…A brotherly mind will love in me what you teach to be lovable, and will regret in me what you teach to be regrettable.St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely seen me post daily updates regarding a Google Doc I put together, the FGC Ban Catalog. It is only in its infancy, but I hope that it can continue to grow as more community leaders and sub-communities become aware of it.
The vast majority of the initial reception has been very positive, with a few skeptical people fairly weighing in. I tried to address some of that in a Twitter thread, but I felt a more longform blog post was not only more my style, but could address the more nuanced philosophy behind it.
Before I get to why the catalog was created, addressing the who is important, specifically because I am the only person behind it.
So who am I, exactly, to be trusted to maintain a catalog of something so broad and potentially incendiary as a communal bans? It is a fair question, and the honest answer is: nobody! I don’t (or didn’t) actively organize communities, I’m not a moderator in a Discord or a Facebook group or anything of that nature, and I certainly don’t have the voice and reach of even a modest FGC following. I’m simply a longtime player who has what I would consider a personal interest in helping to improve the community, especially after 2020 and all the terrible truths unearthed throughout and the crushing blows dealt to offline events. Since I’m not going to suddenly grow a following anytime soon or run a large-scale tournament of some kind, I did the only thing I know I can do well: do my research, learn my history, and present that information to others.
This is a weak action, to be sure. It holds no power and will largely rely on good faith to hold any meaning, which is always a recipe for failure. Still, acknowledging that individual actions are weak is an important part of humbling oneself before asking a lot of strangers for their help. I would not be who I am today were I not involved with the FGC, and I would not know some people who I would today count amongst my dearest, closest personal friends. I owe the community for bringing us together, but I owe them even more, which means making the community a better place for them to interact and engage in, in any small way that I can. I won’t pretend that I am Atlas, holding the celestial heavens on my shoulders as some sort of penance or punishment. It is only my word, but I hope that anyone reading can trust that I am doing this because I want to ensure that people are taken seriously when they say they can’t be in the FGC unmolested, no matter how small the voice.
Since I have acknowledged that I want people’s help and the reception has been fairly enthusiastic, some may find an incongruence in my choosing to be the sole editor of the document. The simplest answer is this: I do not want this project to be marred by bad faith actors, and while it is mostly unavoidable, the best way to protect oneself against that is to strip them of rhetorical tools.
One favorite talking point of many reactionary types is the idea that there are shadowy cabals of ultra-powerful people who control a social narrative by influencing the world around them. Naturally, this leads to a skepticism so powerful that it innately rejects almost any idea that revolves around what they believe to be “censorship.” Curiously, getting banned from a community of their peers for crossing established boundaries often falls into this broad interpretation of “censorship,” as does the idea of a formalized Code of Conduct.
The community for Super Smash Bros. has probably the most advanced form of this, as far as fighting game communities go. Not only do they have a Code of Conduct created by prominent community members and ratified by legal experts, it has a Harassment Task Force that works to hard to offer due diligence and anonymity when dealing with violations of that Code. And, as I have said, they get a lot of flack and pushback from even prominent community members because a large number of its committee members are anonymous.
It makes perfect sense why they would want to remain anonymous; the sustained harassment that the more visible members go through is appalling and not something many people could put up with. Retaliation is a massive issue when it comes to holding people accountable in any field, let alone that of small gaming communities. But in doing so, I believe that the bad faith actors are enabled to push their narrative of an invisible “Big Brother” coming for the Smash community and have people believe it, thus undermining a Code of Conduct largely reliant on communal, good-faith enforcement from the community’s organizers and members.
So on one hand I agree with the anonymity in a personal sense, but on a more tactical side I disagree with it. How do I solve it? It is not a perfect solution, but I feel that if I allow for people to have full anonymity in submitting names to the catalog while being the sole editor of the Google Doc, I can act as an intermediary of sorts that absorbs the brunt of the worst attacks and prevents it from coming down on those who are more likely to face retaliation. While the matter of asking whether or I can be trusted to be impartial when it comes to this process is valid, I think it would also be far easier to hold one person who is visible accountable than it would be than an unknown number of anonymous contributors.
Now that I’ve talked about the philosophy behind why I’m the only person in charge of this, the only thing left would be to address what my goals are in maintaining this catalog. I mainly want to bust a few myths that I see commonly spoken of when it comes to the “climate” of the FGC post-2020, as well as provide a public reference that any small community or large event organizer can use to stay informed as to who are habitual boundary crossers that have been removed from other communities of their peers.
But back to my first point. The myths I want to bust are:
- Myth: People can get banned for anything nowadays, pretty soon everyone will be!
Patently ridiculous. As anyone can see from the current stage of the catalog, there are roughly thirty names on there. While of course this is only the infancy stage, I think it is safe to say that this list is not going to triple or even double anytime soon. A scare tactic that bad-faith actors use is whipping up hysteria over the idea that a ban is always right around the corner, and this is definitive proof that that just isn’t true. Bans are not something handed out lightly, and they are usually in circumstances where it was very clear that the person in question was crossing boundaries that were unacceptable to that community.
