Sexual harassment as ethical imperative: how Capcom’s fighting game reality show turned ugly
Video game communities can have wildly different standards of conduct, but a recent Capcom-sponsored event has proven just how ugly the fighting game community can become. During a week long reality show about fighting games, contestants took part in sexual harassment and in fact argued that sexual harassment is an important part of the fighting game community that needs to continue. This happened on camera, across multiple days.
“Cross Assault is the world's first fighting game reality show. It will feature ten contestants, including five Street Fighter experts and five Tekken experts, competing for $25,000,” IGN posted about the Capcom-backed streaming reality show that pits fighting game enthusiasts against each other. The shows are steamed live and are available to rewatch, meaning there's a record of some truly awful behavior. During a stream on day five of the show, Twitch.tv community manager Jared Rea noted that it was hard to return to the often-coarse world of fighting games after spending time in the StarCraft community. He stated that he found much more positivity with StarCraft players, and the blatant sexism and nastiness of the fighting game community had become hard to tolerate. “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. “Do you really want to keep hanging out with a bunch of [20 year-olds] who don’t know how to treat other people with respect?” Rea asked, which just prompted more attacks. “This is Aris,” a voice said on the feed. “If you don’t like onions, you get your sandwich without onions on it, man. This is the fighting game community.” He then stated that sexual harassment and the fighting game community are “one and the same thing.” The voice belonged to Aris Bakhtanians, the coach of the Tekken team. “The sexual harassment is part of the culture. If you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community… it doesn’t make sense to have that attitude. These things have been established for years,” Aris stated. He then noted that making sexual jokes at StarCraft players would be inappropriate, so it’s unfair for anyone to tell fighting game fans they can’t viciously mock women. You can listen to the speech for yourself, the argument begins an hour and forty five minutes into the video. “That’s what you’re trying to do to the fighting game community and it’s not right,” Aris continued. “It’s ethically wrong.” This may be the first time in the history of video games that someone had said that removing sexual harassment is ethically unjust. “If you were really a member of the fighting game community, you would know that these are jokes,” he said, talking about his racial and sexual humor. The arguments to support this are rambling, bringing in racism and how some people are racist but have friends with different races. “You’re trying to figure out a way to make me wrong, when I’m not wrong,” Aris argued, saying that it’s wrong to try to turn fighting games into something “everyone can enjoy,” or that you can enjoy with your girlfriend or family. “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.” Another player on the show then tried to enter the conversation. Miranda “Super Yan” Pakozdi stepped in to say that the sexual harassment hurts the community, but she’s shushed and told to let the man speaking for her finish. She’s told that fighting game events and competition, which are said to feature incredibly offensive language from the players, are “intriguing” not despite the brutally frank nature of the sexual language, but because of it. Aris shut down the idea that anyone should know there’s a line and not to cross it. His line is “different,” he stated, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else says. Someone brings up an instance of someone yelling the world “bitch” over and over as a female player competed, and then screamed for her rape when she lost. [Correction: this was in reference to the female character Phoenix, not a female player.] “What is unacceptable about that?” Aris asked. “There is nothing unacceptable about that. We’re in America! This isn’t North Korea! We can say what we want.”
Then Miranda forfeited a match
“…Things got a little more heated than usual when one player, Miranda ‘Super Yan’ Pakozdi, forfeited a match,” Destructoid reported. “The decision to throw the game caused a dispute as to whether or not forfeiting players would be kicked off the show, and how team points should be awarded. However, the thing that really got people talking was Pakozdi's claims of mistreatment by notorious bearded gentleman, Aris Bakhtanians. Ostensibly, he made lewd comments about her and wouldn't let up.” Destructoid also provided a video that's hard to watch in places.It's important to point out that video comes from the first day of the competition. The stream where Aris defends and encourages the harassment of female players takes place on day five. That means this woman may have been mocked and sexually harassed for days without anyone stepping in, stopping the situation, or speaking to Aris. At one point during the stream there is even a conversation about the “Cap cops” coming in to shut things down, but the conversation about sexual harassment continues. The fighting game community has been split on this issue, with some saying that this behavior is a part of the culture, and others attacking Aris and his preternatural ability to make the fighting game community look bad in the eyes of the general public. “For Aris and a lot of other people (mostly guys, but it can include women, too), 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. 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.” The comments go and on, and very few make for enlightening reading. “I bet money that Miranda wouldn't have been so offended if Aris was better looking, that is the sad part,” another member wrote, and I’m not even sure who to pity after reading that post: Aris, Pakozdi, or the person who decided that thought should be shared with the world. The Penny Arcade Report has been trying to contact anyone involved with the show, and we’ve e-mailed Aris and reached out to Pakozdi via Twitter. So far, no one has contacted us back with any comment about the situation. Word did reach Capcom that we were asking about the situation, and they responded, “The views and opinions expressed by cast members in the live internet program “Cross Assault” do not reflect those of Capcom. As a company, Capcom believes that everyone should be treated with respect,” a Capcom representative said. “This particular issue was brought to our attention and has been addressed. We sincerely apologize to anyone that was offended by any comments expressed during the show.” Pakozdi was visibly upset during the match before her forfeit, and barely attacked. The fight had been taken out of her.