A personal statement about the current #metoo movement

There’s no easy way to talk about what’s been going on, and I don’t have a measured response. I just want to use my platform here to say whatever I can, but I can’t promise complete coherence or a thoroughly researched series of statements. This will be less of an ‘article’ and more of a ‘blog post.’ This is why I’ll be using tags instead of full names throughout.

Anyway, I am fucking pissed and exhausted. I genuinely don’t know if I’ve been sleeping or not because it seems like I will blank out at 2AM but I will wake up with evidence that I’ve been tossing and turning all night. Whenever I pick up my phone and open my dipshit bird app there’s another new tweet with essay documentation outing another prominent predator in the scene. Some of my friends have also been hurt by people who were named.

I think for me there are two things that are particularly upsetting over everything else. The first is that a lot of these people were players and personalities we thought we could generally trust. The Smash community has a major problem with hero-worship- we literally call the best Melee players gods- but idolization aside, there were also people who were outed who were genuine pillars of the community. At least two people- Pooch and Sleepyk- who were involved with the formation of the Smash Code of Conduct committee were outed as predators. Several others- Nairo, D1, Cinnpie- worked in an official capacity with Nintendo at community-partnered events. Most of us had no reason not to trust these people, and they abused their position to get away with heinous shit. Some of them likely bought their victims’ silence with the same paycheck they earned from their Twitch subscriptions.

The other thing that is really frustrating to me is that we knew about a lot of this stuff, and it had just been silenced or quietly ignored for too long. It wasn’t the first time people had heard about MacD doing predatory shit at Sky Williams’ house. We should have known that Anti, Keitaro, and D1’s trips to Mexico were suspect and part of the sex tourism in the town they frequented. People like Zero having NSFW Discord chats for their underage fans should have been an immediate red flag for grooming behavior. Even within my local community, tournament organizers were frustratingly slow with banning members that had been reported as being sexual assailants. Many times, women have even spoken about their assailants in the past, prior to this current wave of allegations, but the massive fanbases of the people they were calling out bullied them into silence, accusing them of farming drama or “chasing clout.” It took years for some of these victims to finally be recognized, heard, and believed. This is a failure on all our parts.

This has been predominantly in the Smash community, because that scene is so large and has a special predilection for attracting new players at a young age due to the market the game targets. However, it’s important to recognize that this culture extends outside of that title into the broader FGC. Mike Z of Lab Zero, the developer behind Skullgirls, was outed as having sexually harassed cosplayers and other women in the community. It goes all the way to Mr. Wizard, Evo cofounder, who was apparently responsible for bribing younger boys in the early days of the scene with money or arcade tokens in exchange for nude photos. In the wake of these accusations, players have been dropped from their organizations, banned and exiled from the community, and even Evo Online was completely cancelled.

Sexual assault, grooming and pedophilic behavior, and harassment of women and sexual/gender minorities are not crimes exclusive to gaming communities- as we all well know, they are prevalent all over the world. However, it’s obviously very shocking and frequent in the community, since we’re a reflection of the society we live in: we are a US-centric male-dominated scene. It is especially clear that we’ve fostered this culture for so long when you consider how many of the people who have been accused and ousted are major representative personalities. If people like the CEO of the biggest fighting game tournament in the world have gotten away with their bullshit for so long, then of course it’s prevalent everywhere else. Many of the top players and casters in Smash who were taking part in predatory behavior were all living together and condoning each other’s actions. Inviting younger, newer members of the scene to afterparties and getting them drunk to take advantage of them later was frighteningly commonplace. Even people who had been accused (and even convicted!) in the past had often been allowed to re-enter the community, like Ally and DaShizWhiz.

There are probably going to be even more stories coming out in the coming days and weeks. With events closed down for the time being, vulnerable fans are safe from new cases of predatory behavior, and they’ve taken that opportunity to come forward with their experiences. Survivors then read stories of others and feel emboldened to speak their own piece. In the wake of all of these recollections, it is important that the community takes appropriate measures to make them feel safe. The local scene of the relevant parties should support and believe any survivors and make sure any assailants are prohibited completely from events. Such bans should be likewise maintained across all events across the globe as soon as tournaments are allowed to open up again. When those events reopen, strict rules should be set in place that prohibit minors from being unattended without their parents, especially at venues that serve alcohol.

Where we go from here besides this immediate response, I don’t know. I’m a long-standing community member but I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t think anyone does. What I do know, however, is that the FGC, and the Smash community by extension, is not ‘dead’ by any means. As long as there are two people who want to play a fighting game together, there will be a fighting game community. On a slightly more cynical bent, players and organizations that have built their infrastructure around the community will need to return to it in order to continue making a living- these businesses will rely on us as events open up once again. This mass exiling of sex offenders and genuine trash is not the death of the community, it’s a much needed purification. These players and personalities being kicked out of the scene isn’t what will kill it- their continued presence, on the other hand, would have assured its destruction. For too long, the cycle has been as follows- women, queer folk, and other vulnerable minority members join the FGC; these individuals are harassed or assaulted; any attempt to speak up about their harassment leads to further harassment, and these people are bullied out of the community while their assailants are allowed to remain; the question comes up later, “Why are there so few women in fighting games?” This is a major corrective opportunity to finally break that cycle. It’s going to take a lot of work, but excising the several dozens of harmful individuals from our community (I’ve counted at least fifty names on my own at this point) who have all been covering for each other and getting away with abusive behavior for so long will put us on the path towards healing.

Be good to each other. Believe survivors. Do everything you can to make sure the people who hurt them aren’t allowed to come back into the scene to hurt anybody else. Shame anybody and everybody defending these abusers. We need to do better than what we have done, because what we have done for so long was never good enough.

Nathan “Lite the Iron Man” Dhami can be found on Twitter (@LiteTheIronMan,) on Twitch (twitch.tv/litetheironman,) and at your local.

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