There has been some question as to why the catalog itself doesn’t list why an individual was banned. While I agree there are certainly actions that are worse than others and not every person listed is the same, I think that the reasons for the ban (which are usually listed in the linked public statement, FYI) are not as important as the ban itself. It is fair to say that if as drastic a step as a ban is deemed necessary, at least one community or TO found their actions to be crossing a boundary, whatever that may have been, and not worth having them around. If that’s the case, I think that is the most important part, and in the interest of trying to be impartial, I would rather the discourse be centered around the bans themselves and not whose actions were worse, because then I fear there will be outsized attention paid to certain bans and not others.
2. Myth: People are “thought-crimed” out of the community and rarely given notice for what they did
This particular myth is being peddled in private by a person listed in the catalog, and again, it is just not true. One of the requirements for requesting someone be added is that there must be some source given for the ban, whether it be a public statement or an image of a Discord’s ban list. Given that every person listed has at least one instance of being publically banned from a given space, it would appear that there isn’t really much to this myth. Again, this is a scare tactic from reactionary-types who are just uncomfortable with the idea that there could be consequences to the things they say, or bitter folks who have faced those consequences and found them not to their taste.
One of the inspirations for my catalog was a similar Google Doc put together by Cyrus “Cagt” Gharakhanian for the Smash community. While I obviously was enthusiastic about it, one of its flaws for me was that it included a larger section that included people who had “admitted wrongdoing” or otherwise stopped participating in the community due to perceived offenses. While I don’t disagree that these are names worth knowing, I think it muddies the water of a pretty good idea to include a long list of people who, to the unassuming, aren’t serious enough to be banned but included on the same list all the same. That just gives rhetorical weight to the idea that there are “thought-crimes” one can do that are essentially shadowbans, and I’m just not interested in humoring that.
In addition to abolishing those myths, I wanted to look at two crucial problem areas that I feel are underlooked when it comes to keeping the community safe:
- Short memories and small communities
While many people use the term “FGC” broadly, the reality is that the FGC that you might see at a major event are really made up of many disparate groups who all get together for that weekend. Groups are separated by region, by game, and a bunch of other factors, and while there are many who share membership in multiple communities, it is difficult to really get a good sense of shared history. And because there are so many, that compounds the issue even more. We have seen many times in the past where someone will face consequences from one community, languish in a sort of purgatory state for a little while, then either post up in a new community or rejoin their old, hoping that time has worked its magic. It is no one’s “fault” that memories are short – this is a hobby for most of us, and we all have busy lives – but it is certainly not helping when it comes to repeated instances of boundary crossing by the same individuals. With the catalog, my hope is that community leaders can have a reference that lets them know who has had a history of being banned from spaces that empowers them to make better, more informed decisions about who they allow in their groups and what boundaries they have in place.
- Smaller games/communities not feeling like their actions are noticed
As is apparent from viewing the catalog’s current listings, smaller communities have often done the hard work of banning individuals from their communities, yet that is rarely reciprocated from other, larger communities. While the amount to which Capcom games and Bandai-Namco games are given favor as far as importance in the scene is a tad overstated, the fact remains that unless a player is relatively well-known on their own or plays a higher profile mainstream game, bans can often fly under the radar unless you are actively following everything. If the idea is that the FGC, globally, is a community that can count on each other, then it should stand to reason that even the smallest communities should have their boundaries and decisions respected and taken into consideration. As such, I have no intent to deny any community representation on this list, no matter how small or whether or not they are exclusively online. This kills two birds with one stone: all communities are respected equally, and bad actors who move in between scenes hoping that the relative scarcity of knowledge will protect them will not have that luxury anymore.
2020 has been a very difficult year, and 2021 may be more difficult still. There are many small businesses and groups in the FGC who are not going to survive these couple of years, and for that reason and the fact that COVID-19 has essentially halted offline events until likely late 2021-2022 at the earliest, the idea of enforcing bans or committing to that kind of community safety may not be a high priority. Fair enough, I completely understand that!
But even then, in light of the revelations that came to fruition over the summer, I think there is no better time to focus on these issues than now. There are many big tournament organizers who moved quickly to ban people who crossed boundaries this year than ever, and while I celebrate the quick action, I am skeptical as to whether or not the lack of offline events has made these quicker bans a temporary boost rather than a permanent changing of priorities. As such, all I can do is to keep this catalog updated and hope that a lot of these will be enforced when the time comes that we can all be together again.
As I’ve said, this is a catalog meant to be impartial and holding no power over anyone, so it is imperative that I act in good faith as well. One of the standards I hold myself to is that if there’s any update, whether it’s a new name added or a typo fixed, I will make a timestamp of that change on the Google Doc itself. My hope is that action communicates that this document isn’t static and will change all the time: bans don’t last forever in all cases, and I am not infallible. If I get conflicting information and I make an error, I’ll hold myself accountable to fix it and hope that the rest of the community will trust that I take all contributions and criticism seriously.
Most of all, I want all of us to work together on this, to centralize community safety over appeasement to bad actors out of fear or habit. It’s a tall order for anyone, but this is my pledge to ask for all of your help in assisting me to make this catalog accurate, fair, and a standard for future initiatives of this nature. I know I’m up for it, how about you?
If you have a name you want to submit to the list, please click the link below and contact me at one of the places listed. If not, please share it within your communities and communal spaces so people can be aware that this resource is available!