Back from MAGFest. Yay, MAGFest. First time there, enjoyed it overall. However, there is something that still lingers in my mind. I went to a panel on gaming communities, going with the intention of helping grow my own FGC. Well, I guess I should have expected it, but - naturally - someone brought up the FGC being toxic. Everyone agreed. Someone else chimed in that someone threatened to rape them at a fighting game tournament. Everyone gasped.
And of course, there was only one person there with a positive view of the FGC: Me. I'm not exactly fond of the entire FGC getting blamed for the transgressions of one or two scenes, because I happen to belong to a fighting game community which is very diverse and very positive. However, being Johnny On The Spot, I didn't exactly have time to premeditate my answer and give anything I felt was satisfactory.
I feel like most people don't really understand the FGC. Certain misguided works from MIT graduates haven't exactly helped that understanding. Then again, I'm probably going to be just as bad because I clearly also have an agenda (although at least I'm being straight forward with it instead of hiding it in deleted tweets), but this has been really eating at me and I can't just do nothing.
Make no mistake, I'm not defending people who make the FGC harder for new players to get into and make others uncomfortable for reasons outside of the game. I'm also not trying to be some "social justice" warrior who wants everyone to tap-dance to political correctness. I'm just sharing how things are so that maybe you'll understand why things are the way they are.
About Me: I've been in the fighting game community since 2010, my definition of "being in the fighting game community" being that from that point on I took fighting games seriously enough to devote real time to improving my skill level and finding others to fight alongside. I'm not a "pro" player, I'm not "sponsored", I've never gotten Top 8 at a major, I'm not even in any of the particularly large scenes. I'm just a player who has been to at least half a dozen different scenes as part of my 'leveling up' process. This is what I've observed thus far.
1. There Is No FGC
A singular entity which represents all those that play fighting games competitively doesn't exist. Rather, the FGC refers to a collection of very loosely associated
The FGC will occasionally come together for a common cause, such as helping pay for a fellow player's funeral, helping house a player who loses their home, etc. When people point at the FGC in general
as being toxic, you can be assured a thousand fingers will be pointing back, as you've effectively accused all
scenes as being toxic
Most FGC scenes are at a local level. Sometimes a city, sometimes a state, sometimes a region. In some cases, a dedicated scene may revolve around a specific game, although I find this is usually only the case with smaller, less active games (no real reason to be part of a Street Fighter IV or Marvel vs Capcom 3 specific scene when there are probably two dozen players for each of those in your home town, but King of Fighters XIII and Street Fighter X Tekken players are going to be much more thinly spread out). Though these scenes have their members spread far, they usually come together at major tournaments to play together.
All the scenes are autonomous. They operate independently of each other. There are no 'orders from on high' as there are in other competitive gaming communities, everyone makes their own rules... or don't make any rules at all. They have their own distinct makeup of players and they have their own unique social mores. The Dead Or Alive scene has a larger number of female players than most other scenes while the King of Fighters scene has a larger number of Hispanic players than most other scenes, as an example. Each scene on a local level is also different, even when the scenes border each other the difference can be very radical.
2. Leadership Through Power
Even within each individual scene, there is rarely a person who the community officially chooses to be their representative. This is mainly because one of the common ideas within most FGC scenes is that each member is equal.
However, the idea of equality is contradictory to how leadership is actually decided - through meritocracy. Status is obtained by dominating strong opponents within the game. This is part of what makes the FGC so appealing to some people: gaining status in real life is complex, but in most FGC scenes, all you have to do is win.
With this status comes respect, and with respect comes leadership. The problem is, not all good players are fit to lead. Some don't even want to. Others aren't even aware that they are in a leadership position - not pointing fingers, but I can think of many well-known players right now who are obviously blissfully unaware that people actually look up to them.
This is how it works with the community in general. In the case of events (i.e. tournaments) the leader is the tournament organizer. Some tournaments are large multi-day events that may as well be conventions, and some tournaments are shoe-string budget affairs that meet in the back of a bar on a slow night. Some tournaments are part of a long running series that have a lot of trust invested into them, and others can just form up in a convention's game room with a piece of paper tapped to an arcade machine.
There is no corporate leadership as there is with most eSports communities. While Blizzard and Riot fuel their respective communities thanks to the mountains of cash they maintain, fighting game companies like Capcom can barely keep enough cash in their coffers to make current gen games. Even if they wanted and were able to take control, there would definitely be resistance due to the 20+ years the FGC has operated on their own.
3. You Are (Not) FGC
I consider myself to be part of the FGC because I make a constant effort to attend local and major events, play against stronger opponents and improve myself. I don't consider this to be the only way to be part of the FGC - those who organize tournaments, who stream events, who provide knowledge and assistance for others, or who provide locations for people are also part of the FGC. In my eyes
But who am I? Nobody. Perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you also consider those that only post on message boards to be part of the FGC. Perhaps you consider players who only play online or with friends part of it. Perhaps you consider those who only watch streams to be part of it.
Maybe you think in another direction - maybe you think only those who were playing competitively before Street Fighter IV came out are truly part of the FGC. Maybe you think only those who consistently win tournaments are part of the FGC. Maybe you think only those who put competition above all other aspects of life are part of the FGC.
Anybody can say they are a part of the FGC if they want to be a part of it. Each individual defines whether they are part of the FGC for themselves. There are no qualifiers you must pass, there are no licenses you must buy, there are no contracts you must sign. With that, it stands to reason you'll get a few troublemakers along with the good folks.
So What's The Point?
My point is that when you call out "the FGC" for doing something wrong, you are calling out the good scenes and the bad. Yes, there are jackasses in the FGC, just as there are in any community. There's also a lot of folks who are trying to be welcoming to newcomers of all sorts. Calling out everybody for the activities of a few isn't going to do anything productive. If you are going to put people on blast, at least specify. You can't attack everything and expect it to eventually trickle down to the offenders, because there is no official structure for it to trickle down with. Shame is a powerful tool. Time and time again, heroes became pariahs when they got shamed, whether it was for harassing minorities or colluding tournaments.
My second point is that, even if you do believe the FGC in general are a bunch of bad apples, that doesn't mean your local FGC couldn't be an exception. Give it a shot. If they are a bunch of jackasses, then be sure to call them out specifically so others can know to avoid them - and keep in mind that another "FGC" is just down the block. If you were like me, though, you'll find a bunch of people who just want to play some damn games. You should play some damn games with us.
Well, ya know, as long as you don't start calling things "cheap," making excuses and refuse to do anything to develop your skills. You can shovel hate on us for mocking you for that all day, we eat that dirt like it's vitamins.