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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 Cleric

@BrianP said:

Edit: It's crazy to me that someone would believe sexism and sexual harassment is so integral to the way they interact with other human beings, that if you took it away it would fundamentally change the nature of the community (and even more crazy to think that it would make it WORSE as that dude seems to imply)

@Grondoth said:

The FGC needs to grow the fuck up already. There's nothing acceptable or funny about casual misogyny, and sexual harassment shouldn't be tolerated at all. They need to self police and make it clear that this sort of bullshit isn't allowed. If rpe jokes and harassment define your scene, you have a shit scene.

Shave that beard, Aris. You don't deserve it.

My thoughts exactly. Beard one included.

Posted by onimonkii

@wrathofconn said:

I really love what Jared is doing over there, and the fighting game community just consistently sounds like somebody's racist uncle talking about how they never should have desegregated schools.

this is perfect lol

Posted by mbr2

@Hagane said:

Aris talks shit to everyone all the time, and sometimes people who can't handle it get offended. It just happened to be a girl this time.

Are you implying that it's ok for this guy to be a dick just because that's all he got going for him in his life?

Posted by Teanah

They should kick Aris off the show

Posted by Bestostero

esports

Posted by McQuinn

Aris is the captain because he is the biggest supporter of the 3D fighting game community. He is definitely an ass, but he does it jokingly and not insultingly although pretty blunt and childish. Making fun of people is a part of the fighting game community and it is there to build competition and hype. Everyone knew Aris was going to act like that. Sherry, the other female contestant, looked quite pissed that Miranda forfeited.

Posted by ttocs

That dude is creepy. That audio from the video is just horribly creepy the way they team up on her. You can tell she is so uncomfortable by it. What a douchebag.

Posted by FlaminB

I can't decide if he looks more like Hagrid or Gimli...

Edited by Sammo21

To be fair, being a child and an asshole seems to be a pre-requisite for almost all gaming communities. Starcraft may have changed with 2 but I know from experience that the SC1 community was large assholish. League of Legends? Largely full of assholes. I play lots of fighters but I am by no means in a community, outside the 10-20 friends I know. Some of them go to EVO and other tournaments while I do not. I do however think any community that tolerates this, especially from high "ranking" members, needs to be completely retooled or just ignored. Every community has a fringe but something about hardcore video game communities makes them the worst.

Also, look at Bakhtanians. Does it really look like he gives a shit about even getting a job, let alone respecting someone?

Posted by Teanah

@Hagane: it's not a matter of "handling" his comments. They shouldn't happen in the first place

Posted by Sweep

So what this basically boils down to is:

Moderator
Posted by OriginalGman

I thought this guy was a pretty good commentator at EVO, but if the fighting game community is going to defend these comments then I've lost a lot of respect for it. I want to see video games treated with the same respect as sports, but not if a bunch of guys are going to act like children and call it "being emotional."

Posted by mbr2

@Bestostero said:

esports

No no no. The FGC don't want it to be called that. Also fuck you :)

Posted by blacklab

That guy is an ignorant buffoon.

Posted by jrsmaster411

you guys really should get Aris' side of the story this whole thing was so blown out of proportion. He's a scumbag but one of the nicest people in the fighting game community if that makes sense. He treats everyone equally but does it in a joking way, some people are just more sensitive.

Posted by Undeadpool

HAW! Trash-talking is absolutely one thing but these aren't two jagoffs of XBLA (or in my case: roommate's room), these are professionals doing their jobs. If he'd said trash-talking was part of the experience, I'd say he was absolutely right. But to say that sexual harassment is inexorably married to Street Fighter and fighting games in general? That's the kind of shit that will ensure fighting games never grow in terms of audience and as a result as development.

Posted by Shun_Akiyama
@McQuinn said:

Aris is the captain because he is the biggest supporter of the 3D fighting game community. He is definitely an ass, but he does it jokingly and not insultingly although pretty blunt and childish. Making fun of people is a part of the fighting game community and it is there to build competition and hype. Everyone knew Aris was going to act like that. Sherry, the other female contestant, looked quite pissed that Miranda forfeited.

but SXT is 2D
Posted by Jeffsekai

@Hagane said:

Aris talks shit to everyone all the time, and sometimes people who can't handle it get offended. It just happened to be a girl this time.

Yup. his comment "esports" is right on the money, FGC isn't Starcraft, it's not a bunch of people being fake and acting friendly, they speak their mind and talk shit.

Posted by Abendlaender

Man, can you imagine the fighting game scene without sexual harassment? Impossible, right?

I mean if you can't insult women....what's left? Right?

