There's trash talking in all sports, what's new? Obviously some gamers will know they crossed the line
Five female players defend the fighting game community against claims of sexism.
Last month, competitive fighting game player Aris Bakhtanians made the following comment on Capcom's Cross Assault reality show, after being asked to address the use of inappropriate sexual language in the competitive scene:
"This is a community that's 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture. If you remove that from the fighting game community, it's not the fighting game community."
Bakhtanians' comments sparked a fierce response from some members of the fighting game community, who argued that sexist attitudes were largely isolated incidents and that Bakhtanians' comments did not reflect the views of the community at large. The fallout prompted an apology from both Capcom, who created Cross Assault to promote Street Fighter X Tekken, and Bakhtanians, who defended himself by revealing his statements were made in a heated moment and did not communicate his real feelings on the matter.
Despite the public backlash over Bakhtanians' comments, little has been heard publicly from the two female players featured on Cross Assault: Miranda Pakozdi and Sherry Nhan. (GameSpot reached out to both Pakozdi and Nhan for this article but received no reply.) Pakozdi tweeted her disappointment with Bakhtanians following his comments on Cross Assault, but later deleted her posts; Nhan later appeared on a live stream of the LI Joe Show and defended Bakhtanians, saying he was not sexist. (Bakhtanians also appeared on the LI Joe Show to say things had been blown out of proportion.)
In a bid to shed light on the true extent of sexism and sexist attitudes in the competitive fighting game scene, GameSpot contacted five female players from fighting game communities around the world. We asked them to explore the roles of culture, solidarity, and the competitive spirit in shaping the personality of each individual community.
All in the Family
Jessica Jeensalute, aka Jay Jay, is a 26-year-old San Fernando Valley resident who has played Melty Blood, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, and Street Fighter IV competitively in tournaments, including North Eastern Championships in Philadelphia, the Evo Championship Series in Las Vegas, and Super VS Battle in London. For her, incidents like the Cross Assault controversy do not correctly portray the unity that exists within the US fighting game community.
"The fighting game community in the US is like a family," Jay Jay says. "A family that argues, picks on each other, loves and hates each other, but in all realness is really full of love for the games. There is a large sense of competitive spirit as well as a drive to beat your fellow gamers. Like any gaming community, there are people that are a bit unruly at times, but those are a few isolated incidents."
Jay Jay knows Bakhtanians personally. She says he's one of the most respectful male players in the US fighting game community, and she has never known him to disrespect or mistreat female players. While she recognises the damage Bakhtanians may have caused in misrepresenting the treatment of female players in the US fighting game community, she says female fighting game players need to know how to stand up for themselves in order to survive in the competitive scene.
"I do not think this incident is an accurate portrayal of the fighting game community, nor do I think the community stands for things like that. But like in any competitive sphere, you should have the ability to stand up for yourself, male or female. If you can't stand up and compete with everything on the line, you shouldn't be there in the first place. At the end of a match, it doesn't matter if you are a child, a man, a woman, or a transvestite. All that matters is if you win or lose. There is nothing holding a female back in the US except their own lack of determination to compete."
"They said I was just a kid and that I should go play with dolls and that fighting games are for adults and men."
Marie-Laure Norindr, aka Kayane, has had 11 years of experience in standing up for herself. The 20-year-old French eLive-sponsored SoulCalibur V and Street Fighter player has been involved in the competitive fighting game scene since she was 9 years old. Learning the ropes from her two Tekken champion older brothers, Kayane has participated in more than 80 tournaments around the world, winning around 15 titles. (Namco recently invited her to London to take part in the SoulCalibur V launch.) Growing up in the scene, Kayane faced criticism for both her age and her gender.
"I quickly became one of the strongest Dead or Alive and SoulCalibur players, and I think most people were surprised about my age at first," Kayane says. "They said I was just a kid and that I should go play with dolls and that fighting games are for adults and men. When I became a young woman, around the time I was 16, people stopped criticising me about my age and began criticising my gender. Because I was in the media a lot during that time, many people said it was because I was a woman rather than the fact that I was good at these games."
