Co-Written with Christopher Falcon
The events of the past few weeks have been completely tumultuous within fighting games. From developers making distasteful jokes to the eventual cancelation of EVO this past Thursday. Everything’s been quickly spiraling out of control faster than a health bar can be drained. There’s been a consistent pattern among the accusations, as such, some of them stem around sexual misconduct and general misbehavior. This is what’s currently known as the EVO Scandal.
Each situation has varied people and figures involved, and most of them have Twitlongers and related tweets based upon who’s been called out and those involved. From sponsorships getting dropped to people losing their jobs or straight-up ghosting social media. The FGC and the Smash scene have both seen some serious problems. Are these cases of just bad seeds doing bad things, or are there much greater underlying problems beneath? In this article, we’ll analyze the situation and hopefully reach an answer alongside the community.
(Authors’ Note: Some of the content described could potentially be seen as graphic or not safe for work. Please read at your own discretion. Thank you.)
The EVO Scandal Firestarter
While bits and pieces have happened before this with bad players (including a rather disgusting situation earlier that day. We’ll get to that later.), there’s one situation that started the entire mess of the past couple of days. CaptainZack, a Smash Ultimate player, posted a thread explaining his experiences in the competitive scene of Smash 4.
I'm Tired of Living a Life of Lies
— CaptainZack (@CaptainZack_) July 2, 2020
The thread goes into extensive detail explaining how he and Nairo (a particularly high-profile player and content creator for Smash) had sexual interactions while Zack was still a minor. Included were also details about how he was paid to stay quiet about the entire mess. Additionally, Zack provided records of previous phone call logs as further evidence.
This statement casts a particularly grim shadow on the person in question, being Nairo. He, quite clearly being the older person in this situation, could have said “no” and left, and everything could have been dropped. But that didn’t happen, and here we are. Nairo, in response, promptly deactivated his Twitter account and disappeared from the public eye. Previous sponsorships have absolutely pulled his merchandise, including SPIF, who’s also posted about the removal. While people definitely didn’t overlook Zack’s previous transgressions, the fact of the matter was that people focused on Nairo for the time being.
It All Comes Crashing Down
After the Twitlonger from Zack, various other players and community figures have been accused of sexual misconduct and related situations. However, the Fighting Game Community at large was taken aback by the fact that one of the accused was Joey Cuellar (MrWizard); the now former President of the fighting game tournament organizer EVO.
My own story in the FGC
— Mikey~ CrackPr0n (@PyronIkari) July 2, 2020
To briefly summarize the post, PyronIkari explains how, in 1993, MrWizard would pay people (with arcade tokens) to perform various heinous acts; Such as telling people to take off their clothes and jump in the water hazard pools at the arcade.
After the Twitlonger was posted, the FGC went ballistic. The search for the truth became rampant, and EVO staff was forced to put MrWiz on administrative leave. Right after this came to light, multiple companies (in an act of solidarity) decided to pull their support from EVO Online. As the story developed, more and more companies pulled out.
After the long, and merciless scrutiny, MrWiz confessed to his behavior. Shortly afterward, EVO decided to fully distance themselves from MrWiz, canceling the EVO Online 2020 event in the process. However, this incident not only serves as a highlight of the predatorial behavior of highly positioned staff members in multiple events in the community. But also, it underlines a major issue in the gaming community as a whole.
The Bigger Problem
The current gaming environment had a habit of shutting victims down. Many people were talked down to or told not to speak of the abuse they’ve been suffering. In the case of CaptainZack, he had been bribed into staying silent on the matter. This, to be frank, gives the impression of these people in higher social places are using their platform to control those that aren’t making as much of an impact socially.
This attitude of silencing criticism paints a rather strange image with these individuals. It tells that those who have a bigger impact, are the ones that decide what information gets out and what gets swept under the rug. Fortunately, the community at large has begun to speak out against the silence. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of allegations are coming out of the woodwork. While the stories for those claims are developed, multiple people have already admitted their guilt, such as the aforementioned Nairo.
— Nairo (@NairoMK) July 2, 2020
Standing With The Victims
Currently, over 50 different Top Players have been accused of allegations ranging from unwanted sexual messages and harassment to sexual assault and statutory rape. There are also claims of grooming and pedophilia. Multiple gaming companies have stood in solidarity for those that have been affected.
Nintendo, the Smash Bros. Ultimate IP owner, added their thoughts to the situation in a statement to Gamesindustry.biz, saying:
“At Nintendo, we are deeply disturbed by the allegations raised against certain members of the competitive gaming community. They are absolutely impermissible. We want to make it clear that we condemn all acts of violence, harassment, and exploitation against anyone and that we stand with the victims.”
