Hurtful Speech: Time to Take a Good Look in the Mirror

By on March 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm

In my article yesterday I tried to remind people why we do what we do, and mentioned that some day soon we as a community would have to face up to our dark side.  Well, it turns out that day is today, because of this piece from Kotaku.  Please read their article and watch these excerpts from WNF’s stream last night.

So, just a day after one of the biggest scandals to hit the scene, we have guest commentators from one of our most respected groups poking fun at the whole situation and talking about what NOS girl they would hit.  And they’re doing this in the most public way possible, so obviously they think this kind of behavior is acceptable.

Well, it’s not.  I know there are a lot of good, decent people in this scene, but unfortunately there are way too many a ignorant children among us, who think it’s ok to poke fun at anything and everything.  These people exist in all communities, but in the fighting game scene we hand them a mic, listen to them spew their trash, then blow off their hate-speech as harmless jokes.  The reaction online to Kotaku’s story illustrates the split in the community.  Some were appalled by the comments on WNF, but many continue to make excuses for what to me is clearly inexcusable.

Shirking Responsibility

The most popular excuse is, “no one gets harassed at our live events” or “we’re nice people in person.”  That is true, but it misses the point.  First of all, good behavior in one venue doesn’t excuse bad behavior in another.  Hate is hate.  But beyond that, a live video stream is the worst possible medium for this kind of hateful talk.  A few hundred people attended WNF, but over 14,000 tuned in online.  Our online presence is the face of the community.  It is our recruiting tool.  Increasingly it will be come a source of revenue.  A strong, positive online presence is critical to the growth of the scene.  If anything, we should be more respectful and considerate of others online, rather than treating online communication as secondary to the offline event.

Another excuse is that we’re being unfairly singled out, and that “these few bad apples don’t speak for the community.”  These guys don’t speak for all of us?  We just let them speak for us on-stream, and many of us want to let them off the hook when someone calls them out!  For those of you accusing Kotaku of over-reacting and nit-picking, Kotaku didn’t invent a story here.  We gave them the story with this shockingly insensitive reaction to a very serious topic.

So, it’s time to stand up.  If we continue to let the worst elements in the scene speak for us or excuse their bad behavior, we deserve whatever criticism we get.  It’s everyone’s responsibility: the players, the content producers, the tournament organizers, and the fans.  We need to be just as serious about the way we treat each other and how we reach out to others online as we are about the game.  This isn’t about killing the hype or white-washing the scene.  We can be just as loud, excited and hype without belittling entire classes of people.  “It’s ok, we’re all friends”, and “I’m just joking” aren’t valid excuses.

WNF, SRK, and the Evo 2012 Season

Thankfully, Level | Up is responding to the situation.  You can read their full release here.

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. … 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.

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.


Neither SRK nor Evo in any way condones the behavior from last night.  To make this perfectly clear, we are pulling the Evo seeding points for WNF’s first season in 2012, as well as SRK’s sponsorship of WNF.  I personally have a lot of confidence in the Level | Up team to set a new standard for themselves and hope to work with them in the future.  For now though, that’s not possible.

We cannot continue to let ignorant, hateful speech slide.  The nasty undercurrent in the scene isn’t a joke or a meme.  It’s something we need to fix if we expect to continue to grow, but more importantly it’s a moral imperative.  I don’t want to be a part of a group where it’s ok to bully or make fun of others, and I hope you don’t either.