Kayane says each fighting game has its own smaller community and that these micro-communities can differ greatly. For example, she says the French SoulCalibur community is more welcoming towards new players than the Street Fighter community is (the former embraced her as a gamer and placed little importance on her age or gender). However, she believes culture has a lot to do with it; for example, how French and European players behave towards each other can be very different to the way US players behave.
"I can't talk for women who live in other countries where there are different persons and mentalities. I know that in the US, it's very different from here. In France, we don't treat female fighting game players badly--we welcome them and respect them. But we do expect them to have the attitude of a real fighter. We expect them to be honourable and motivated to become stronger. If a female player is acting like a princess, waiting for men to teach her everything or to be at her service, then of course she'll have her critics."
Online vs. Real Life
The idea that female fighting game players should be ready to develop a thick skin when entering the competitive scene is echoed by all of GameSpot's interviewees. Samantha Wale, a UK player who has competed internationally in Dead or Alive and Virtua Fighter, migrated to fighting games from the first-person shooter scene, an experience she says that taught her a lot about the importance of pride in the fighting game community. When playing online, Wale could choose whether to reveal her gender or not; in real life, she found some male players felt demoralised by the idea of being beaten by a female.
"You have to have a strong backbone in the gaming world, especially in fighters," Wale says. "I play with males and females and treat both genders the same, and even though I dislike losing, it makes no difference to me whether it is to a female or a male. But I think many male players do not like getting beaten by the opposite sex. I think many of them assume that female players are still learning, and to lose to someone who is learning is not nice if you've been playing hard for many years. It can hurt your pride. But super-competitiveness is just part of the fighting games community: no one likes to lose."
"Meeting players face-to-face makes a huge difference. Most people get some confidence when they are anonymously shit-talking over a microphone, but when it comes to a face-to-face meeting, people are always nice."
Like Wale, New-Zealand born Livia Teernstra started out in the competitive FPS scene before taking up fighting games in 2007, competing in Unreal Tournament and Quake 4 tournaments as well as the 2007 and 2008 Championship Gaming Series (CGS) in Dead or Alive 4. Now living in the Netherlands, Teernstra has spent a lot of time with the European fighting game community, which she says is united by friendship and solidarity--a welcome change to the torrent of abuse she often received online.
"Because of the nature of Xbox games and having to communicate over the microphone, it's pretty difficult to hide your gender. Sometimes people would recognise my XBL tag from CGS, and once people realised I was female, the insults would start. The most popular comments usually had something to do with me going back to the kitchen, or being a slut, and spreading sexual diseases. If it wasn't insults, then it was propositions for sex."
"Meeting players face-to-face makes a huge difference, no matter if it's FPS or fighting games. Most people get some confidence when they are anonymously shit-talking over a microphone, but when it comes to a face-to-face meeting, people are always nice."
Teernstra doesn't believe that discrimination in the fighting game community comes from the competitive or professional level. Usually, she says, it's just "the little kids" who want attention; people at the tournament level see female players as extra competition or, in the case of CGS, a valuable teammate. However, looking back at Bakhtanians' comments on Cross Assault, Teernstra says the US community could have done more to show that his attitude misrepresented the personality of the entire group.
"If just one person had told him to shut up, then maybe it would have demonstrated that his opinions don't reflect those of the community," Teernstra says. "But nobody did, so maybe their silence is agreement? More likely though it's because the topic was so heated that many people just wanted to stay out of it. From my experience, it does seem like there is a big difference between European and US communities when it comes to crossing the line with verbal abuse."
Striving for Equality
Ryan Gutierrez, a fighting game player who co-runs and hosts the US fighting game online entertainment network Cross Counter TV, is adamant that the US fighting game community is just like any other. The problem is not with the community itself, he says; rather, it's that the very high male-to-female ratio can create initial entry barriers for potential female players, who may feel pressured at the idea of having to prove themselves to a community dominated by the opposite sex.
