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When Passions Flare, Lines Are Crossed [UPDATED]

One player's heated rhetoric about sexual harassment in the fighting community causes a furious debate, one that has Capcom apologizing.

UPDATE: Bakhtanians has issued a statement in the wake of today's coverage. Read it here.

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“This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20-years-old and the sexual harassment is part of a culture,” said competitive fighting game player Aris "Aris" Bakhtanians on a recent live stream for Capcom's Cross Assault show, “and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community.”

Capcom has since apologized for comments made during a conversation on sexual harassment in the fighting game community, which that quote was pulled from. It was a discussion focused on Bakhtanians, and took place during a recent episode of the company’s Cross Assault reality show. It’s part of a promotion for Street Fighter X Tekken.

Cross Assault started with 10 contestants divided into two teams, Team Tekken and Team Street Fighter. The final four contestants will be determined today, and the last matches begin March 3.

A reader initially pointed out the inflammatory commentary, which took place during day five.

Bakhtanians is the head of Team Tekken, and was engaged in a conversation that chiefly involved Twitch.tv community manager Jared Rea. Twitch.tv is hosting the daily streaming of the day-long Cross Assault episodes.

“The views and opinions expressed by cast members in the live internet program 'Cross Assault' do not reflect those of Capcom,” said a Capcom spokesperson in a statement issued to me last night. “As a company, Capcom believes that everyone should be treated with respect. This particular issue was brought to our attention and has been addressed. We sincerely apologize to anyone that was offended by any comments expressed during the show.”

You can listen to the conversation by fast forwarding to one hour and 45 minutes into the following video. A user on YouTube also collected a series of comments made by Bakhtanians on day one.

For example: "Miranda, I wanna know your bra size."

Tensions were immediately raised over Rea's suggestion the fighting game community, once insular and limited but now steadily growing year-over-year, was potentially alienating outsiders from becoming fans of fighting games or the competitive scene because of inappropriate sexual language. Bakhtanians took issue with Rea's criticism.

Here’s a lengthy transcript of their exchange:

Rea: You know what it is, to be honest with you? We’re getting older. Do you really want to keep hanging around with a bunch of [guys in their] early 20s who don’t know how to treat one another with respect? That’s what it is.

Bakhtanians: Alright, man. The thing is...if you don’t like the scene, how it is right now, it just seems like you’re trying to create...turn it into something that it’s not, and it’s never going to be. You know what I mean?

Rea: That’s really unfortunate [inaudible]...the way it is right now, they want to enjoy fighting games, but they’re so incredibly turned off by [the language].

Bakhtanians: This doesn’t involve me, Jared, I don’t know if you can hear me--this is Aris. This doesn’t really involve me, but if you don’t like onions, you get your sandwich without onions, man. I mean, this is the fighting game community.

Rea: Can I get my Street Fighter without sexual harassment?

Bakhtanians: You can’t. You can’t because they’re one and the same thing. This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community--it’s StarCraft. There’s nothing wrong with StarCraft if you enjoy it, and there’s nothing wrong with anything about eSports, but why would you want just one flavor of ice cream, you know? There’s eSports for people who like eSports, and there’s fighting games for people who like spicy food and like to have fun. There’s no reason to turn them into the same thing, you know?

You can’t go to the NBA and say “hey, I like basketball, but I don’t want them to play with a basketball, I want them to play with a football.” It just doesn’t...it doesn’t make sense to have that attitude, you know? These things are established for years. That would be like someone from the fighting game community going over to StarCraft and trying to say “hey, StarCraft, you guys are too soft, let’s start making sexual harassment jokes to each other on StarCraft.” That’s not cool, people wouldn’t like that. StarCraft isn’t like that. People would get defensive, and that’s what you’re trying to do the fighting game community, and it’s not right. It’s ethically wrong.

I know that you’re thinking “what do you know about ethics? You say racial stuff and sexist stuff.” But those are jokes and if you were really a member of the fighting game community, you would know that. You would know that these are jokes.

