The FGC: Battered and bruised but not defeated
To say 2020 will live on in the memory of the FGC, and everyone, as an infamous year is the understatement of the year. How can we come back from this?
To say 2020 will live on in the memory of the FGC, and everyone, as an infamous year is the understatement of the year. COVID-19, the coronavirus, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11. Still, few realized the impact it would have on our lives, the global economy, and our communities.
What was first called a series of cases of viral pneumonia by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission of the People's Republic of China in December 2019, was identified as the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in February 2020 by the WHO. As it spread rapidly across the globe, health experts struggled to learn as much as they could about the disease. They worked on a cure while seeking various means of mitigating its spread.
By March, numerous countries were adopting social distancing measures recommended by the WHO. Created to halt the spread of the coronavirus, governments and health specialists alike hoped that it would quickly flatten the curve of infection across the globe. While it worked for many, it had a devastating impact on businesses and livelihoods.
Many companies closed, while others downsized. Live events were canceled with large gatherings of people discouraged. Like many other industries, video games and esports were hit hard. We could no longer have large conventions full of fans, big leagues taking place in front of big audiences, or live fighting game tournaments. They were all going one by one; events were being canceled or postponed indefinitely.
FGC fights on
For the Fighting Game Community (FGC), this meant we could no longer attend our favorite events, catch up with friends, and observe how much we'd grown since the last big event we attended. Members of the FGC rallied together to help support tournament organizers that were taking a massive loss as a result of these cancelations. Many of these events barely ever broke even, but the organizers kept hosting them out of love and a fierce dedication to their communities.
In response to the pandemic, TOs began to host online events instead. However, these tournaments left the community fragmented due to issues like bad netcode, international events becoming region-locked, and popular titles being left out of the lineup. Still, the FGC pushed on.
On May 25, more tragedy struck as a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, was killed during his arrest for allegedly using counterfeit bills in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His murder further exposed the presence of institutional racism in the United States, leading many around the world to band together in protest under the Black Lives Matter banner, despite the threat of contracting the coronavirus.
The hurt continues
Within the FGC and numerous other communities, members were donating their time, money, and resources to make sure the BLM campaign was heard. Sadly, in some locations, the fight deteriorated into violence and vandalism, but through it all, the world took notice, accepted the message, and championed it. Those that publicly belittled the cause were called out and shunned, and others punished for past offenses. As members of the community began to root out racism and misogyny, it gave those who had suffered from sexual misconduct, the strength they needed to speak up and share their experiences.
One after the other, allegations began to emerge against prominent members of the community, like NRG Esports player Nairoby "Nairo" Quezada, Skullgirls and Indivisible lead designer Mike "Mike Z" Zaimont, former EVO CEO Joey "Mr. Wizard" Cuellar and the best Super Smash Bros. for Wii U player in the world, Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios. Probably one of the hardest allegations to hear was the relationship between Smash player Troy "Puppeh" Wells, who was 14 years old at the time and popular commentator Cinnamon "Cinnpie" Dunson, who was 24. There were even cases of rape, sexual assault, transphobia, and exploitation.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Ultimate both have an ESRB rating of E10+, which represents "Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief, Mild Suggestive Themes." Yet it appears that sexual predators have embedded themselves in the community to groom underage kids, perpetrate pedophilia, and commit other acts of abuse.
It's been a distressing time in the FGC as many are appalled by the accusations made against members of the community they used to look up to. However, we should never forget that allegations are unfounded without proof. Many of the accused immediately took responsibility for their actions, but not all of them. Organizations, TOs, and even members of the community have taken it upon themselves to investigate these situations to get to the truth. It's easy to let the anger and outrage at hearing some of these stories overtake you, but the FGC is collectively trying to make sure that only the guilty are punished.
The FGC is having a hard time right now as dirty secrets, fetishes, and habits are being exposed, with seemingly no end in sight to the number of cases popping up. Unfortunately, the voices of many of the aggrieved have sought this level of support for years to expose the darker side of the FGC. Women in the community, in particular, have complained about their treatment many times in the past. Those that have ignored these complaints out of the fear of displeasing a friend or earning the anger of influential figures in the community have only emboldened them. What makes a safe space isn't just the rules that govern it but the people in it that look out for each other. It's an ugly time right now, but all the dirty laundry had to come out eventually, and while we're all still reeling, it will be for the better.
EVO no go
The Evolution Championship Series has existed as a pillar of the fighting game community for nearly two decades. However, with Mr. Wizard ousted, the brand will have to work twice as hard to regain the trust of the community. EVO Online 2020 was canceled following investigations by a third-party, and Mr. Wizard fired, but not before players and talents had withdrawn from the event. Most of the developers supporting the tournament also did the same, like Mane6, Capcom, Bandai Namco, and NetherRealm Studios. With the legendary annual event forever stained, the new CEO Tony Cannon will have a lot on his plate. We could even see the TO rebranding to wash off the stigma.
The FGC is much more than just its prominent figures, the best players, and developers. It's about every other person. The players that don't win but try their hardest every year to get higher up the standings. The fans who cheer the players on from the audience, buy merchandise, and show their support in numerous other ways. Then there's the staff and volunteers - the nameless ones that go above and beyond to ensure that each event runs without a hitch.
The year 2020 has been emotional, and we're just halfway through—the number of bans handed out these past few months most likely already rival that of last year. We've also lost loved ones to racism and the coronavirus, but through all this hardship, we fight on, and there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. Like a phoenix, the FGC will rise up once more from the ashes, but to do so, we all need to be better.