Is the FGC Too Soft? The Trash Talk Game Conundrum
The Trash talk game is an integral part of the gaming experience, but we need to be careful that it doesn't become too personal
The trash talk game is a very tricky one as it straddles the line between gamesmanship and harassment. Trash talk has been part of the video game scene for ages and is ever-present in just about every genre available. For example, most gamers have experienced trash talking while playing online, and the joke of 10-11-year-olds running their mouths while gaming has been told to death. But is there a line? Should there be?
I've tried to make sense of this, especially in the light of the Punk/Alex Myers situation. Sure, different people have their own takes on how the players and company should handle things, but maybe we can reach a consensus about trash talking and the role it should play in the fighting game community. Trash talk is defined as the act of saying insulting or demeaning things in a bid to gain a competitive advantage against an opponent. This is something we've seen on several occasions in sports with colleagues going at each other to gain the upper hand, from famous trash talker Floyd Mayweather taunting opponents in the ring to the ever-present boasting we are served whenever Conor McGregor opens his mouth. Since video games are now considered a sport by many, it is unsurprising that the trash talk game is alive and well in the FGC. But, the world is ever-evolving, and there is now a clear distinction between trash talk between friends and in a competitive environment.
Punk v The Alexes
So, before we say anything else, I will be the first to admit that this is not a new argument, and the trash talk game as a concept has been debated for a while, but the episode involving Punk, Alex Myers, Alex Valle and Capcom really got me thinking. A quick overview of the situation goes something like this: Punk lost to Alex Myers, whom he promptly called a "bitch" and accused of taking advantage of the lag to gain an unfair advantage in the game. Now, because this was during the Capcom Pro Tour competition, it more or less fell within Capcom's jurisdiction. While Punk apologized to Myers and the two players seemed to get past the whole situation, it was later revealed that Punk also went off against Alex Valle in a Discord. This was news for many people, and there is little known about the content of Punk's tirade against Valle. Capcom then punishes Punk by placing him in the loser's bracket for the next competition, which raised many questions. However, we aren't here to examine Capcom's punishment's suitability, but rather, the validity of what Valle said next.
In a series of tweets, the Street Fighter veteran explained that he has no ill feelings towards Punk and accepts his apology, but it also seemed clear that he believed that there should be consequences for his actions. His last points were the most interesting as he explained that the trash talk game should never become personal and that when it does, it has the potential to cause harm to other players. This was, of course, followed by a lot of push back by individuals who claimed that the FGC had become soft and was losing an integral part of its essence. Valle responded, saying that inclusivity required clear rules and responsibility. He finished up by saying, "Time to grow up."
Lastly, I see many people saying the scene is soft or whatever. If you want to let harassment rock in your house, please go run an event and let us know how that works for you. Part of being inclusive is having rules for this shit and it's called accountability. Time to grow up.— Alex Valle ➡️⬇️↘️+🏡 (@TheAlexValle) August 20, 2020
The trash talk game in a new world
With the news and drama out of the way, it is time to examine this subject in the context of our current climate. While the trash talk game is something we'll always have to contend with, we really need to discuss how this affects the new world we live in, where shaming and harassment are frowned on. Trash talk is likely to always be something that exists in gaming, as research has shown that it can throw an opponent off their game. The experiment, which featured 200 players and a game of Mario Kart, showed that contestants who had suffered some sort of shaming from the opposition tended to play worse than those who weren't subjected to any abuse.
From this, it is clear that using trash talk could give players a competitive advantage in a competition. But, this must be weighed against the idea of fairness and harassment. So, while some ribbing between friends or teasing and boasting between rivals is welcome, it is no longer okay once it becomes personal.
Alex Valle talked about how it was "Time to grow up." but what does that mean? It requires taking responsibility for our actions and understanding that the things we do have consequences. When I was younger, I was free to run around and say what I pleased. If my roughhousing caused a vase to fall and break, odds are I'll get away with a scolding, or maybe nothing at all. However, if I broke a vase aged 18 and above, I would undoubtedly be looking for money to replace what I broke. In the same way, video games and the communities behind them need to grow and take responsibility, and this includes the things we say and do.
Abuse v Trash talking
This is where a distinction is necessary, as trash talk is something that all gamers have experienced in one form or another. It also makes up an integral part of the gaming experience, and it'll suck to dispense of it in a bid to move forward as a community. Therefore, being able to decipher between trash talk and abuse is crucial. While trash-talking can involve some shaming, it should never be personal. So, where do we draw the line? I guess this is where things get a little tricky because how do you know what is offensive to one person and might not be offensive to another?
Another bit we need to consider is culture. Video games are a worldwide phenomenon, which means we are usually encountering different cultural values every day. For example, I am from Nigeria, and if you talk about my mother, odds are I might hit you in the face if you're in front of me. However, some cultures might not mind some 'yo mama' jokes, especially between friends. So, navigating the cultural nuances of different parts of the world is another thing to think about.
Is the FGC too soft?
So, is the FGC perhaps too soft? Are people too sensitive and unable to handle the trash talk game? Maybe! But is softness a bad thing? We're learning every day about the dangers of being too hard and the unknown pain we might sometimes inflict on others. So, while I firmly believe that trash talk shouldn't be abolished, I also think it should evolve into something more humane. Perhaps there should be something like standardized trash-talking lines that people adhere to. Or a set of rules?
What can be done about the trash talk game?
There is no easy answer as to what to do with the trash talk game as it is, and companies like Capcom need to stand up and take control of their spaces. One way to go will be to provide well-defined codes of conduct, which would go a long way in reducing incidents such as those with Punk and Alex Myers. In their case, the decision ultimately reached by Capcom was disputed partly because of how vague the CPT rules are.
As you can see, the term "abusive language" isn't defined and is open to interpretation. So what constitutes trash talk, and what is abuse? If the big companies can define this clearly, there will be fewer problems with trash talk in tournaments and matches.
If we focus on the most important things first, we'll find that games, in general, will become more fun. As we strive to become a more balanced, inclusive community, players and fans alike need to evolve, and this will include critically examining the trash talk game as it is today.