The Ugly Side of Street Fighter or Now I Know I’m Getting Old

Street Fighter 1

I am not that great at Street Fighter. Though, I’ve been playing the game since I was in high school. I am of the rare breed that even played Street Fighter 1, with the giant pressure-sensitive buttons and all. I enjoy the game. I like the real-time brain game that it is. I like the competition, the depth, the timing, the beautiful design….all of it. I can hold my own, maybe win 5 out of 10 matches. But sure, I lose a lot.

I’ve owned Street Fighter IV since release day in February of 2009. I’ve enjoyed every heart-pounding match, and even made a few friends along the way. But something has been happening lately: I’ve found that Street Fighter can turn people into unbelievable jerks.

I don’t use a microphone when I play. I have a simple handle on PSN, “Robotube”, and I use no icons or titles. I don’t even use taunts. I do nothing that would provoke other players, I send no messages, nothing like that. Yet, I’m finding something a lot worse than sore losers: a voluminous influx of sore winners.

Yesterday, (as usual), I was handily beaten by a skilled Blanka player. Match ends, I lose, that’s it. Suddenly a message pops up which reads “Bow down, bitch.”. I laughed at first, because I immediately had this mental imagine of some gorilla-like nutjob flipping out over winning, not much unlike his onscreen counterpart. It didn’t bother me much; I deleted it and moved on.

This evening, however, something far more eyebrow-raising happened. Before the match even started, my opponent and I are in the lobby, and he begins a tirade of obscenity toward me. Before we could even get past character select, I kid you not, I was called the n-word, a common homophobic slur, a dickhead, and a bitch. Nice, right? Being a straight white guy, I was all the more perplexed.

Again, my immediate reaction is to sort of brush it off, though I am far more troubled by the use of racist and homophobic slurs this time. Being called a dickhead or a bitch I can handle…I think most of my friends call me those things most days anyway.

I’m not 13 anymore so I don’t take any offense by being called any of those things by a nameless, tinny voice coming over my TV, however, the onslaught got uglier and more riddled with bigotry. It did make me realize something that I didn’t want to admit. Street Fighter really does bring out the ugly side of people. I know what you’re thinking….it’s shit-talking, it’s an attempt to psyche out the opponent, it’s part of the game….whatever. But a complete deluge of racial and homophobic vomit is so way beyond what I consider to be some garden-variety shit-talk. It’s really sad…it almost makes me wonder if the video game violence critics aren’t on to something.

If all it takes is a video game to bring such putrid racism and homophobia out of a person, we, my friends, are in trouble. Where did we go wrong? When did this happen? When did video games go from fun to fury? Is it the anonymity? If it is, then I am frankly scared of what lies beneath the exterior of all the random people I meet every day.

After that, I decided it was time to shelve the game for a while. I may be getting too old for this, I have to admit. I was really disappointed with the people I was playing with, and I just felt deflated…I didn’t want to “associate” with it anymore. Not for awhile, anyway. The lure of the magnificence that is Street Fighter will draw me back, but I need to step away for a while.

I’m just glad nobody else was in the room…how embarrassing it was at that moment to even be associated with gaming. I know this all sounds rather sanctimonious or preachy, so apologies for that tone, but I just had to share my thoughts on this incident. It was sort of an eye-opening moment for me.


9 Responses to The Ugly Side of Street Fighter or Now I Know I’m Getting Old

  1. daniel lloyd says:

    well put. this is exactly why local multiplayer (friends on your couch) will always be better than online strangers. i hate the future and all of it’s DLC. give me pals and boxart any day.

    • jasoncirillo says:

      Agreed. When I play again, I think it’s going to be with real humanoids sitting in the room with me. Worst case, people I know personally online.

  2. heyricochet says:

    Not that old, unless 25 is old. I don’t really play online mostly because of that, my one stronghold is Team Fortress 2.

  3. mroush says:

    It’s like high school all over again. The rad thing is, will dont suck!

  4. jself says:

    There’s a distinct reason I tend to avoid playing online. And that’s the specific reason.

    I’d offer to play a game with you sometime, as I’m definitely not like that, but I do not have the game anymore! I grew tired of the things you mentioned.

  5. Donovan says:

    First of all, I’m guessing you’ve never played Halo online. ๐Ÿ˜›

    When I started getting better at SFIV I started to get messages almost constantly after each match. I quickly learned two things: 1. It’s very hard to type using an arcade stick and 2. if I actually messaged them back like a real person, most of the time they would apologize.

    It seems like the next few generations never lived without anonymity. They say mean, terrible things with no regard. I guess when you don’t see someone’s face or reaction, you just keep escalating what you think is acceptable “trash talk.”

    You really do have to game with people you know these days. The trouble for our generation (I guess I should speak for myself) is that a lot of my friends don’t actually play games online.

    Maybe this is why. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • jasoncirillo says:

      All true, including the part about never playing Halo online. ๐Ÿ™‚

      When I started playing around 1991 or so, it was face to face in arcades. If someone ever called anyone any of those things, he would find himself face first through the CRT.

  6. 2000prelude says:

    Having never actually played SF4, I can’t claim to be an authority on trash talking before matches. I can, however, comment and agree on the chatting while gaming concept as a whole. I do not have a BT headset, and so my communication with other players on PSN is based on text alone, which suits me just fine. I have been subject to the verbal diarrhea of the children on PSN in the past. Specifically while playing Burnout Paradise.

    BP was built for playing online and when you are playing with pleasant players, it is a lot of fun. But when you get some 13 year old ingrate who thinks he is a badass, things quickly take a turn for the worst. I have found creating my own room where I can either mute, or kick obnoxious players works for me. I do not know if that is an option of SF4. Though I mostly just avoid online play with random players in general. Or I turn off the in-game chat if I can.

    Great post, though. There are websites devoted to mature game players getting together for more friendly game sessions. One is The Adult Gamer:

    Another is Casual Adult Gamers:

    There are others out there as well that Google will reveal. I do not have experience with any of them, however.

  7. Alex says:

    You want to see bad etiquette? Head over the It easily sets the bar for worse human interaction online. seriously, read any thread on that forum. It is unbelievable how much trash talking and pointless arguing there is. It far exceeds any other topical forum I have seen. It’s everything SF4 culture shouldn’t be, but unfortunately is.

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