When did everyone become a pundit?
I don’t mean the strictest definition, which is a so-called expert in an area giving their opinion to the public; I mean more so in how every argument is longer about defending or arguing for anything on principle, but defending or arguing for what the reaction would be by inflexible, invisible majority groups.
You see this in politics all the time. As the United States political class, over the last forty years, has stopped conjuring any illusion of forward social progress, we’ve seen the rise of a type of punditry that has infected even average people in how we discuss the many social issues plaguing the world. In this mindset, progress is good on paper but, in reality, held back by both its direct opposition and, more importantly, a majority middle ground who are not necessarily for the status-quo but so terrified of change that any sweeping reform would push them toward the opposition. Taking a principled stance is deemphasized and made to seem too idealistic to win over this cynical middle, who just want things to stay the same, but maybe a little better.
If this just stayed in politics, perhaps it would only be the usual amounts of annoying. Instead, every facet of life has now become something to be argued with by statistics and appeals to a “sane” middle, where both opposing sides are too problematic to be the “right” choice. In my neck of the woods, the FGC, this has manifested really badly. If 2019 showed me anything, it’s that many people in the scene, even people with huge influence, have absolutely been lost to this useless, ineffective punditry.
Because there are only decentralized authority figures, discussing problematic social issues present in the community has become largely rhetorical. Robbed of any meaningful action, the discourse on social problems in FGC social media devolves to banal chattering with useless platitudes and argumentative fallacies at best, and at worst a deeply cynical chastising of anyone who struggles against the problems or points out hypocrisy as hysterical, misinformed, or faking it for mythical “clout.”
My least favorite of the many arguments used, and the most annoyingly popular, is the slippery slope argument. If you’re unfamiliar, the slippery slope argument (SSA) posits that, when discussing an aspect of critical thinking or policy, a seemingly small and harmless first step will lead to an increasingly dramatic chain reaction of events until a final, negative situation occurs.
This is evoked most often when referring to ways in which the community at large handles community safety, which is the topic du jour anytime bad behavior is revealed on social media either through word-of-mouth or a person just melts down on social media. As the argument goes, it could very easily slip into an authoritarian nightmare that evokes imagery from Orwell’s 1984, where the FGC becomes this hive mind that starts cracking down on people’s pasts by forcing them to do things like background checks and policing their social media for wrongthink.
Aside from most people who use that reference not understanding it or even reading the book, the argument itself tends to be very weak. While a SSA is not necessarily always fallacious in its use, there is a certain rotten tendency to use SSA as a cudgel to reinforce the status-quo rather than take the difficult steps to change. I think it’s very disingenuous to argue that because the FGC doesn’t have the manpower or resources to enact social change that has evaded the entirety of the human race for centuries that there is no point in trying to struggle over what we can control. We may not be able to put out the fires of misogyny, queerphobia, racism, etc. but we certainly can take small individual action to try and prevent it from spreading in the community and stomp out smaller fires where we see them.
But perhaps I have been going about this the wrong way. While ceding legitimacy to an inherently illogical argument can be dangerous, it can also be worthwhile to at least understand where the opposition is coming from and see how they could come to the conclusion they posit, no matter how drenched in bad-faith it might be. Maybe by engaging with the points and dissecting the silliness inherent in their construction, more people would be able to recognize a bad argument when they see one.
Or maybe it’s a colossal waste of my time to dispute points that were probably shat out with no real thought or passion in the response. Oh well.
- “You don’t actually care that much, you’re just trying to get attention/clout from the community!”
This isn’t a SSA, it’s just a deeply annoying sentiment. I won’t deny that there are people who join in on social media dog piles and don’t have any real principled stance against what they’re complaining about (or are misled into believing that there is fire where there is no smoke), but I tend to believe most people when they say they are upset about something.
The complaint also speaks again to the argument that because the FGC lacks the power to actually fight against global societal ills than the struggle is pointless, which is a cynical read that I just can’t get behind. No one thinks they can get rid of any of these very large, complicated problems by calling people out on Twitter, and yet it has become very common for some to bash “Twitter activism” while conveniently ignoring the problems that caused the outrage in the first place. If the calling out is more annoying to you than the behavior itself, wouldn’t that be a pretty big red flag?
