Lets take a look at the stinking pit at the centre of the prejudice in the gaming community. Building on ‘I can’t play LoL‘ and ‘Patrick Chapin Talks Sexism and MtG‘, I want to take a quick and dirty look at smack-talk.
Capcom’s recent reality show debacle got me thinking. Why is the fighting game community so terrifyingly intolerant? How can community members defend this culture? Why can’t the community be respectful and welcoming? This last question is the easiest to address, the community intentionally rejects those concepts:
“Oh boy,” someone is heard saying, mocking the idea that players should be nice to each other. People can be heard sighing and making disgusted noises at the idea of a welcoming community
I get it. It’s elitism, in-group/out-group, a way of creating the other. We see this whenever pride is on the line; people create divisions between themselves and the other. Bakhtanians echos this sentiment, claiming it is central to the fighting game community:
“The beauty of the fighting game community, and you should know this – it’s based around not being welcome. That’s the beauty of it. That’s the key essence of it. When you walk into an arcade for the first time, nobody likes you.”
“Nobody likes you”. There it is, the other in a nutshell. The community intentionally creates barriers to outsiders, for the sake of pride. However, “Nobody likes you” does not begin to describe the abuse slung at female players in the fighting games community. Pride, exclusion, and fighting games combined to make a heady mix indeed.
Now, what am I saying? Smack-talk seems like a natural part of the whole process. Pride/the other/exclusion, it’s all there. Especially in a community surrounding a violent, directly competitive style of gaming. What is the issue then? The content.
We come to my second question: How can community members defend this culture? The truth seems to be that many community members view the abuse that the community slings about as common smack-talk. Merely a part of their favoured pastime:
“the fighting game scene is a chance for them to relax and be themselves, away from an insane, politically correct culture,” a member of the Shoryuken forum wrote. “For some guys, being themselves means making mildly lecherous comments or racial jokes.”
We have a disconnect there; where does part-of-a-pastime meet horrifying prejudice? Where does mildly lecherous become sexual harrassment? Even coming from a gaming culture that embraces smack-talk, I have a hard time conceiving of this.
I come from a tabletop gaming culture where sportsmanship is a factor in competitive play. It comprises a sizable proportion of your score each round of a tournement. What that means is, a single sexist/racist/offensive remark will cost you tournement. That said, smack-talk has a place in this gaming culture. Where? In casual play. You can smack-talk amongst friends. And you do so for many of the same reasons as those given by the fighting game community: to be edgy, to match wits with your opponent, to throw them off their game, to give new players in the group a hard time, etc. But I would never say something that truly hurt my opponent. Why? Because my opponents are my friends.
Now that puts us in a strange place. Why would fighting game players say such offensive things? Because amongst their friends, those things might not be so offensive. But there is a problem, they aren’t always playing amongst friends when they say these things.
And we come to my first question, and probably the most important one. Why is the fighting game community so terrifyingly intolerant? The answer seems to be that when you extend smack-talk to a tournement level, you aren’t playing with your friends, you are playing with someone you want to beat. The aggression is amplified, pride is on the line, and perhaps a prize as well. Smack-talk content that may have been acceptable within your peer group is used against a true opponent. And without the concerns of hurting a friend’s feelings, the gloves come off.
The fighting community seems to have this problem, it considers this more aggressive and offensive smack-talk to still be acceptable play. If you consider the entire community to be your peer group, then it seems that sexist/racist remarks are deemed appropriate or non-serious:
“Now, a bunch of idiots are conflating and exaggerating this with actually being racist or sexist. That’s supremely fucking stupid, because they’re not even close to the same.”
I have a secret to reveal to the fighting game community, and the lesson can be extended to all gaming communities. If you are smack-talking your opponent with sexist/racist statements, and they are hurt by your statements – then that is sexism, or racism. It doesn’t matter if you don’t consider yourself to be sexist or racist, you committed a sexist or racist act.
Smack-talkers need to be aware of who they are engaging with, and be concious of when their risque banter is appropriate or truly hurtful. I’m not trying to take the edge off of smack-talk, surely people can think of non-sexist/racist ways of verbally abusing their opponents (I hope I don’t have too much faith in the intelligence and wit of the community). All I am saying is that: if you don’t want to have to keep defending the community against allegations of sexism/racism, then stop doing sexist/racist things.
Now, if the fighting game community retorts that it is, in fact, sexist/racist then I’m not sure what to tell you.
Pig Li is thanks to gavacho13