"The percentage of female players in the [US] fighting game community is anywhere between 0 and 3 to 5 percent. It's true that there are more girls around now in this scene than there used to be, but I wouldn't say that they're all competitive players. That number is growing, but it's not growing very quickly."
"There's no welcoming committee… If you want to come in and play, then you come in and play."
Gutierrez guesses that part of the reason female player numbers are growing so slowly has to do with the availability of teaching resources--there aren't that many. Female players who want to play competitively have to find their own way into the community, and once there, they must prepare to undergo serious scrutiny. While attempts to better integrate female players into the community through initiatives like all-female tournaments and meet-ups have been made in the past, Gutierrez believes rolling out a welcoming committee does more harm than good.
"I don't really know that any of that all-girl stuff has worked. I don't think that's what female players want. If I were a girl I'd be offended: I'd say that I don't need some second-class-citizen training session. There's no welcoming committee for anybody else. If you want to come in and play, then you come in and play."
The female players GameSpot interviewed for this article felt strongly about this aspect, in particular the idea that it's wrong to peg fighting game communities as rowdy boys' clubs simply because of their gender imbalance. Zorine Te, aka Harli, a competitive Tekken player from Australia who has competed nationally and internationally in tournaments like the OzHadou Nationals, the Super Battle Opera qualifiers, and the Shadowloo Showdown, says her experience in the community has shown that everybody is given an equal chance to prove themselves, no matter what their gender. She says putting female players on a pedestal for the sole fact that they are female is dangerous.
"There's a bit of a double standard," Harli says. "The very existence of female-only tournaments trashes the idea of equality in the pure fact that male players aren't allowed to enter. Female players don't need special treatment: we need to learn the game the same way everybody else does. The scene is encouraging to everybody, whatever their sexuality or gender."
Harli admits that there's a cultural issue involved: females aren't really brought up in a way that leads to an interest in competitive gaming. However, that shouldn't lead to a misrepresentation of fighting game communities and their attitudes towards female players. From her own experience, Harli says the Australian fighting game community welcomed her with open arms and encouraged her to become a better player.
"In one tournament I got matched up against Australia's top Tekken player of the time, and he picked his best character and absolutely destroyed me. Although he was booed off stage afterwards, I respected that he took me seriously and appreciated the fact that he didn't dumb down his play style for me."
"I don't think a lot of people are aware of the strong sense of unity in fighting game communities. There is this perception that you need to be playing at a high level if you want to be a part of it, but that's simply not true. I count myself lucky to be part of it."
@DarthLod Ah, again ignorance prevails. You assume that which you can not know, that is, what I think. I am very open-minded. In fact, I believe completely in moral relativity. In other words, I am as open-minded as you can be. I don't think anything is inherently right or wrong. Murder, theft, etc. None of it is definitely 'bad'. Who is to say a particular moral outlook is more correct than any other? By assuming you know what I think, you make yourself look a complete fool. Ultimately you label my viewpoint the exact opposite of what it really is. Bravo! Continue to make assumptions on matters of which you know nothing. The reason I don't mind these kinds of opinion pieces is due to the fact that yes, no one opinion is necessarily right or wrong... and as such people should be free to expose others to their point of view regardless of whether others will choose to agree with it or not.
Great article - I'd wish we'd see more like this. Women in gaming is the pink elephant in the room. It seems to me that the misrepresentations of women and misconceptions about female players from their male (or female) counterparts are the real rats in the hull that the gaming industry will have to flush out. Film had to do it. Maltese Falcon anyone? Femme fatales in 1940's and 50's films was the (male dominated) film industry's answer to the threatened everyday male, as women took in droves to the workforce during the war years. Do players feel threatened by women in games and playing games? I would suspect this is perhaps history repeating itself. But also, pretending that there's no sexism in the gaming community is a pretty limp argument. And that includes female players proclaiming that it doesn't exist. It's sad because gaming is one of the few level playing fields simply because to a degree it is possible to keep your real sex hidden and irrelevant from the gameplay. If you want to see more women play games and create games, and I suspect that we all do, then it's our job to speak out against misogyny, or indeed any derogatory comments in chat rooms against anyone regardless of sex for that matter.
