Profile picture
Holden Shearer @HoldenShearer
, 48 tweets, 8 min read Read on Twitter
Video game culture is a toxic swamp that will apologize infinitely for racism and misogyny, full stop, and this will remain the case until its top influencers begin treating such behavior as unacceptable.

Let's talk about 2009 and the fighting game community for a minute!
So the first thing to understand about the fighting game community (FGC) is that it significantly predates eSports as an organized competitive gaming community, and is still to this day a weird independent grassroots thing, and it is VERY good at being that.
Partly this is because there have always been passionate members of the community willing to shoulder the work of organizing tournaments and handling infrastructure for competition for sheer love of the game. Partly it's because a few of those people happen to be millionaires.
Mostly, though, it's just that the FGC developed under an ethos of play, work, and hustle-- get shit done yourself or don't expect it to get done. So they've always built and run their own events, and still do to this day.
Second thing to understand is that the FGC is extremely racially diverse. This is not only in the sense that players from around the world (Thailand, Korea, Japan, China, England, and the USA are represented at every major event) come together to play, though.
Just within the American wing of the FGC, there's an extremely heavy skew toward Black and Hispanic players compared to any other branch of video games, with significant Asian-American presence as well. White boys are something like 40-50% of the visible American FGC.
Also, several of the early legends of American Street Fighter in the 90s were openly, visibly queer. The ethos that developed around this melting pot during the 90s was simple: If you show up and you play, you're in. You're one of us.
Shit-talking around matches was common and expected, but anyone trying to actually shove someone out of the community could expect to be dissuaded by parking lot beatdowns outside of the local arcade.

If this sounds a bit like gang culture... yeah, kind of.
(Before I float off to Heaven on a cloud of rapturously blowing the community, I should note that although it was crazy inclusive with regard to race and sexual orientation, it sucked wild ass at including women and still does.)
Anyway, here's where this starts to tie back to the constant rolling debacle of Twitch and motherfuckers who keep saying racist shit:
From ~2002 to 2009, Capcom and most of the other Japanese companies decided the era of fighting games had fizzled out and they mostly stopped making them. The FGC persevered through this 'dark age' and continued running major tournaments, but it was... rough.
Attendance numbers dropped year by year as just nothing exciting came out and there was nothing to look forward to on the horizon. Legends like Justin Wong and Daigo Umehara emerged in this era, old fighting games were clung to and mastered, but overall-- it was grim.
Everyone in the community got to know everyone else and there was a shared sense of brotherhood in the people who clung to this thing they loved even though the world at large had declared it over, dead, done, kaput.
And the community itself existed in an interesting equilibrium of bravado, aggression, hype, and genuine brotherhood. These were people who came up from their late teen years mostly knowing one another, in a culture that cherished a good verbal burn or boast around a match.
Which is to say: it was VERY profane, offensive, and full of in-jokes that would turn a stranger's hair white but which people felt comfortable tossing around in-community because the community had a fine understanding of the line between fucking around and real malice.
Then two things happened in 2008-2009 that changed everything:
Capcom announced Street Fighter 4.
And video game streaming was getting to be a big thing.
Street Fighter 4 was -huge-. Overnight, a community that had shriveled down to a core of dedicated die-hards exploded with new blood and returning players who'd walked away long ago.
Equally overnight, a few of the luminaries of the FGC-- arcade owners, tech enthusiasts, and the former "best Street Fighter player in North America" who happened to have an entrepreneurial streak-- started putting together weekly tournaments... and streaming them.
The competitive aspect of the FGC was bigger than ever, people were climbing aboard in droves. The ad-hoc grassroots ethos came back in a big way. The most charismatic players who regularly showed up to event got tapped to do live match commentary.
While all this was going on, there was a conversation happening at the top of the community-- a discussion between the "old men" of the FGC, the veterans of '99 and '02 and the dark age of Nothing Fucking Coming Out. The world champions and constant contenders.
A number of these players saw the scene blowing up huge and realized that they had something really special in front of them-- a huge, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring back the glory days, maybe for good, and maybe better than ever.
But this time it wasn't happening in pool halls and smoky arcades attached to mini golf courses. It was happening in front of 8,000, 10,000, 15,000, 30,000, eventually 180,000 live eyeballs.
The meat of the discussion was this:

"We have got to clean up our act and change the community culture to not talk like a Spike Lee movie, or we are going to fuck this opportunity up. No more yelling 'I RAPED YA BITCH' when you win. No more friendly jokey racist slang."
There was some pushback. Significant pushback. The community carried them through the dark ages. The community was special and sacred. Etc. Then the Aris incident happened.
In 2012, Aris Bakhtanians, a Tekken player, was doing match commentary on-stream and was shit-talking one of the competitors, Super_Yan. Thing is, Super_Yan is a woman, and Aris's shit-talking was exclusively sexist bullshit.
It made several people, including Super_Yan, uncomfortable. Kotaku picked the story up. Aris's defense was, essentially, that this kind of trash talk is normal for the FGC. The rest of the world didn't exactly find that reassuring.
And suddenly the abstract argument became a very real one. The old men in favor of community reform put their feet down. Aris was exiled from being put in front of the camera for a couple of years, but wider changes were in the offing, largely driven by sp00ky.
sp00ky was in a good position to make tyrannical decisions and ram them through, because he was the best streaming-tech wizard in the FGC in an era when stream stability was a matter of holding the tech together with spit, baling wire, prayers, and lots of profanity.
sp00ky essentially declared "you will comport yourself like something at least vaguely resembling a grown-ass man or you will not be on stream at anything where I'm operating the stream," which was about 65% of events.
And that is how it fucking worked, and how it still works. There was a bit of pushback from Mike Watson of Super Arcade, who set up special NSFW friday night streams, but those streams soon ceased as his operating partner split up with him over vision differences.
Today, all major FGC streaming operates under the reform philosophy: we have something good here, and you will not humiliate and damage the community by saying stupid needlessly offensive shit in public.
And with ad-hoc "salty suite" streams being set up in hotel rooms after most majors, the entire scene is pretty much always in public now.
The tooth fairy and Santa Claus didn't show up to magically make white kids stop saying "yo nigga you trippin," nor to make players stop jumping up and crotch-chopping while shouting DEEZ NUTS at their defeated opponents.
Other gamers did that. Older ones. Ones with name recognition and respect. Ones that people listened to. And ones who had the clout to say "this is how it's going to be and if you can't handle that, get the fuck out." They caught shit for it! But they did it, and made it stick.
Hobby and entertainment communities are no better than their most prominent members demand they be.
These ethos, incidentally, don't apply to 'stream monsters' -- the random viewers that constantly vomit a waterfall of racist memes down the right-side window in any Twitch broadcast. They're completely out of control and are increasingly a huge liability.
AGDQ's problems with them are well-documented now, and Overwatch League is struggling with them now too.

But before I end this ramble, one final story. To keep us warm.
Two days ago I was watching a Dragon Ball Fighterz stream-- not a tournament or anything, just a fairly skilled, prominent player streaming online ranked matches. I won't drop a name, but he's a tall black guy in his mid-late 20s: chill, friendly, soft-spoken.
He gets a match with some rando of similar rank and just absolutely mauls the guy, crushes him two matches in a row. Someone in his stream's chat remarks "lol holy shit that guy got raped through his pants"
Streamer's eyes flick over to the chat sidebar on his display, and as he heads into the next match he says: "Please don't say 'raped' in here. I'm a rape victim. You can say that somewhere else if you want, whatever, but don't do it here. I don't want to think about that."
The waterfall of random stream monster jabber came to a short halt and you could almost hear the *RECORD SCRAAAAATCH* noise.

One dingleberry tried to argue. The streamer's mods kicked him out immediately. And then the stream resumed, a little more civilized than before.
If you got a face and a voice, if people like you, they are going to be inclined to listen to you. You can use that to ask the community to be something to be proud of.

Or you can be xQc.
Anyway. If a bunch of ad-hoc assholes from the mean streets of LA and Oakland and San Bernandino could clean up their act for the sake of having something nice, what's everyone else's excuse?

Something to think about.
This blew up big overnight, so a couple late addendums:
1) This is mostly about the American FGC. Things were VERY different in Japan, Mexico, Korea, and other places.
2) While a number of fighting games came out in the dark ages, they mostly had major balance issues or failed to capture widespread attention. Pre-SF4, 50 people was a major event. Post-SF4, 50 people is a local tourney in Bumblefuck, Maine. The 2009 rising tide lifted all boats.
3) The FGC history was aimed at a non-FGC audience. It simplifies and compresses things; sp00ky is somewhat over-emphasized at the expense of people like Mr. Wizard, Arturo Sanchez, the Cannon brothers, etc, to keep the point simple. Lots of folks muscled in to change things.
4) Finally, FGC I'm not interested in castigating FGC culture in its rowdy form. It was like that for a reason. The remarkable thing is that the community was able to accept when that usefulness was over, and to become something else while keeping its heart.
Still got work to do tho. When Gllty or Chocoblanka gets on stream and the stream monsters start their shit, they need to know that's contemptible behavior that makes them unwanted in the community. Still room to do better.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Holden Shearer
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!