and commentary. These remarks do not reflect the views and opinions of Level | Up or our affiliates, partners, and/or sponsors. It is not Level | Up's intention to make light of sexual harassment nor do we condone it. Level | Up and its staff feel harassment of any form is wrong and that everyone should be treated respectfully.
The community commentators involved express their sincerest apologies for anything they may have said including releasing a statement themselves about the matter:
"I just wanted to say, my views and personal opinions of do not reflect Level | Up, EVO, SRK or the fighting game community and any company in any way. A lot of people know me as the nice but joking guy who doesn't have any bad intentions.
I love this community with all my heart, and I've poured a lot of what I could into this community. I understand now that is it a very heavy topic that should not be lightly talked about. I misjudged a lot of things yesterday and said things I definitely should not have. I have no excuses and I hope everyone looks past this and onto a bright future." - Martin "Marn" Phan
"I want to personally apologize for any comments made during last night's WNF session that may have offended anyone. These were not my intentions. Please understand that any and all things that I say are not at all the views of Level | Up, SRK, EVO, or any other Fighting Game organization. The FGC is the most professional, courteous, and open gaming organization I have ever been involved in, and I apologize if any of my comments have shown an outstanding community in any negative light. I am simply someone who offers my views and commentary on an occasional basis, and if anything I may have said was considered in bad taste, unprofessional, or offensive, I take full personal responsibility for what was said. Again, I sincerely apologize for anything that may have offended anyone; I was simply influenced by the moment, and it should not have happened." - Christian "ETR" Cain
Marn and Christian will not be invited to speak on future Level | Up broadcasts, and are reviewing our selection process for guest commentators. Again, we sincerely apologize if anyone was offended by the remarks said on our recent broadcast. As a company founded by Fighting Game Community members, it is not our intention to paint the scene in this manner; instead we stand by our mission statement and will continue to focus on showcasing the scene in a positive manner - a scene that can be professional, inviting, and competitive.
- Level | Up