The idea that the attention one gets from a post about,someone in the community being an unapologetic domestic abuser is actually a move at grabbing some sort of power is laughable. The FGC is simultaneously powerless to do anything about rotten people in its midst but also a powerful tool for social capital that people abuse? Ridiculous. These are just the ramblings of those who truly don’t believe that a community of people who frequently have to co-exist in shared spaces has no responsibility to keep it free of people who go against the group norms, or should even have boundaries to begin with. It’s myopic and shouldn’t really be considered as a serious opinion.
On the other hand, I think I can see where this sentiment has its origins. In today’s climate, it can become very wearying to see corporations and politicians, whose only goal is to obtain money or power, make a stab at being progressive and milking that for all its worth. The Disney corporation will have someone with one speaking line revealed to be LGBT+, and a wealth of reactionaries, whose goal is also to make a lot of money, will then be raised into making YouTube videos and writing essays about how progressive, liberal Disney is shoving things down our throats.
The reality, of course, is that Disney is far from progressive and a shining example of why capitalism needs to go. Other corporations have also gone down this route, and I can see why anybody can get very cynical seeing progressive ideals be weaponized and used for perverse praise by these corporations.
When all you hear is this, how could you not distrust anyone you hear saying the same thing?
That said, I think applying that cynicism to every individual who speaks out on something they think is important to them is wrong. Being mired in a stupid and meaningless culture war by picking sides or passively staying away is exactly what these clowns want, so fight that by actually having the difficult conversations rather than stubbornly sticking it out to own the libs/the snowflakes/the overly offended/the SJW’s/the virtue signalers
2. “If people can get banned for things that happen outside of a tournament, where do we draw the line? Are we going to start having people get background checked to see if they are problematic?”
Somewhere along the line this became the calling card of a lot of Twitter reply guys. Let’s take it line by line.
If people start this SSA, they usually disagree with even that first step of banning people from tournaments for actions done or words said that do not involve the tournament itself. This is seen as an abuse or overreach of power, in the sense that these tournament organizers are now trying to regulate speech or actions as an exertion of control. It’s an argument very steeped in political terminology, which is funny, because many people who argue for it would argue that “politics” should not factor into a gaming community. A real world example that is commonly invoked is that of an employer firing an employee for an indiscretion outside of the workplace, with bad-faith actors asserting that banning someone from a tournament is roughly the same action.
This would assume a number of things:
- The FGC at large or a tournament organizer is a “Employer” to anyone but its actual staff
- Banning someone from a tournament is akin to losing their livelihood, medical benefits, and other things that sometimes come with being an employee
- Employers are never allowed to fire someone for doing something they find doesn’t represent them as an organization in the way they like, even after-hours
All of which are empirically false! You could potentially make the argument that not being able to compete in, say, the entirety of the Capcom Pro Tour could be a significant loss of income (something Infiltration is currently trying to sue his ex-wife over. Good luck!), but even then there is no guarantee of big money coming their way, so it’s hard to say that they are being unfairly maligned if they couldn’t compete. This also would not stop them from engaging with the community in ways outside of tournaments; there is a wide avenue of content creation that is available to someone who wants to try and monetize their experience in gaming. Basically, no one who is participating in the FGC that aren’t specifically employed by either the tournament or an organization working in the space like an e-Sports company or something is not a worker who should be invoking these workers’ rights arguments.
Furthermore, the SSA hinges on this escalation of power exertion, which is completely ludicrous. One of the arguments made for the SSA is that the FGC is too decentralized to even agree unanimously on banning people, so that right there is a bullet to the heart of the argument. If it takes a Herculean effort to get a person to be banned by multiple tournaments in a show of solidarity, then what possible chance would there be that there would someday be the ability to run background checks on people in the scene? This again invokes the fallacy that a tournament is like an employer, not a private event that is responsible for the safety of its participants.
