The Fighting Game Community creates Code of Conduct to help address toxic and abusive behavior

Gaming, in general, has a toxicity problem. Sign in to any online game with your mic open and you’ll know that in seconds as you are bombarded with slurs and hate-speech. I don’t say this to demonize any individual community; on the contrary, I think the gaming community is mostly filled with good people. But being mostly good doesn’t actually make the problem go away.

The Fighting Game Community has had to deal with this issue in a heavy way in 2020. Before I continue, I want to get personal for a second here. The FGC is my home community. I’ve made some of my best friends playing in and running tournaments. So I am not trying to put the community on blast.

But 2020 saw the founder of EVO, Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar come under fire for abuse allegations, leading to the event being canceled this year. It saw Mike “Mike Z” Zaimont come under allegations of harassment and worse, and takedown Skullgirls developer Lab Zero with him. It saw numerous problems with tournament attendees suffering from poor hygiene, which normally might be a frustrating thing we all like to make fun of but presents a serious health and safety risk during a global pandemic.

One of the major problems the FGC and most gaming communities have when addressing these problems is that they have no centralized rules or regulations. Every tournament, meetup, and convention has its own rules and its own method of enforcing them. Get banned from one tournament and you can just sign up at another one. We have seen this happen multiple times in the past.

That is why prominent members of the FGC have drafted up the FGC code of conduct (or FGCOC). The code of conduct is meant to bring most fighting game events in line with a centralized rule-set and methodology for enforcing those rules, at least in respect to player conduct.

Longtime fighting game player and lawyer David “UltraDavid” Graham addressed why the code of conduct was needed on Twitter.

Graham was an instrumental figure in drafting the code of conduct and fully endorses it.

So what does the code of conduct actually say? Well, there’s a bit of complex terminology but, for the most part, it seeks to establish itself as the minimum ruleset at any fighting game event. While tournament rules and method of operation can still be up to tournament organizers, any venue that is participating in enforcing the code of conduct would abide by the base rules it creates. The hope is that many prominent events, such as EVO and the Capcom Cup, will adopt these rules.

The rules are primarily focused on making fighting game events safe spaces for anyone who goes. It explicitly forbids:

  • Physical assault or abuse
  • Malicious bullying baiting, trolling, or non-physical harassment
  • Threatening someone with or using a deadly weapon
  • Stalking or pestering someone after being told to stop
  • Taking photos or video of someone without their consent
  • Engaging in any discriminatory behavior based on race, color, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, sex, sexual orientation, romantic orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, neurodiversity, body size, and type, or any other physical characteristics
  • Outing someone’s sexual orientation or gender without their consent
  • Intentionally causing fear or distress in another person
  • Abusing a power dynamic with another person
  • Disclosing another person’s confidential information without their consent or otherwise violating their privacy
  • Intentionally entering any off-limit area
  • Interfering or tampering with another person’s personal property or electronics
  • Maliciously attacking a player or the event itself digitally via DDOSing, swatting, malware, and so on
  • Scamming or engaging in fraud
  • Impersonating or defaming another individual
  • Tampering with the tournament in any way including fixing a match, colluding, entering multiple times, subbing in for another player without permission, and so on
  • Using any banned or disallowed cheats or exploits
  • Engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct (specifically outside the bounds of friendly trash talking)
  • Stealing anyone else’s property
  • Stealing, mishandling, or misrepresenting any fees involved in the tournament or tournament venue
  • Neglecting your personal hygiene
  • Advocating or encouraging anyone to break these rules

In addition, it includes guidelines for following additional third-party rules enacted by tournament organizers, for any party attempting to avoid disciplinary action, and perhaps most importantly, guidelines for minors participating in tournament play.

Of course, these are community suggested guidelines so there’s no real authority unless the community adopts them. Luckily, many influential figures and tournament organizers in the international fighting game scene have signed on to enforce these rules at their events. Granted, we won’t really be able to see them go into effect until we are able to have in-person tournaments once more. However, when we do this it should go a long way toward making the fighting game community safer for everyone.