@chaosnovaxz: I'm a guy as well and that stuff really really makes me angry not that they call me gay but that I have not done a thing and they kick me or don't want me in their game they shouldn't make it public if they don't want people there.
@chaosnovaxz: I can count the amount of times when I haven't said anything to anyone and they have either kicked me out of a game or called me a f** because they don't want me in their game I'm serious and I did nothing nothing at all to them
Why guys would be pissed i have no idea, freaking gaming girls man, how awesome is that, they have similar interest to us guys, surely one would be happier knowing that and going out with one of them. :? Honestly people complain about too many things, this should not be one of them... Imagine playing sf on your tv in the bedroom, on a nice comfy bed with a gorgeous gamer girl next to you.... ( i think people might stop playing but even still)
The one thing I can't stand more than anything are people who are sexist. I'm a girl myself to be honest. Just because we're women doesn't mean we can't play video games. This needs to be stopped immediately. If people don't agree, that's okay. I'm sick of it all. Yes, we're females, but we are all of the same species of human beings and should be treated equally.
It's amazing how many female gamers there are today, even 10 years ago I don't believe i met a single one that played games in highschool. I met a few in college, but now it's almost common place. I think dudes need to mature, gaming isn't just for you socially awkward virgins anymore. J/K but not really ;)
What's going on in the fighting game community is reminding me a lot of what the Sonic and Nintendo communities are dealing with.
It's hard to believe, but even if you don't judge, you are judging in someway and same goes for racism.
Sexism is for idiots. I think that's all that needs to be said. Though when I play online, what I find more revealing is the scathing homophobe and racist comments, I have to be honest. Maybe I hang in the wrong groups :P
Whether you trash or respect someone due to their gender, it's sexist behavior. Whether you say, "I respect you because you're female" or "I hate you because you're Asian", you are judging someone for something which was beyond their control. If you are going to judge people, judge them for their actions and choices -- not what they were born with (or without).
"This is a community that's 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture. If you remove that from the fighting game community, it's not the fighting game community." This is all that I read in this article, and I'm already facepalming.
And I wouldn't say that women get treated so differently online... I know I don't, I PWN U JUST THE SAME!! LOL Most people don't even use mics in most games anyways.... DOWNWARD GAMING SPIRAL?
People seperate themselves from other because they choose to. (Or were kinda born that way?....) The only reason we have stereotypes is because society has allowed it to be such. And the way we will reverse them is by society doin such as well. Soon we will be able to call a Male nurse, just a Nurse. And maybe we will see more women doing more and more hard labor and such(since there is absolutely no sexual variance barrier).... Female president will probably come first. I just wish It would happen in some time soon so I could have more meaning full conversations..
@Victorious_Fize - I generally feel that rape isn't a word that should be among the most common taunts and insults, no matter who's playing. I wouldn't wish to censor it, I would simply prefer if gamers decided on less triggering and damaging words. And while it's a vast minority of scenarios, the majority of audible taunts I hear hurled at female fighting game competitors involves "rape". I'll admit I don't watch every stream, but I watch a fair bit. It's like, I can't deem the fighting game community of blatant sexism without a real pattern of sexism, but it's really edged toward confirmation due to the lack of variety in insults hurled at female gamers. Again, I just wish they'd choose different words on their own. It has nothing to do with competitiveness to use the word "rape" in taunts all the time, or to be affected by that word. It's just not appropriate IMO. Insult someone for their ability, I figure.
you know ive gotta say that this isnt really that big of deal. it dosent matter what sex or race you are there are going to be those trash talkers who only care about about hurting peoples feeling because they realized that they arent as good as they thought and they deciede to blame it on everyone else but themselves because they dont want to think that somebody is "surpieor" to them so they try to take the person down a notch and make themselves "surpieor". Everyone has to deal with this kind of thing a fighting games are probally even worse because its purely a skill based game and dosent leave much room for luck and chance so thats my two cents
Unless Aris tried to grab a boob its not sexual harassment. My opinion of Aris is that he is an ass who thinks he is funny and was trying to get a reaction from her just for laughs with his bros. There is no reason for this silly drama. Let this topic die.