Do the folks making this SSA even understand that most companies hire another company to do background checks, a cost that I’m sure no FGC organizer could even dream of justifying? Even hiring staff members solely dedicated to monitoring the Twitch chats of tournaments is considered a pipe dream if you actually listen to what these organizers have said in response to some of these issues.
I realize that the argument is usually based in hyperbole and very few people actually believe that a background check is a realistic potential threat. What bothers me isn’t the hyperbole, but the phoniness behind invoking the SSA as an appeal to “reason.” Most people, when pushed on this argument, will usually defend it with some form of “Look, I’m all for getting rid of bad folks, but what if we go too far,” but “too far” is never fully realized beyond this odd overreach of an authoritarian state that they’ve seen in pictures, or a nostalgic attachment to how things “used to be.” How is that reasonable?
Far be it from me to judge, but I can’t help but wonder if the fears about overreach hit personally for some folks making the argument. Being online a lot can make you feel, especially if you see people’s posts get dissected a lot, like we’re always being watched. And when you think someone is always watching, it’s only natural to chafe a little when you see someone’s posts from a long time ago or out of context get thrown to the sharks. And if you know you might have something, or think something could potentially get used against you? You’d probably be very defensive, and that energy seems to come out a lot when some people make this SSA.
It would be wrong of me to doubt that there isn’t a not-insignificant type of poster who revels in this kind of social feeding frenzy. In much the same way some think that nothing matters online, some feel everything is a direct attack, and what they think is some sort of attempt at driving out a bad person suddenly becomes deeply antagonistic. Clinical therapeutic language suddenly gets weaponized into daggers to further stab at this bad post, and they’re handed out like Julius Caesar is about to start walking by.
In this instance, I could definitely understand why some people would be suspicious of just seeing one post and making a major decision about community exclusion from it. I also understand that there are certain issues in which we all have blind spots, so it’s not always clear what the issue is. This is why intersectionality and listening to people with experience of being marginalized; sometimes they understand abuse and other instances of bullying or harassment far better than the majority of us. Even if it happens outside of a tournament, part of being a community is understanding that we all share the same passion in some way and want the same thing: To have a space to go play games in peace. In that case, not all community interaction happens at these tournaments; sometimes it happens online in Twitch chats, in Discord, on Twitter, and various other spaces. It’s a very big task, but these are places where people are first introduced to that community, and having a terrible first impression will do a lot to scare away potential new blood.
If we were to cut to the heart of the matter, it seems that most agree there is a social responsibility for folks who organize large groups getting together to protect those people from harm. The divide seems to be between two types: Those who believe that community interaction demands intervention only if it escalates physically because any other intervention would be an infringement on long-held FGC ideals, and those who believe that a struggle against exclusion means holding community members accountable for openly expressing exclusionary ideals, even if they are long-held FGC ideals.
One could argue (I would) that FGC ideals or “core values” (this term has been ruined forever) don’t actually exist do to the decentralized aspects discussed previously and are subject to the whims of whichever veterans are still around that happen to have a big voice. In that case, fighting to preserve values based on history is shallow at best and meaningless at worst, because the people who would have been marginalized by these values either aren’t around because they left the community or their voices just aren’t loud enough to be heard. Who is to say that what many think of as core FGC ideals are actually deeply exclusionary and have kept untold numbers of people who would be a perfect fit for the FGC away?
Some of these are bigger questions than I have the space in this blog to address, but suffice to say, there are many facets in which this SSA does not hold up to scrutiny. If anything, the SSA is usually a smokescreen for a differently held belief, and that dishonesty means that the argument goes in circles and never goes anywhere. Maybe that’s the point, or maybe most people making the SSA don’t actually care and just latch onto the easiest opposing point, no matter how fallacious it is, just because they find it to be an annoying, pointless conversation. Either way, I think in order to make progress in this particular area, this SSA needs to be struck down as the waste of time that it is.
3. “Who decides who gets to be banned and who doesn’t? Will we one day cede control over to someone who doesn’t represent our interests just so we can feel good about ourselves?”
