What's the source of toxic negativity in the fighting game community and how do we overcome it?

“The bad apples in our community do not define us and never will” – Alex Valle and Justin Wong chime in on this community-wide issue

Posted by Ginni 'extopdoll' Lou, guest writer • October 18, 2017 at 7:37 p.m. PDT

“I can finally say Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite's gameplay is [freaking] garbage. New fighting games suck.” “There’s a reason out-of-touch [idiots] at Capcom still try to make fighting games.” “I wish I would pay $40 for this garbage.”

If you’re part of any online community, you’ve no doubt bore witness to a thread or two of nasty, negative comments. The fighting game community is not exempt from these behaviors. Prime examples of negativity within the FGC can be found on r/kappa and r/salty, subreddits dedicated to fighting game news, culture, and media.

It only takes a few clicks (sometimes a click isn’t even necessary) to reach a thread of comments tearing down a player, game, or companies. Social media tends to be similarly affected, with popular Facebook groups experiencing a downward spiral in the comments section of generally wholesome (and some not-so-wholesome) posts.

Call out posts targeting community members and top players are not uncommon. While the authenticity of these posts may vary on a case by case basis, some drip with toxicity, inciting massive outrage and damaging the images of those involved.

There is an overwhelming bitterness to these instances that begs the question: what would prompt the FGC family to behave this way? I asked several FGC Facebook groups why they felt the scene was so negative recently.

Responses ranged from “It’s because the community cares,” to, “People like to hop on the bandwagon and hate on Capcom.” Others blamed it on the internet itself. One member’s comment in particular sticks out:

“It's typically more popular to dislike and bash what's considered popular or mainstream, so we get the negative people being the loudest voice, while the positive or happy people are busy playing. There really isn't much new besides the internet and social media.

Pick up some old Gamepro or Electronic Gaming Monthly magazines from the early 90s and read some of the fan mail. I promise you will find some hilarious letters of people bashing each other's games and systems during the console wars and rabid fanboy-ism. It's tamer than today, since people now are just more bold and vulgar in general with online anonymity, but it's just how things go.”

Some gave personal examples from their own lives, explaining how the negativity had caused them to lose friendships and drift away from the scene. These responses were especially troubling. Isn’t the goal of the FGC to bring individuals together over a shared love of fighting games and competition?

What happens when the negativity spirals out of control?

Negativity is the bane of a system in which anyone can say anything they want without fear of repercussions. It is not uncommon for users to utilize anonymity to vent out their personal frustrations. While this isn’t the norm for everyone, it is part of human nature to place blame and insecurities on others.

Doctor Susan Krauss of Psychology Today cites that a science known as the psychology of attributions is responsible for this behavior.

“Blaming yourself when something goes wrong might relate to a general tendency to make so-called internal attributions for failure, in which you see yourself as inept, foolish, or irresponsible.” Doctor Krauss claims that this can also apply to successes, where individuals gift their accomplishments to luck or fate.

Another side to this attitude is the fundamental attribution error—the opposite of internal attributions for failure. This occurs when people excuse themselves for their negative behavior, which they blame on others.

There are multiple ways that the fundamental attribution error plays out. For instance, people might use blame as defense mechanism, and project their own insecurities onto others to preserve their self-esteem.

Blame can likewise be used in judgement. “The attributions we make, whether to luck or ability, can be distorted by our tendency to make illogical judgments. And we're just as bad at making judgments involving the blameworthiness of actions in terms of intent vs. outcome.”

"It is not the conflict that necessarily speaks for a community. What is telling of a group is in how it handles the conflict."

Any community can experience negative ramifications when negativity takes hold of it. Psychology Campus explains what happens when a group undergoes conflict:

“Any organization that is larger than one person is a group, and anywhere where there is more than one person there is bound to be different ideas, behaviors and interests, which can create conflict. … There are certain problems that arise from a group type structure:

Polarization: This occurs when the attitudes of a group become extreme - especially towards either risky or conservative positions (i.e., racial ideas etc.)

Social Loafing: This is the absence of individual effort amongst the groups efforts, when a person is not contributing their fair share to the group, thinking that others will pick up their slack.

Groupthink: This occurs when a group sacrifices critical thinking in order to only have agreement on everything.”

The site goes on to say that conflict can and will occur within any group. However, it is not the conflict that necessarily speaks for a community. What is telling of a group is in how it handles the conflict. How should the FGC go about combating negativity, then? How do we move toward fixing this permeating issue?

EventHubs approached two notable figures within the FGC, LU|Alex Valle and FOX|Justin Wong, to help me answer that very question:

You're an OG in the fighting game community. Has toxicity in the scene increased over the years? Is there anything in particular that stands out to you, which may have caused this increase?

