Let’s Talk About The FGC Code of Conduct

Well, we all saw this coming. The Fighting Game Community’s (FGC) Code of Conduct is finally here and met with much praise, criticism, and even some anger. Honestly, this was a necessary move for the FGC given the events that came to light over the last year. Between the racism, sexual assault allegations and various unsavory accusations, this was a natural step in giving these actions have consequences.

Before we discuss this, let’s make one thing clear. It doesn’t matter if you came from the “old days” where this stuff was commonplaces. It really doesn’t matter if you think this CoC is a sign that the FGC is “soft.” The CoC is an important step to making the FGC in this current day a place for everyone who wants to participate. Just because you endured this stuff in the past doesn’t mean everyone should have to. Hell, YOU shouldn’t have had to, but these behaviors have to be checked before it gets too far. I also don’t want to give the wrong idea. The FGC isn’t some cesspool of abuse or anything. As it is now, it’s an imperfect space where experiences may vary; as any fandom is. However, the CoC is important because abuse does happen. That is a fact. When it does, there should be a way to deal with it. Now, let’s get into the CoC itself.

Not counting the preamble, the document is segmented into 5 parts. The first 2, Authority and Objectives, are what you’d expect. Who’s involved with enforcement, when it’ll be enforced and what it aims to accomplish. The meat of this document arrives in Section 3, Conduct. The section begins with an obvious one; assault, battery, physical harassment, or abuse is against the rules. That’s fine. But then it goes into something a little gray. Malicious bullying, non physical harassment, and abuse make sense. Baiting and trolling seems a little too vague, especially when the measure is “commonly accepted FGC trash talking.” I expect this’ll be at the tournament organizer’s discretion.

It continues on to the more obvious ground; weapons and stalking is obviously bad. Recording and photographs… it’s only iffy because people like to record matches, but isn’t that big a deal as long as it doesn’t escalate. Then it continues with outing a person’s sexuality, gender, etc. as well as condemning discrimination. The rules continue to be more “duh” rules, until it gets to… hygiene. To quote it, “Creating a nuisance or hazard by neglecting personal hygiene, refusing to take appropriate hygienic or medical precautions, or engaging in or encouraging others to commit any hygienically or medically unsafe behavior.” So, in short, take a shower or you’ll be dealt with. I’d really like to see how this plays out when we get to go to tournaments again.

It begins to wrap up the section with a bit about underage participants. The important bits here is that kids under 16 have to be with an adult, kids under 18 can’t consent, and the rules will be harsher when dealing with minors. That’s important given how many kids attend these events. Then the last section expresses that the list isn’t exhaustive and that any behavior against the “commonly accepted FGC standards” may violate the CoC. That bit of “commonly accepted FGC standards” is vaguer than I would like, but I expect that to be clarified as this gets more and more fleshed out. After that, we get a section called Structure, explaining who makes the CoC team and that it’ll be updated over time. Nothing too important.

Finally, the last section: Investigation, Adjudication, and Enforcement. It opens with a list of potential consequences ranging from warnings and bans to referrals to law enforcement and boycotts. Clearly, it’ll be a case by case basis, but it seems they’re willing to take the necessary actions and do more than a ban for everything. They even include that members of the CoC aren’t safe from these rules. They also include that the CoC team will give recommendations on how to act on violations, so no one person is making that decision most of the time. Finally, the Enforcement section simply says “The Backers will enforce disciplinary action in their own Community Spaces.” All that reads to me is that punishment is dealt by the T.O. and not the CoC.

That’s about it for all the technical stuff. And I want to reiterate that this is a very abridged reading of the CoC. Even if you read this, I’d suggest reading the whole document for yourself. Now, for what I think of it. Right now I’d say it’s a good gesture, but until we get tournaments back that’s all it’ll be. A gesture. We’re currently living in an era of online tournaments and while some of these rules are applicable, I’d imagine they’re harder to enforce. This could be especially true of smaller tournaments. Still, it’s a good guideline for when tournaments start up again in the future.

When that happens, I hope that some of vaguest terms and guidelines can get more defined. Terms like “commonly accepted FGC standards” are way too vague, since the creation of the CoC itself has shown that “commonly accepted” may be a reach. It may be a pain or may seem unnecessary, but we’ve already had these talks. This is in the same vein as the “FGC is too soft because I can’t say _” discourse. Hopefully, as time goes on there’ll be more real world examples or more defined terms.

I’m glad the guidelines are there and ready to go. However, I wonder how well this’ll go when implemented for the tournament scene we’re forced to work with now. We’ve already seen some examples of rules having to be enforced, such as Capcom punishing Punk for misconduct by having him start a tournament in the loser’s bracket? Weird, but it isn’t as if they could ban him from a venue. By the way, that whole situation could be an example of why “commonly accepted FGC standards” is too vague. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in about a year. Hopefully by then, the CoC will be practiced and all the kinks can be ironed out. For now, it’s just a nice gesture.

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