Now this argument is actually compelling. It’s not too often that a case like Leah “Gllty” Hayes, who spent years committing sexual misconduct and admitted to it, is served up for tournament organizers to make a judgement call on. Not only that, major tournaments aren’t the only thing that matters in the scene; there is a vast network of local tournaments across the whole United States. Would deferring to the decisions of a few key organizers essentially normalize an already existing caste-system as written in stone?
It’s a tough question, not to mention that there’s no binding way, at the moment, to get all tournaments to play by the same rules. Evolution, the biggest tournament in the scene, has yet to publicly state that Gllty is banned from their tournament, and despite a self-imposed ban on Infiltration from Capcom Pro Tour events, he was allowed entry to the 2019 event with open, enthusiastic arms. Even with Smash, which actually has a dedicated code of conduct and a committee to go along with it, there are TO’s who have not signed off on the CoC, meaning they don’t have to abide by the committee’s rulings, although it would most likely seen as a deeply unpopular move.
Right now, the only thing close to a definitive ban is if someone were to break the Capcom Pro Tour’s code of conduct, which has steep consequences for even a first offense. But if 2019 has shown us anything, it is the limits of this code, despite, perhaps, the best intentions of the people running the tour. While they can pay lip service to the idea of solidarity with the community and its wider interests, the reality has shown that Capcom is more interested in what would negatively affect their image. Public enforcement only comes down as a reaction to mass public pressure for a response, and even then, they seem to be largely disinterested in non-tournament occurrences. Frankly, I find that to be unacceptable; reactionary policy is never in the best interest of the community.
Capcom’s laissez-faire approach to enforcing its CoC is a good argument for why a corporation cannot have a large amount of control over a community. I know the idea is that these tours are to done to benefit the community and that it’s only the passion that sparked this decision, but any “world tour” type event is a committee-made decision by these rights holders in the hopes of gaining future capital. I’m not interested in discussing whether that’s good or bad, but it should be a disqualifier as far as acting in the best interest of community safety goes. When brand integrity and capital are the main goals above all else, community safety will always come up short of priority, and in any mutation of a governing body, that is deeply concerning.
As always, I will advocate that the struggle against exclusion should always be fronted by a diverse group of people who not only are well-versed or are willing to learn about intersectionality, but whose top priority would be the safety of everybody who participates in FGC spaces. I’m not delusional to believe that social ills can be conquered and defeated by people who push buttons as a hobby, and neither are any of the marginalized who speak up about their experiences. All the FGC could possibly do is loudly and publicly state that these ills won’t be tolerated, and transparently deal with instances where they arise so anyone who we want to attract into the community knows we take it seriously.
Who is that, specifically? I have ideas, but going back to what I said about Capcom and rights holders, it should probably not be anyone with obligations beyond community safety. This would probably mean anyone who is paid by a sponsor, and likely some TO’s as well. I’m not particularly married to this idea, however, and I do think that discussion is healthy and worth talking about.
My audience is very small and I have no influence on any potential movers and shakers, but I hope this post highlights what I believe to be a crippling problem in the discourse anytime the FGC moves to talk about how it can deal with making the scene a safer place. This punditry does very little to actually speak on the issues and is likely a shield for more extreme ideological views in how the scene should operate. It would much more fruitful to actually discuss these differences, but only if people actually admit that they have that core ideological difference and not hide it with a poorly-formed SSA.
I also think it would be really good if more people of influence in the scene would acknowledge that community/tournament organizing is a lot more than leading the flock to a pen and keeping one eye out for wolves. Wolves sometimes don sheep’s clothing, and if both are made to co-exist, you’ll only end up with wolves; the sheep, if they’re smart, will just quietly leave rather than risk being eaten in that enclosed space. Rather than worry about hyperbolic and irrational narratives about authoritarian overreach and thought policing, I think it would be far more beneficial to explain why it’s important to advocate for keeping communities safe, even if it doesn’t occur at an event.
It’s not about making everyone get along with each other, and no one is going to agree on absolutely every norm that a community has, but that doesn’t mean any organizer can ignore the responsibility they have if they see someone in their midst acting out in an exclusionary way. And if you have no interest in acknowledging that responsibility, let the community know without coaching it in useless SSA so the people who would be most hurt by that inaction know to stay away.