K I gotta be honest. I didn't read the whole article. It's long and I'm being lazy. But is she trying to say women don't get respect online??? I'll tell you what. Every time a girl hops in a game I'm in suddenly EVERYONE in the room is in love. That girl could get everyone to line up and take head shots just because she asked in a sweet voice. My girlfriend is constantly getting hit on and swamped with friend requests when she plays. If that's sexism then I wish people were a little more sexist against guys o_O
this is really silly i mean goood for the note and all but the ones who thinks a girl should play videogames are retarded never to be born things is the best thing to play with girls and the persons who thinks they play inferior is just plain stupid i would kill to play against girls the mood i get with them is just aaaaawesome!!! when i find some from time to time
@Lozzica - So you're getting all the controversial topic assignments, eh? Are the Frag Dolls still around? Might make for a good follow-up to hear some stories from the professionals.
I, for one, always treat a woman like a lady, and a man like a gentleman. It pays more to be respectful then it ever does to be insulting. If a woman can kick my butt in a game, it just increases my respect for her. It also make me want to get better, so I can kick her butt next time, but I'm the same way if a man beats me in a game.
@Mersinary_Myth Don't respond to them, just enjoy thinking that you are annoying the **** out of them by ignoring them.
I dunno, but I love looking at female characters on games and play them often, not because they are good or I like the way they fight, but just for the sneak peeks of butt cheeks and breasts.
@chaosnovaxz I agree with you. But I think ppl online need to tone it down with racist trash towards everyone. ridiculous how often i run into pl saying i should die because Im ajew or black. or ppl who decide to harass player until they leave a lobby.. I had a guy scream in the mic and follow me around in MW3 just because I wouldn't respond to trash talk. @Brightmann55..........My boxer aren't the issue here....lol
Because there isn't a history and strong social undercurrent of woman oppressing man. So making such comments without having that understanding is ill-informed. If I was playing a lady and she'd said something about ripping my jimmy off, I'd laugh and find it humorous, because to have the audacity to suggest that it equates to saying something to her like "Shouldn't you be in the kitchen" or "Go do some laundry" is just ridiculous. If you have a problem with being clowned on as a man, so long as it doesn't cross any lines, then maybe you need tot thicken up that skin of yours.
@Sepewrath THIS. It's hard to believe how many people can't go by this. I could care less if the people I play games with or hang out with are male, female, black, white, whatever. I'm going to treat them all exactly the same. My problem is that everyone insults you if you don't go the one step further and make special rules about (note, I don't trash talk or even insult because I was raised better, but some do) dialogue or conduct when, say, a girl is playing with you. Don't they want to be treated the exact same as everyone else? How can anyone fault me for doing just that, even if I was one of the insulting, flamer-types? Hell, I have female friends that play shooters that spout vulgar gender-specific dialogue at any guys they beat. (Castration jokes seem to be their favorites). No one thinks anything of it, and everyone laughs, including myself. But, if a man was to make such a gender-specific joke to a girl gamer, he'd be lambasted by the community and labeled misogynist, and that disconnect seems like BS. What's the difference here? (Note: I don't find either case appropriate) My major point is not "women should just have to deal with all the trash talk!". It's that "no one should be trash talking at all, treat each other respectfully, and women shouldn't be counting dialogue that is thrown between even groups of only male gamers (because idiots WILL trash talk) as being specific to them just because they entered the arena, and all guys are sexist, etc.".