Rea: So, ensuring that we alienate any and all female viewers...that’s the ethical thing to do?

Bakhtanians: Well, you know, there are layers here, if you think about this. There are layers of ethics. There are people who are racist and commit hate crimes, right? And then there are people who are racist but they have tons of friends of all colors and they have deep love for those friends. Do you think those people are one and the same? Absolutely not.

StarCraft was brought up several times during the discussion of fighting games role in the larger eSports movement, specifically in regards to what lessons the community should and should not learn from its popularity.

I reached out to Bakhtanians to discuss his comments on Cross Assault, but he didn't respond.

When I contacted Capcom, I included a transcript of the relevant conversation. The company told me the cast and crew had been informed that “any inappropriate or disrespectful comments will not be tolerated during filming.”

Upon receiving the statement from Capcom, I forwarded it in full to Bakhtanians. No response.

And there is one very important fact about this whole story: Cross Assault is not a male-only event. There are two females: Team Street Fighter’s Sherry “Sherryjenix” Nhan and Team Tekken’s Miranda “Super_Yan” Pakozdi.

During the exchange, as matches raged in the background, Pakozdi chimed in about Bakhtanians’ explanation for the pervasiveness of inappropriate sexual language within fighting game culture.

“It hurts the community,” she said.

Everyone in the stream made reference to Keystone events at the San Jose Bar & Grill in San Jose, California, a spot that’s reportedly known for its more crass comments about during play. Pakozdi acknowledged it was an issue during Keystone events, but that it never went, from her perspective, over the line.

“You don’t know where the line is,” she declared.

“My point is is where I’m from, in our arcade, our line may be different than yours,” responded Bakhtanians, “but the point is that fighting games are never gonna be the same as StarCraft, it’s never gonna be the same. You can’t turn basketball into baseball, no matter what you do.”

Rea said sexual harassment was less of an issue in the StarCraft community, a point that others, including Bakhtanians, pushed back on. He conceded. Regardless, he argued, private matches can’t be controlled, but the actions of the participants and audience members raised the real concern.

Again, here’s a snippet:

Rea: When I go to MSL or MLG and someone blows up a ghost [Starcraft], does someone go “Yeah, rape that bitch!”?

[group laughter]

Bakhtanians: But, you know, Jared, you’re right. But if there was that much money being spent on Street Fighter, it wouldn’t be happening here, either, you know. There would be more rules, there would be security here, it’s not the same thing. It’s not the same thing.

Rea: When I go to SoCal regionals and I see a Phoenix [from Marvel vs. Capcom 3] on main stage getting blown up and there’s some dude in the audience just yelling “Bitch! Bitch!” every time she gets hit and then she killed and goes “Yeah, rape that bitch!” Yeah, that’s totally acceptable! Really? Really? You’re going to tell me that’s acceptable?

Bakhtanians: Look, man. What is unacceptable about that? There’s nothing unacceptable about that. These are people, we’re in America, man, this isn’t North Korea. We can say what we want. People get emotional.

There was some light discussion after this, but it mostly trailed off.

Pakozdi, who was assigned to work with Bakhtanians as part of Team Tekken, did not simply blow things off. Like many people, she signed onto Twitter and expressed disappointment over the day’s events. She eventually deleted much of her commentary, but it was captured by the same reader who tipped me off to this in the first place.

“I hope my mom isn’t disappointed with all of this shit,” reads one tweet.

“Capcom and the stream teams know and they don’t care. I just gotta wait 2 more days,” reads another.

“I’m not leaving because by contract I have to stay here 2 more days. If it were up to me I would have left long ago," she said.

Bakhtanians is a well known in the community, explaining his Cross Assault involvement.

I reached out to Pakozdi, but she did not respond.

Day six of Cross Assault took place yesterday. Pakozdi played, but if you start watching around eight hours and 32 minutes into the stream, where she's playing as Balrog, she doesn't even attack. She just pushes forward on the stick. This continues in the next matches, where she plays as Ken using the same "strategy."

Essentially, she's given up.

