**The FGC: Sponsorship, cameras and a divided community **
I have held both sides in this argument at some point in my conversations with people both inside and outside of the fighting game community and I’ve found that many people either see one side or the other, so I decided to put both into one piece. ***This article was written before VXG and Battle circuit, which ended a couple of hours ago, while the subject of collusion isn’t covered in this article the conclusion that I come to still applies. Normally I would have spent more time making sure that this was edited thoroughly, but now I just feel like posting it. ***
Does the FGC say more offensive things than other groups composed mostly of males in a similar age range? Not really, I mean if the group is a church group or a men’s charity that helps sick children, then yes, but is the FGC more obscene than any other group composed mostly of teenage to 30-something males? No. So what is the difference between the FGC and so many other groups as far as bad press is concerned? The answer is cameras. The majority of the FGC’s “call Kotaku” moments happen on camera because every major event is streamed. I’m not going to defend acts of stupidity caught on tape, but I will say that acts of stupidity in the FGC are reported more than other groups because so much of the FGC’s events are being recorded on camera and so much of the rest of life on earth isn’t. You could find, if you felt like searching, hours of embarrassing footage on the FGC; however being a guy and living in the real world I can tell you that the conversations that take place in sports bars, barber shops, locker rooms and individual homes around the world aren’t any less offensive than what you find on the average FGC stream, they just aren’t being streamed publicly to hundreds or thousands of people.
At this point in the discussion, I usually hear that if the FGC is going to have cameras on it then it needs to be more professional, and that leads to a point that many people looking in on the FGC don’t seem to be aware of, and that is that most people didn’t ask for the cameras in the first place. There was no community meeting on streaming, it just started happening, and what resulted was the same thing that would happen if you introduced a camera into any of those locations that I mentioned earlier. So many people in their evaluation of the FGC never stop to consider the camera as an intrusion. They ask why people don’t show more restraint or good judgment when they are on camera, or the ask if people understand that they are pushing away sponsors by the way that they are acting; and for some people the simple and understandable answer is that they don’t care. Think about the place where you go to hang out with your friends, the place that you go to unwind and have a good time; now imagine that one of your friends starts bringing a camera with them everywhere that they go, and you and everything that you say and do when you go out with your friend is now being recorded and placed on the internet. You have a number of options at that point, but to keep this comparison accurate let’s assume that the camera isn’t going anywhere; you can either stop hanging out with your friends to avoid the camera, you can act professional at all times while hanging out with your friends, which avoids embarrassing situations; but it completely alters your ability to unwind and let off steam around them, or you can just continue to be yourself in front of the camera and let the camera catch all of the good and bad parts of you, including anything bad that you say about anyone else while on camera. That is basically what happened to the FGC, different people have chosen different ways to respond to cameras showing up at a place where they used to have full freedom to hang out with their friends and say or do whatever they wanted; and while the choice of how each person deals with the cameras is up to them as an individual, they really don’t have a say in how other people deal with the cameras. If you want to understand why certain people in the community act the way that they do on camera, you can’t start from the assumption that everyone wanted the cameras.
There is a park that is a few blocks away from my house with several basketball courts, and if I went down to those courts every day with a camera I would record a lot of foul language, a lot of good sportsmanship as well as bad, within a week I can almost guarantee that I would end up recording two people getting heated enough to get into at least the beginnings of a fight, and also that some form of drama from off the courts would spill onto the courts. So why aren’t there articles all over the internet demonizing the sport of basketball and the people who play it? It’s because the nature and activities of human beings aren’t nearly as surprising in reality as people pretend they are when they are outraged or want you to be outraged. Everyone knows that adults curse, everyone know the guys competing in competitive activities have a tendency to talk trash, and occasionally butt heads; however unlike my local basketball court the FGC is offering up hours and hours of footage each week to be cherry picked by anyone looking to speak out against something. The FGC makes an easy target because it puts out so much video content that someone can accuse it of almost anything and find video of some person somewhere on some stream that backs up their accusation, they can then take that clip, cut it out and make the actions of that person as an example of what the entire FGC is like. Stop and take a moment and think back on the amount of negative articles that you remember on the FGC before 2007; there weren’t nearly as many back then, so what happened? Did the community suddenly become what it is now overnight? No, cameras happened. The FGC does makes a bunch of stupid decisions, but so does America, and so does the rest of the world, but five or six years ago the FGC got signed up for a reality show that parts of it didn’t really care to be on in the first place.
To understand the FGC you have to understand its separated structure and beginning. A person who is professional at all times on their stream in Massachusetts has nothing to do with an offensive outburst on a stream in Florida. A person who runs events in Arizona can’t tell someone in Chicago how to act at their own event and on their own stream, but whenever anything goes wrong with any one person or group of people in the FGC, the condemnation almost always comes down as “look what the FGC did now” or “this is what the FGC is about.” If someone in your city robs a bank does it mean that everyone in your city is a bank robber? If someone in a different state or province commits a murder does it mean that everyone from your country is a murderer? Would you like being accused of being a thief or a murderer, because someone that you don’t know committed a crime against someone else that you also don’t know? If that sounds absurd to you then why is it okay to condemn the entire FGC for the actions of one person, or accuse the entire FGC of condoning an action depending on how it is handled locally?
