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The severe limits of multi-culturalism

2012/02/28

Today’s story was broken by Giant Bomb. Here’s the short version: Aris Bakhtanians plays fighting games at the competitive level. For those of you not familiar with the video game scene, there are competitive events where you can win big money and a few people even go pro. These are commonly called esports. As with more traditional athletes, they are sometimes interviewed by reporters. Jared Rea was interviewing him as part of a promo for Street Fighter X Tekken and asked if he could have his Street Fighter without sexism. Aris replied:

Bakhtanians: You can’t. You can’t because they’re one and the same thing. This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community–it’s StarCraft. There’s nothing wrong with StarCraft if you enjoy it, and there’s nothing wrong with anything about eSports, but why would you want just one flavor of ice cream, you know? There’s eSports for people who like eSports, and there’s fighting games for people who like spicy food and like to have fun. There’s no reason to turn them into the same thing, you know?

You can’t go to the NBA and say “hey, I like basketball, but I don’t want them to play with a basketball, I want them to play with a football.” It just doesn’t…it doesn’t make sense to have that attitude, you know? These things are established for years. That would be like someone from the fighting game community going over to StarCraft and trying to say “hey, StarCraft, you guys are too soft, let’s start making sexual harassment jokes to each other on StarCraft.” That’s not cool, people wouldn’t like that. StarCraft isn’t like that. People would get defensive, and that’s what you’re trying to do the fighting game community, and it’s not right. It’s ethically wrong.

Go read the whole thing. I might be terribly cynical, but my first reaction was to wonder if he ever played Starcraft. It’s not all polite sportsmanship. Once that wore off, though, I was impressed at this. This isn’t rehearsed trolling. It’s an off-the-cuff answer to a subject he didn’t even expect to come up and yet he frames it beautifully. If you think he shouldn’t yell rape threats at female competitors, to use a real example, you just aren’t being tolerant of his culture. You liberals are supposed to love not judging other cultures, right?

Of course, labeling something a culture is not a get-out-of-jail free card, especially when a lot of people don’t agree with you. Miranda Pakozdi is every bit as much a member of the high-level fight game club and she tweeted this in response:

I’m not leaving because by contract I have to stay here 2 more days. If it were up to me I would have left long ago.

You may now queue up the cracks about how women are too sensitive for competitive events. However, the real issue here is Aris is a self-centered, privileged asshole. He’s OK with sexist bullying, and he’s a member of the community.Therefore, sexist bullying in integral to the community. Fighting games without rape jokes would be more like real-time strategy than fighting games. If anyone objects, then they aren’t a true Scotsman, err, competitive fighting-game player. I hope this incident makes it harder for him to find sponsors, at least, but he’s getting lots of support. If you’ve ever played video games against people you didn’t known in real life, you are probably not even surprised. Look through the comments. Also, we are apparently supposed to ignore this so as not to make the fighting game community look bad. This criticism sounds like it should be directed at Aris and the sponsors that make keep him in the spotlight, not journalists who are doing their job.

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