The general consensus is that lots of players have had their names either stained or dragged through the dirt due to these problems rising. It sort of breaks the trust between a content creator (or player) and their fanbase when things like this happen. One could even potentially say that this is a possible weeding out of the older players and their past mistakes and bad actions.
In addition, not all of the reception that players receive for coming out has been positive. Some of the reception CaptainZack has received has been rather negative, such as blaming him for the shitstorm that ensued after his Twitlonger went public. To be honest, with how some players have caught heat in the past for questionable behavior and actions, it felt like it wasn’t a matter of “if” the FGC was going to have a serious lapse… only “when”.
But, what’s going to happen now that the collapse happened?
Looking at the Future
Considering all of the events that have transpired over the past few days, there are two ways the FGC and Smash scenes can go.
- The fighting game community as a whole could crash and burn extremely hard. Reaching the point where local tournament play will come to a hard stop for an undefined length of time.
- The community makes an effort to root out of the negative influences and general threats. Over time, the community can heal. Slowly becoming the generally fun place it has been in the past, once again.
Needless to say, the second potential outcome is simpler, and honestly, one that could be preferred. However, that second outcome can be unpredictable for who gets ousted and when. Overall, the fighting game community as a whole has a lot of things to recover from, and players, fanbases, and organizers have to rebuild trusts or their own reputations. Hard times most likely might be ahead for fighting games, and it’s not going to be easy.
The reality of this is that victims need to come forward and speak of their stories. People NEED to become better and more proactive in helping others. In the end, that’s all that matters for victims of abuse, they need a voice and an ear that listens to them rather than individuals willing to shut them down. Unfortunately, this issue isn’t exclusive to the gaming community. There are other communities that have faced this issue and addressed it differently.
The Example From the Brony Fandom
Let’s take a brief side note to another community that’s had a similar vein of problems. The brony fandom has its own rather severe pedophilia issues. Eventually reaching a degree in which highly-powered individuals actively helped some problematic individuals for the sake of avoiding so-called “drama”.
BronyCon was especially notable for this notion, as it had a pedophile (known in the community as Grizzly the Medic) as the security manager for the event. That, in and of itself, is already multiple levels of problematic. What makes this fandom worth noting in this argument is that these people repeatedly put off this and related issues in an effort to protect their image (more on that here). Needless to say, this attitude is absurd. Fortunately, the staff members at EVO did not make the same mistake.
With attendees and other players having issues with the event in prior years, the production team couldn’t feasibly fend off extended criticism of community outcry if they chose this approach with handling MrWizard. If they did, their name could have been dragged even further through the dirt. Additionally, the public opinion of them could have dwindled even more, beyond one of their higher-ups doing very wrong things.
Hopefully, the decision EVO and its staff took will help other fandoms take the steps in the right direction. While we can’t hold our breaths for this to happen, we still expect to see the winds of change come sooner than later. If not from communities besides the FGC and Gaming, then at the very least from inside of them.
An Active Role
There have been multiple companies and entities that are working to make the Smash community a better place. Since the allegations of criminal behavior from top players have been made, multiple Tournament Organizers have stepped up to implement preventative measures to ensure that competitors fight in a safe environment.
The first entities to enact such policies include various Tournament Organizers from the United Kingdom region. They imposed several guidelines that will help make safer tournaments for minors, such as banning the use of alcohol, suggestive picture shirts, and having minors be accompanied by a guardian.
When asked about the newly imposed measures Sass, one of the administrators of the small-scale tournament known as Brighton Stock Ultimate had this to say a statement provided to Bagogames. (You can read the full statement here):
“It’s worth mentioning that most, if not all, of the stories about predatory behavior towards minors, occurred while they were alone and away from their parents/guardians (while others occurred online). Ultimately, if an attendee is under the age of 16 I want their parents to be present and understand what their child does when they come to our events, and how their child interacts with the community. While I shoulder a degree of responsibility towards what happens at my tournaments and within our community, I believe children under the age of 16 should be supervised and looked after by their parents.”
A Beacon of Hope
There’s more left to do to make the community a truly safe place. But the hell the FGC/Smash communities are facing could potentially be the sign that things need to change. In the meantime, the victims can continue to have their voices heard and turn the perception that abuse needs to be silenced around. Maximillian believes that this could be a new opportunity for the FGC to start anew.
Maybe, at long last, we’ll see the signs of true progress taking place in every community from here on. The choice is left up to the players themselves. The real question will be how the relationships will be rebuilt once a new push towards progress is made. Perhaps all it will take is just a rebranding or maybe we’ll have to face the stigmas associated with gamers for years again. It’s simply not clear where the FGC or the Gaming community will go from here. But we can all hope that we’ll take the right step.
What do you think about our editorial on the state of the EVO Scandal? What are your thoughts on the parties accused and their cases? Do you think this is the end of the FGC? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.