Per the rules of the show, she would then have to face off against John "Dr. Sub-Zero" Rockafeller, who was already eliminated. If he beat her in three out of five matches, he would be "revived."

Instead, she forfeited. Moments after she bowed out, Rockafeller looked over and handed his prizes over to her.

“I would like to donate everything to Super_Yan for being an angel,” he said.

Bakhtanians also contributes the website Avoiding the Puddle and the site’s associated Twitter account.

“esports,” he wrote last night.

Previously, however, he did have his own personal Twitter account. What’s listed in his bio?

“Fuck you.”

Patrick Klepek on Google+
1225 Comments
Posted by stryker1121

@ScoutGhst said:

"Good job, Kor... Hopefully, she's crying in the restroom".... Aris's last words on the video above. If there was any doubt of Aris's intentions as he was "coaching" SuperYan, that should clear it up. Steve, Bronson, and 200Yen were allowed to practice in (relative) peace during the time that Aris's attentions were focused on SuperYan, but she was distracted and pestered the entire time she should have been working on her game skills. Kor was less fortunate due to his proximity to SuperYan... but apparently he managed to do a good job anyway. Aris used his position of authority as leverage against her while she was under contract and could not talk back, fight back, or leave.

Sherry "Cherry" with an "S" Jennings was not there in the room with Aris and didn't see or hear what the rest of the world saw since she was cloistered in the Team Street Fighter room with a *real coach*. I would not lend her credibility on this subject.

And.... Please remember that it was Aris who brought the entire FGC into this harassment issue, in a feeble attempt to defend himself. SuperYan never, *ever* mentioned the FGC community at large.... the community she's embraced for years and had become accustomed to and loved... warts and all.

I don't understand how Miranda's contract has anything to do with her pushing back against Aris's pervy aggressiveness. Not a jab at you, of course, but I've read a few threads about the contract, like there's no sexual harassment clause protecting her? Pardon my naivete but that part of the story is very strange.

Posted by RagingDaemon

@SpikeSpiegel: I'm saying that the people who are saying language that they don't agree with should never be used and would try to exert influence to change the FGC from without are advocating censorship based on their own moral/ethical worldviews. In this case it's internet/media pressure.

I've said a few times before that the FGC would have to deal with consequences from sponsors or general viewership if they chose to dig in and their sponsors didn't like it. But that it should be their choice, and that of their market interaction. Not the media fueling internet cop activists.

What SRK did wasn't instigated by the FGC coming to terms with anything. It was initiated by the most part by people who don't play, don't watch, don't contribute, don't go to EVO or local tournaments, but are professional at being offended on the internet.

Who likes when right wingers try to control other people's lives based on their own beliefs? Same idea here, though on a smaller and less significant scale obviously.

Edited by Lnin0

Not to take anything away from GB, who did an great job reporting the events as they unraveled, but Eurogamer wrote an excellent retrospective piece that frames this, not as an issue within the FGC, but with gaming as a whole. Anyone who loves gaming should give it a read.

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-03-03-its-time-to-kick-back-against-gaming-bigots

Bakhtanians says he didn't mean to offend and maybe he didn't, but he clearly lacked the ability to judge where that line was. So let's correct him and all the others who behave like him by ramming home that 'this, this right here, that is the line'.

Edited by Claude

While reading the eurogamer article posted above, I found this link to an interview with Aris in the comments. It shows a little bit of his personality.
 
  

Edited by Wrighteous86

@RagingDaemon said:

@SpikeSpiegel: I'm saying that the people who are saying language that they don't agree with should never be used and would try to exert influence to change the FGC from without are advocating censorship based on their own moral/ethical worldviews. In this case it's internet/media pressure.

I've said a few times before that the FGC would have to deal with consequences from sponsors or general viewership if they chose to dig in and their sponsors didn't like it. But that it should be their choice, and that of their market interaction. Not the media fueling internet cop activists.

What SRK did wasn't instigated by the FGC coming to terms with anything. It was initiated by the most part by people who don't play, don't watch, don't contribute, don't go to EVO or local tournaments, but are professional at being offended on the internet.