In these conversations I also frequently hear people say that the issues that the FGC faces could be easily fixed and that these issues are due to inaction or incompetence of The FGC’s central governing body. It still surprises me how many people who have such strong opinions on the FGC still don’t know so many basic things about it, for example that there is no central governing body. Offering advice to the whole FGC that treats it as one unified whole and ignores its separated structure is not offering a realistic solution to any problem. If you are a person who is outside of the FGC and you want your opinions on how the community can or should change to be taken seriously you need to show that you’ve at least put in the minimal effort of taking the time to understand how the community is structured and avoid making false blanket statements about the entire community.
People within the community who want to open up a pathway for sponsorship in the FGC need to start looking at the media that the community is putting out through the eyes of business that is looking in on the community. Tournament organizers can only do so much working with only registration or venue fees as their source of revenue. Partnerships with and sponsorships from larger companies outside of the community could go a long way, and by a long way I don’t just mean more prizes for tournament winners and more money for TOs; a long way also means more money for the people that you never see who help the event run smoothly, and for the viewers it means more money for higher production value and a better show. The problem with reaching this goal is that current image of most of the FGC is completely repellent to sponsors.
The state of commentary is a large reason why it is so hard for outside companies to put their trust in the FGC, and commentary as it currently stands is a roadblock between the FGC as it is and the FGC as it could be. On a road to a bigger and brighter future for this community you can make a very solid argument that commentators play as crucial of a role as tournament organizers if not more. While TOs are in the venue making sure that everything is running smoothly, commentators are the ones facing the entire viewing audience and potential partners and sponsors. One poorly chosen person placed on stream for five minutes can counteract the work done by everyone else at a weekend long event depending on who is watching during those five minutes.
Another issue that stands out from a business perspective as a hazard for anyone whose reputation is entwined with the FGC is the extremely unpredictable nature of the commentary. Randomness is fine in itself if you don’t ever expect to be paid for it, but why would any company of any notable reputation want to put its name and reputation behind an event stream where five or ten or twenty different unscreened people are allowed on the stream to say whatever they want live and uncensored? If you have an established group of people who have built a record of being responsible, trustworthy and competent then you have a foundation to point to when asking people to trust you with their reputation, but without consistency it’s not even a trust issue, it’s just common sense for someone to say no to putting their reputation in the hands of a randomly rotating group of people.
The other commentary issue that needs to be looked at before seriously trying to approach any large and reputable company about FGC sponsorship is what I refer to as dropped combo commentary. This happens when someone who is not used to being on a professional stream is put onto a stream where they need to be exercise self discipline and, just like someone trying to land an unpracticed combo in a high pressure situation, they drop the “combo” of controlled speech in a moment of excitement, and you get an accidental burst of profanity. It’s a small slip, only a fraction of a second, but even that split second poses an unacceptable risk to many companies and especially in a live broadcast. Professional commentary, for those times when it is required, should be something that is practiced to a point of comfort and not free styled on the spot. Again I’m not saying that anyone has to stop using profanity on their streams, I’m just saying if you want to partner with companies to do bigger things and you want to constantly use profane language on your stream, then you are limited to companies that are going to be okay with you saying <insert expletive of your choice here> while their company’s name is on the screen with you.
Personally I believe that commentary in the FGC will change, once the unprofessional parts of the community are no longer able to compete with the professional part of the community. A time when the people who have built a record of trustworthy professional events are working with additional funds that cannot be matched by people whose actions on camera have left their events reliant solely on registration fees to cover expenses.
After thinking on this issue for some time I have come to the conclusion that there needs to be two FGCs. There needs to be a FGC that is professional that sponsors can get behind and there needs to be a FGC where the only requirement is the desire to play and get better at or hang out with people who enjoy fighting games and there needs to be a clear and defined separation between the two. For a long time the majority of the FGC has been the Wild West and all of the ideas about what a more marketable FGC would look like have been hypothetical. The community needs a division where everyone who believes that there shouldn’t be any censorship or that the community is interesting because of the drama can have their events and streams the way they want them, and people who want the community to have appeal to sponsors and a higher level of control over what is and is not allowed at events can have their streams and events the way that they would like them as well. The quagmire that the community gets stuck in on every conduct issue it faces is the result of these two groups trying to jam their opinions down each other’s throats, instead of letting each side have its own separate goals and objectives that don’t interfere with each other. If you would like the community to be taken seriously in a professional sense you don’t need to eradicate the bad behavior of the community, you just have to show that you and what you do are separate from the people whose words and actions represent a risk to sponsors and that it has been separated for long enough that there is no concern of those things or people working their way into your events, streams or media. People who have no desire to be professional while at tournaments or while on stream cannot be forced to be so, but there are also people who want this community to be able to have larger events and more sponsors but they can’t achieve that goal with the other side of the community dragging down their credibility. Until the change that these people seek is realized the unprofessional side of the community can keep talking about it as a pipe dream that will never come to pass, but until there is a split between the people working to achieve that goal and the people who don’t think it will happen it will remain a pipe dream and those people who don’t believe in the dream win. This is a small community, but it is also a competitive community and I personally don’t see anything wrong with saying you pick your strategy and I’ll pick mine and we’ll see who wins. To some people having a divide in the community may seem like a bad thing, but for part of the community it is the only way to achieve their goal, because you can’t drag someone kicking and screaming into professionalism, no matter how much you would like for them to share in the benefits that come from it.