Justin Wong: I believe that toxicity totally increased over the years and it's because of social media. Back in the day we didn't have Twitter or Facebook or YouTube to just talk about negativity in a game. There was SRK forums, but not many people outside of the core FGC knew about it. I guess there was GameFAQS?

Alex Valle: Toxicity has been around since the beginning. Local arcade players constantly bashing other players and their favorite games. Now that everyone has access to social media, you can say toxicity has amplified over the years.

The difference between the eras though, you can meet the person at the old arcade and get a better understanding where they are coming from. In modern times, you're dealing with so many passionate players over the Internet that will overwhelm you with hostility if your views are not aligned with theirs.

What is your stance on negativity within our scene? Why do you think the community is bogged down with it lately?

Justin Wong: There will always be negativity everywhere, but my answer is that most players are young and don't know better. Before I became more mature I complained just as much, but then I felt like I shouldn't and try to be a bigger person to solve whatever I am complaining about with my skill instead. I feel a lot better going in this direction because I'm more positive in my life as a whole.

Alex Valle: Negativity is in every scene. From players being toxic, not getting along with peers, not handling loss very well, or when games are not supported properly. Ever since the launch of modern titles with lackluster features or gameplay issues, players raise concerns and call out publishers to fix their favorite games.

If game updates are not satisfactory, concerns turn into negativity which has been the ongoing issue these days with the community.

What are your methods of handling this negativity, especially when its directed towards you, personally? Do you have any stories about instances in which you’ve seen negativity in the FGC get shut down?

Justin Wong: I have a lot of haters and fans, but when it comes to just online comments about me being overweight, I mean, what's the point of fighting back? If I comment back, they win pretty much, so I might as well focus on bettering myself and my game and let my actions speak.

Alex Valle: Players need time to vent and let their frustrations be heard. Acknowledging player concerns is always a good approach because it’s vital feedback. You show that you value what players have to say and do your best to assist their concerns before it turns into negativity.

"We can't hear the game audio in pools!" "Why is my game treated like a side game?" "Why doesn't my game get more stream time?" TO's can easily address these concerns by being transparent and having a plan for improvement. I wish I have all the answers but I really don't. Proposing a good compromise helps though!

How do you think people should voice their honest criticisms towards games, individuals, and/or companies that they care about?

Justin Wong: There is nothing wrong with speaking the truth and how you feel. I do believe that wording your responses in a more professional manner is a better option though.

Alex Valle: A: "Your game is trash! Nobody can react to this stupid crap and you should fire your QA team!"
B: "I feel some input delay when trying to react to certain moves. Is this by design? If so, this makes for a less competitive feature if I have to anticipate moves more so than react to them. Please review this video I made about input delay..."

A: "No arcade mode? This is the worst released fighting game ever!"
B: "No arcade mode? I only play this game casually and was looking forward to classic bonus stages and endings just like the arcade days. Any plans to implement arcade mode in the future?"

Which examples do you think will be noted and which ones will be tossed away?

What does the future of the FGC look like to you? How can we go about growing our scene while still maintaining our genuineness?

Justin Wong: The future of the FGC? Not sure. It can rise up or rise down. It's hard to tell if companies are happy with their Pro Tours and if there is a chance of running it back.

Even if it falls down from the eSports world, I would still be involved, and we can always look forward to EVO being there for us. We don't have to change at all. I think FGC rivalry stories will always be the best in all eSports.

Alex Valle: The future of the FGC is still evolving. This year, publishers have introduced two more online circuits with Injustice 2 Pro Series and the Tekken World Tour. Thousands of players are now participating worldwide, which is amazing growth.

Red Bull Proving Grounds, ELeague, Gfinity, EVO, and the Capcom Pro Tour have made it possible for the next generation of players to compete on national television. As for maintaining our genuineness, keep in mind EG|KBrad vs. Wolfkrone at ELeague happened, lol.

Ultimately, what should we do as a community to combat negativity?

Justin Wong: As a community, I believe that players with influence should be more careful with what they say and not tweet things that are very overboard outside the game and inside the game. Let's all have fun, which is the main reason why the FGC exists and has been growing.

Alex Valle: Negativity isn't going away anytime soon. We as a community should fight the good fight, which is welcoming new players daily, informing them about events, and enjoying the games as long as we can. The bad apples in our community do not define us and never will.

Negativity has been part of the FGC’s culture since its inception. With the rise of social media, this trait has become more prevalent. Although more potent in the online community than at in-person gatherings like tournaments, it is important to note that negativity is not the core of who we are.

What matters most is how we respond to the issue. With this in mind, let us know your stance on the topic. How do you handle negativity within your local communities?

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