@hawkeye049 Ok, now you're just raging. That is an issue involving vanity, which is a product of an industry that tries to constantly reinforce the notion that people should value themselves based on how they look, how they're shaped, and so on.
there are a-hole in everywhere who treat men and women like crap all the time online. its just how it is. you will run into alot a trash talking ppl who dont know the difference friendly/competitive jab and and straight up ignorant trash talk. And it doesn't just come from men, I've had women cuss me out in tekken, UMVC3 and MW3. You need a hard skin to deal with it all, because some of them are actually nice ppl.....some
@hawkeye049 Those are usually the jezebelle types that try to manipulate people to their pleasing. And I agree I don't like those type of people because all they do is make it confusing and difficult for the real woman out there who hold their own and have respect for others.
Who uses facebook 10+ hours a week, uploads TONS pictures they take OF THEMSELVES! And have made LADY GAGA the most friended person on the internet. Men.... thats what we do.....
Women want all the same opportunities men have and want to be paid the same amount of money for doing it. ANDDDD..... They want us to spend all our money on them to, open the door, give them the right of way on every intersection, and we do all the hard labor. When your car breaks down, who fixes it?! When the electronics need to be connected. WHO DOES IT?!!!!! Yep men.... were totally sexest...
@apizza667 And what are these issues that are non-existent? Just because you close yourself off to anything that doesn't coincide with whatever limited views you have on people, doesn't make it a non-issue. What it does is make you self-absorbed. Do you not see the irony in your statement (oh and btw 18-35 is the age range used in demographics, not 18-40)? It's like you're saying that people who are a part of that demographic are all sexist, misogynistic individuals, but yet it's a non-issue. How are you gonna say something doesn't exist, when it does exist, has been well documented as existent, and came plainly be seen. Aint nobody gonna cater to shills like you, because your way of thinking is based in nothing but bitter, self-righteousness. So news flash buddy, this aint the 1930's, and perhaps your parents are the ones who deserve the credit for raising such a studious and well-rounded man like yourself. Thank goodness, for the internet. Where any stick to ourselve, nepotistic, and holier than thou kid can spew out their ignorance with the simple press of a button.
@ERoBB I disagree with "every social advantage". I'd go with "most". Do you know anything about how nearly one-sided the justice system is here in the states? A woman can accuse a man of anything and 90% of the time get away with it, even if the claims are false, especially when it comes to reports of sexual crimes. That's some real power right there; so, saying "men have it easier!" isn't necessarily true. There are quite a few avenues where women have the definite social advantage. Which is fine in most every case except the courts (which should be even and fair), of course. I just point this out because your post was slightly inaccurate. Both men and women have their own social/political issues they have to deal with. It isn't one-sided. As for this topic in particular, I have female friends who are way more vulgar than I could ever be, so saying "sexual language is offensive to females" (and only females) is laughably untrue. I treat everyone the same, and equally (as well as never talk trash or throw out insults because I was raised better than that). However in this day and age, "special treatment" has become the new "equality", and thus quite often I'm told how "immoral" I am. -_-
This article must be bad, since Laura is a girl she is obviously still learning. If it was any good, I would see the male journalists getting upset because a girl wrote a good article. That's how dumb sexism is. I can't believe it is still apart of the world. I understand there will always be people who are sexist in small pockets, but it is still such a "mainstream" thing. This was a great article Laura, in case my sarcasm at the top didn't interpret well in writing. This is what journalism sites need more of. Professional pieces of writing. Keep up the great work.
@Matty_gamer That's easy for us to say as men, who have every social advantage over women. You're acting like women are the cause of sexism, which is hilariously misguided.
Its hard enough trying to persuade people that computer games are primarily for adults. Also the more girls the better. I don't care about being beaten by a girl, how sad can you get really. I don't think I have ever been in an online game of some kind and thought "oh thats a girl I should go after her she will be easy to kill", etc. Sexism is for people of a lower intelligence.
Excellent article Laura! Really eye-opening, I've always treated female players with respect and integrity just like I would with anyone else but it's good to read how things are like from women's perspective. Again great job Laura! :)