Back in March I was interviewed by James Fletcher of the BBC World News Service after he read my reaction post after the Cross Assault blow up. I’m really proud to have been part of this piece that I believe helps bring to light some of the issues that females in the gaming world face. I hope that you’ll take a minute (or 25) to listen and I’d love to hear what your thoughts are too.
Please note that there is foul language and some words that may be triggering. Check it out here.
Here are links to some of the other women featured in this documentary as well:
Jenni Haniver ()
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a journalist or a professional writer. In fact, I often have trouble articulating my own thoughts and opinions because of an anxiety disorder. Despite what I know is an illogical thought, I do care a lot about what others think of me and what I have to say. This often censors what actually comes out of my mouth, and I’ll touch on this later and how it relates to the topic of this post.
In the past week I’ve been watching Cross Assault – the Internet reality show produced by Capcom to showcase their upcoming game. The basis of the show is pitting two teams against each other in Street Fighter x Tekken to win $25,000. For those not familiar with the show or the controversy that has been surrounding it, there have been allegations of sexual harassment to one of the cast members. Contestant Super__Yan (Miranda Pakozdi) has been at the focus of the controversy, and has voiced concern over being the target of harassment by her team coach Aris Bakhtanians.
I don’t know either of the parties involved and I certainly am not at the Capcom headquarters where this has all been filmed. All the information I’ve seen and my opinions are based off of what I have seen from the live stream, the Twitter accounts of those involved, and the fighting game community’s reaction at large on the Internet.
Regardless, the discussion and case-to-be-made here is only brought forward by the events that have unfolded, not made by them.
From what I have seen from some of the stream and the stream archives, Bakhtanians had been making lewd comments about and towards Pakozdi during filming.
As a female in the fighting game community, I have experienced my share of harassment of both the sexual and non-sexual kind. I’ve been physically touched (on the neck and arms) when it was not wanted and without being asked, been accused of attention ‘whoring’ (which seems to be a popular attack when women are involved), been told to “stop playing video games and get back to the kitchen,” and I’ve read chat logs of people who make comments about my body.
Due to my social anxiety and my discomfort over dealing with any kind of conflict, I have often just “laughed it off” which is what Pakozdi said she was doing in one tweet to me. By taking a more active stance, I can hopefully prevent this from happening in the future.
For those of you reading this and saying to yourselves, “Well what if it was just a joke?” There have been times when it has been just that – but only between friends. A lot of people have been arguing that Bakhtanians “was only joking” when he made the allegedly sexist comments towards Pakozdi. Even if this was the case for him, the fact that she was not okay with it is the problem - and should have made him reevaluate what he was saying and apologize for saying it in front of an audience.
I know a lot of heat has been poured on the journalists at Destructoid, Giant Bomb, Kotaku, and Penny Arcade for their coverage of the events. Much of the FGC feels like the writers are painting our community in a poor light based on the actions of one person. In fact, after reading the Destructoid and Giant Bomb articles myself, I tweeted “I don’t think it is fair for sites like Destructoid and Giant Bomb to paint the FGC as a bunch of jerks. Most of the people I know are lovely.” While this is true, it doesn’t excuse the fact that even some of the community still has a misogynistic mindset. Does what I said mean the rest of the community’s behavior can be excused? No, I don’t think it does.
I, among many others, also argued on Twitter that the articles seemed to be targeting just the FGC when this type of behavior is prevalent in all genres of gaming communities (and all facets of life). We need to keep in sight that the FGC was directly in the news media’s crosshairs because the controversy was directly related to the FGC. I do admit that it was poor of me to deflect the blame onto other groups when the FGC really should take a good hard look at itself to think about the values we want to uphold.
But like I said, the case to be made here has little do with my personal experiences or Pakozdi’s.
According to what Bakhtanians said during his chat with Jared Rea during the show, “The sexual harassment is part of the culture. If you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community.” The perception I get from reading his statements makes me feel like Bakhtanians is trying to rationalize and validate his words as being an inherent aspect of the community. It’s insane to even think that the fighting game community is so deeply rooted in sexism and discrimination that without it, well, it simply isn’t the fighting game community anymore – let alone actually believe it.
I find this statement extremely disturbing because sexual harassment should not be a part of any culture, ever. The basic idea that the fighting game community is a hostile place is fine, and for better or worse, realistic. Bakhtanians is allowed to be the hater he wants to be when someone new walks into his local romp. If that’s his and the community as a whole’s prerogative – that’s fine. The problems only arise when your discrimination is based on something that can’t be helped. You eventually stop calling the newcomer a scrub when they win their first tournament but crude comments about something as intrinsic as a woman’s body will always be simply a way of keeping someone marginalized.
There has been enough lambasting of the video game community as an immature scene that needs to grow up already, and there isn’t much to gain from reiterating on it. The scene bridges between being the most casual to running wildly tense, and beyond that, video games have always been seen as a form of escapism. But nowhere in there is there an excuse to resort to things that degrade others based on race, colour, sex or sexuality. These are basic principals of equality – and they need to be upheld by all. We’re not a sexist group of people, and we should all stand up for each other in this respect.
The news articles that are surfacing and what has been seen on Cross Assault are shedding light on an issue that has always been a problem in the fighting game community. To break the cycle, not only do women in the community have to begin standing up for themselves (such as myself), but the men who share these values need to too. I know that after this week and the many conversations I’ve seen and participated in, I want to be more of an ally and not a by-stander. Hindsight is 20/20 and right now I’m taking a hard look at the decisions I’ve made, the things I’ve said, and what I can do to make this community a safer and less discriminate place for everyone.