What?

Edited by chilibean_3

Great article, Patrick. I love that Jared calling out the community for being just the worst example of fans of video games. Keep doing the good work, Jared. Everything Aris said made me cringe.

Posted by omgJOHN

I'm not sure I'm interested in any community where sexual harassment is seen as inseparable part of it, and that removing it would ruin it. That really sounds like a terrible place to be, and I would really dislike everyone involved.

There really is no excuse for that, besides immaturity. It brings the entire fighting game community down, and casts a big shadow on gaming as a whole. The gaming community already has a problem with sexual harassment. We don't need anyone endorsing the idea that women are immediately inferior and should be raped. That's just gross.

Posted by AMyggen

@Bassman2112 said:

Patrick, thank you so much for writing this article. As a 20something who basically refuses to play online because of all the idiots on mics who think casual racism, misogyny and the like are totally fine, it's nice to finally see something about it on a public article. I have lots of female gamer friends who like to play online, but won't use a mic because the moment guys hear a girl's voice on the other end they start harassing them with brash, sexual and offensive comments. I don't think it's a matter of it being "esports versus a fun time," it's just common decency towards other people...

Well, just mute them. When I play online I NEVER talk to or want to hear other people, unless I'm playing with friends. That has been a rule for me since I began playing online. There's a lot of stupid people out there, but that shouldn't stop you from playing online if you like doing that.

Posted by Seroth

@Happenstance said:

This is why I tend to avoid online gaming and just play local (the other being that im just not as good as everyone else!). Online gaming just seems to be filled with idiots who think its fine to be abusive, sexist and racist because nobody knows who they really are. A lot of the time they will just claim its online "banter" but there shouldnt be any difference in what you would say to someone in real life compared to online.

What's funny about that is that Aris is an avid hater of online play. He also prefers to play local, usually in an arcade. He tries to promote arcade culture any way he can, including the mentality that it's okay for everyone to be an asshole. It's not right, but he's set in his ways.

Online
Posted by mbr2

@darkdragonmage99 said:

honestly I don't see the big deal then again I've never been one for political correctness and don't think there should ever be rules about what you can and can not say .

Then why the fuck are you posting on this site? That's exactly how this site and it's mods operates. I've learned that the hard way.

Posted by MonkfishEsq

@princess_zelda: Yeah I was thinking "What kind of fucking idiot would think this kind of attitude is acceptable anywhere?"

Then I saw his picture and it all made sense.

Posted by TechnoSyndrome

Dunno what Capcom was thinking having Aris participate in this show, of course he's gonnna say a bunch of sexist shit, he's Aris.

Posted by Jeffsekai

@zoner said:

You guys shouldn't WANT to get in the fighting game community. It's full of incredibly paranoid people that take vidya gaems way too seriously. For the most part, Starcraft community is about a thousand times better

Have you ever looked at r/starcraft? Starcraft has the most narcissistic community ever.

Posted by junglistgamer

I disagree about the beard. It's clearly doing its intended job of keeping women away from that misogynist turd.

Posted by patrickklepek

@jrsmaster411 said:

you guys really should get Aris' side of the story this whole thing was so blown out of proportion. He's a scumbag but one of the nicest people in the fighting game community if that makes sense. He treats everyone equally but does it in a joking way, some people are just more sensitive.

I asked for him to comment, he chose not to respond.

Posted by soundlug

@Targie: Being passionate is not a good excuse

Edited by Sergeant_Stubby

say what you wanna say... who gives a fuck.... if i offend someone then i really dont give a shit, im for free speech and if that means some of my comments hurt peoples feelings O fucking well.

Posted by jmood88

Stuff like this is why I rarely play any games online, and if I do, I just mute everyone.

Posted by Jason_E_Sigler

It all just comes down to acting like a decent (though possibly competitive) human being when playing against others, regardless of sex or race. The fact that Bakhtanians likens sexism and degradation in the vernacular of the fighting game community to a basketball in a game of basketball shows just how far he is from getting the point.

Posted by InternetDetective

"Backstains is a durger eating poop face." - J.K. Rowling

Posted by wumbo3000

I'm glad Jared Rea is a friend of the site.

Edited by HotSauceMagik

Yeah, the FG community is slightly less horrible then the "MOBA" scene. Being a newb there and trying to learn is torture. However once you get decent, and get known in a local crew, its one of the best scenes I was ever involved it. This Aris shit-head needs to grow the fuck up. You can talk smack all day long without bringing up race/sex etc... What a fucking idiot.

EDIT: After listening to some of that stream, this dude seriously needs to GTFO. What a piece of shit.