Who likes when right wingers try to control other people's lives based on their own beliefs? Same idea here, though on a smaller and less significant scale obviously.

What does or does not count as sexual harassment always comes down to the person being harassed feeling uncomfortable. If I say any innocuous comment about a woman's appearance at work, if she feels uncomfortable, she can report me for sexual harassment. That's just how it works. Accept it.

The embarrassing part of all this is the FGC reaction. People, for the most part, leveled their disgust at the guy saying these things. Then the FGC got up in arms and got all defensive, and started protecting him. That's what has made everyone start to think less of the FGC. Before it was mostly focused on him, but now you're included in it because you're defending him vociferously. You guys threw your cards in with him, we didn't.

Edited by darkdragonmage99
@Claude: I'm guessing you've never played a  Koreans in a game before they are very technical they also always kick my ass.  
 
 edit: great example of someone taking something out of context to make it sound racist. 
Edited by Claude
@darkdragonmage99: Sorry about that. I'll retract it from my post.
 
edit...actually, I seem to be jumping on the hate bandwagon. I'll take most of what I said down.
Posted by StarblindMarkSWH

It's not North Korea, that's true... that means that everyone should be respected, because this kind of hatred is accepeted only where people aren't important to their leaders, in backward countries.

Posted by BBQBram

Hey fighting game community, defend your elementary school though talk all you want, it's not ironic, it's sophomoric and stupid. You can think of other things to yell than "rape!" can't you? What's wrong with destruction and carnage regardless of gender?

Posted by King9999
Posted by Hailinel

@King9999: Yes, because Giant Bomb is not a fighting game-centric website. If the FGC wants better press for the masses, they need to make the effort to put the word out in a way that goes beyond their circle of insular web communities like SRK.

Online
Posted by FLStyle
Edited by OneManX

@King9999 said:

A lot of you have no clue what the community is really like to be making these accusations. For example, did you know that the community helped out one of their own when he lost his life savings to a fire? If you were part of the community, you would know that. Sites like Giant Bomb sure as hell aren't going to report it.

All I'm saying is, don't write off an entire community because of the actions of one man. You have no right to be saying anything if you don't know the scene. And Jared Rea isn't exactly on the level.

Yeah, just like they dont report on the lot of good other communities do either, but when someone fucks up... and its big, it gets reported. I dont have the exact quote, but Alex on Twitter said something around th lines of , Journalists and news are not created to champion your community, they are there to report news good or bad'. Maybe some sites will pick up on the happenings at Final Round, maybe not, after the cold shoulder alot of journos got after this story, why should they report it?

Edit: also... While I don't consider GB an expert on the FGC, I think they know enough about it. On the Bombcast they had an understanding of it, they grew up in arcades and some are fans of fighting games. How many times has Jeff and Brad stated then wanted to go to EVO?

Edited by MindChamber

Im not sure how anyone can defend this in anyway. He never stopped. He never let up.

She handled it as lighthearted, and as playfully as she could. But I felt terribly uncomfortable watching that. Hopefully he has seen the footage and realizes how disgusting he was acting.

Edited by King9999

@OneManX: If Jeff and Brad want to go, they should go. Being journalists, I figure it would be in their best interest to report a big event like Evo. X-Play did it last year. I know Jeff is a big fan of fighting games.

Posted by Hailinel
Online
Posted by twillfast

@KoolAidMan: You're right. Aris is an asshole, but at least a consistent asshole. Deezer is aswell. CombatEX is being too uncertain if he want's to remain a douchebag. The day he stops completely, he'll have to prove his skill and then he'll be forgotten. Thus, he should remain an ass.

CombatEX's problem is he's not just BM, he's a cheater. If someone gets caught cheating in sports (e.g. a runner who uses illegal substances), they're basically marked for life.