Edited by Kratch

@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:

@BrianP said:

Edit: It's crazy to me that someone would believe sexism and sexual harassment is so integral to the way they interact with other human beings, that if you took it away it would fundamentally change the nature of the community (and even more crazy to think that it would make it WORSE as that dude seems to imply)

My thoughts exactly!

Yeah, that's what seemed crazy to me too. He basically says that the FGC wouldn't be the FGC without sexism. He seems terrified that his little club where he gets to do and say whatever he wants might get closed down, and simply doesn't want a bigger and better community because his bullshit will be called out.

Edited by WindFall259

If you want esports taken seriously, then everyone involved should act professional, it doesn't matter who the audience is. You have someone like Aris' sexism and a wild abundance of bad manners from Starcraft grandmaster players, they will not be taken seriously, nor will they have any respect. They're not helping esports in any way.

Esports is already a joke. They're just making it funnier.

Posted by mrmortisland

This man is sullying the image of Bearded Marcus Fenix.

Posted by Harkat

Stuff like "rape that bitch!" in gaming contexts is not particularly offensive to me. The group of buddies I play CoD or Battlefield with use the word "rape" interchangeably with "own", as in "I'm owning/raping these guys so hard right now!". I honestly don't believe there is anything sexist behind it. To imply that it is hateful specifically to women would in my opinion be to marginalize male rape victims.

As for things like "I want to know her bra size", that's entirely unacceptable. That is legitimate sexual harassment and has no place in any sort of organized event such as this. Oh, and I'm not defending this guy, he sounds like a total ass.

Posted by Ravenlight

@SpunkyHePanda said:

Sexual harassment = onions.

Aw man, I hate onions.

Posted by SoldierG654342

Wow, really didn't expect that type of shit from Aris.

Posted by Sparklykiss

Oh dear god, he compared sexual harassment to onions. I don't even know anything anymore.

Moderator Online
Posted by jmood88

@OneManX said:

@Conceited said:

Great, now a bunch of people who have no idea what happened and have no perspective on this because they aren't involved in the FGC will blow this infinitely out of proportion and think the FGC is filled with scumbags. While I realize Aris is largely to blame for this, this article did not need to be written. Why not do a positive piece on how awesome the FGC is? How accepting they are of Ricky Ortiz (openly gay) and Kayopolice? (Trans-gendered)

Because as a fan of the FGC, you want some of the BS to be called out. Because it's not all the way positive, and while they do accept people like Kayo and Ortiz, there are still snide comments about them. If you want to grow, some of the dirty laundry is gonna get aired.

Gaming in general is filled with a bunch of racist/sexist/homophobic assholes. You could replace "FGC" with "First person shooter" or "sports gaming" community and it would fit.

Posted by Sword5

Funny. I saw this happen last night and my first thought was "I guess Patrick is going to write about Cross Assault now."

Terrible that it happened, but Capcom knew what they were doing. Listen to Aris' podcasts. Any of them. He also said it was part of the FGC to call people F*gs. They picked the wrong kind of drama.

Posted by megalowho

Bakhtanians comes across pretty poorly in that exchange. You don't have to be Mr. PC by any stretch, and I get it, these guys like their insular community the way it is just fine. But ugly rhetoric and sexual harassment are not the touchstones of any worthwhile social environment, let alone aspects of one that are worth defending. Fighting games don't become "Starcraft" if you stop acting like a misogynist and racist, even if you believe you aren't one outside of a match. Grow up.

Posted by Aohnonono

@Noxville said:

Am I reading wrong or did Capcom actually not do shit about this?

You're not reading this wrong, Capcom actually did not do shit about this, and they need to be taken to task for it.

Posted by Pinworm45

@jasondesante said:

some homo virgin rips on girls because he is fat and hideous and half retarded. Just put him in a corner and let him have his tantrum. Girls that play fighting games are just as cool as guys that play fighting games. Trash talk in fighting games is a last resort for those who aren't comfortable playing the game.

He insults men just as much as girls.. just no one gives a shit about that. People have to white knight girls, which is sexist itself, because it's implying that women can't handle trash talk, which apparently this one couldn't. Pretty fucking ironic that you proceed to call this guy a "homo virgin" who can't get girls because he is fat, as if that is somehow any less sexist than anything he has ever said. it is in fact more sexist, because his "sexism" was merely gendered insults like "bitch".

Posted by porr

I think this whole discussion is ridiculous. How can people take this guy seriously. His arguments don't provide anything that is remotely factual to back himself up.

Hes a sucker, and this story isn't really worth front page news.

Online