This was a little OT, but I guess we concluded Aris is an eternal ass. The reason why he doesn't want the fighting community to get exposure is because he looks like a butt. ^_^

Posted by TeflonBilly

Well, in my eyes, has won me over due to the obnoxious posts of people like and who don't seem to want any improvements anymore. They just want a witchhunt and an oppurtunity to come off as morally superior. People like you are what cause the Comics Code, McCarthy Trials and Video Nasty hunts to happen. You are becoming fountains of negativity spewing pure sewage rather than constructive solutions or new talking points because you're running out of ad hominem attacks.

I've made my share of thoughts about this deal in the other threads, so I'm not gonna beat a dead horse an reiterate them. I do suggest you take a look at your own posts before you decide to take another swing at the carcass to. Maybe you'll have an epiphany that most people you are attacking and calling for the heads off are actually agreeing with you to an extent. You've just decided to go full on fundementalist jihad.

Posted by Hailinel

@TeflonBilly: Of course I want to see improvements. But I also want to see more of the FGC own up to the fact that they have some abject scum within their ranks, and that for all their proselytizing about the community being about the nature of competition, there are some who use it as a means to demean others.

Online
Posted by jamesisaacs

Is this about girl gamers not liking sexy comments?

P.S. That Miranda is a hottie!

Posted by YukoAsho

@Hailinel said:

@King9999: Yes, because Giant Bomb is not a fighting game-centric website. If the FGC wants better press for the masses, they need to make the effort to put the word out in a way that goes beyond their circle of insular web communities like SRK.

In other words, the FGC should expect to only be discussed when it's time for the next witch hunt. Problem is that it's this lack of support that's part of the problem. While media and sponsors flooded MLG for Starcraft and Halo/CoD for a decade, the FGC is almost entirely grassroots. That's lead to bitter resentment of newcomers which has created part of the issue in the first place.

Aris should never be allowed on a stream again, and neither should Marn. EVO and SRK sent a strong message last week that this shit wasn't going to be tolerated on streams, and hopefully this opens up dialog about the comfort and safety of event participants and spectators, regardless of their differences. However, it's not enough to ONLY talk about negative things. That's going to bring resentment from a community that's been ignored completely while other games have quickly formed competitive leagues, helped by massive early sponsorships.

As I said before, it's not enough to smack the bad guys. We have to cheer the good guys too. Too many in the FGC only view this as a media witch hunt.

Posted by YukoAsho

@stryker1121 said:

I don't understand how Miranda's contract has anything to do with her pushing back against Aris's pervy aggressiveness. Not a jab at you, of course, but I've read a few threads about the contract, like there's no sexual harassment clause protecting her? Pardon my naivete but that part of the story is very strange.

As I mentioned earlier in the thread, Miranda says she DID try to get Aris to get off her back and he brushed her off.

Posted by Adrean89

This would not be ok in any professional sport.

Posted by shimrra

I miss the days of when you could play a VS game face to face or side by side cause no one would say anything unless they could back it up. In other words you would watch what you would say cause if you stepped out of line the opposing player would just either give you beating right there or just wait for you outside the store.

Edited by delmariachi

I don't think this is simply an issue based around a certain genre and small community of gamers, this has become a general problem over the years. From Arcade to PC and now Console, the whole community within gaming has gone markedly down hill, ever since the ability to communicate online during play was enabled. Even on less competitive arenas, such as unranked online play, the whole attitude stinks to high heaven.

I've lost count of the times I've beaten a guy or been beaten and got a microphone tirade or a message with text / voice, coating me off with various expletives featured in Shakespeare's famous work "How To Be A Cunt And Influence People"

Then you get the whole hitting on the female player in the room, because apparently in some bullshit unwritten rule, that's okay too, they expect and want it.

Couple this with the self-entitlement of being able to say what you wish, there seems to be an ever growing mass of Racists and Misogynists playing videogames of late, and its these same pricks that will stop gaming rising above its "immature" status in the eyes of the non-gaming world. I've been gaming for 30 years and I have to say, I hate what my community has become.

As for people with an outlook like Aris, I just go to the greatest invention in gaming of late... the mute button