Xaimi's Nerdy Blurbs: FGC: What Happened to Trash Talk?

Monday, April 20, 2020

FGC: What Happened to Trash Talk?

“ I miss the shit talking in the fgc.”

UPDATE: This article was updated 11 June 2023 to reflect the Washington D.C.'s official NFL team name change.

Trash talking and competitive activities tend to walk hand-in-hand. Place one of the following fans from each of these NFL teams in a room: Washington Commanders, Baltimore Ravens, and the Dallas Cowboys. Stat drops and butter-finger call-outs will rain down within minutes.

 Yet, nowhere have I seen it more infused than in the fighting game community-- the fgc.

If French is the language of romance, FGC shit talking is the sharp tongue of pressure; wise cracks, jaunty stabs, and colorful comebacks land with enough strength to jostle your ancestors. Some speak a dialect so archaic, one must ask the elders among us to translate.

When I read fellow fight gamer, and competitive Teppen player, Nuzzlemaster’s tweet saying he missed its presence in the community, my first thought was that trash talk never really left. 

But it did, or rather, the rhetoric and purpose behind trash talking changed-- and not for the better. 

Know Your History

During live fighting game events, the air bristles with competitiveness and intensity. This was not cultivated in the modern esports arenas of today, but rather in living rooms and the arcade inner city nooks all over the world from yesteryear.

In the 90’s, you tested your mettle risking $0.25 to $1.00 per play. I was that kid plopping tokens in the local arcade’s Street Fighter II and Street Fighter: Alpha 3 cabinets. Little hands trying desperately to b.s. my way to the final boss. Back then, you were risking pride and coin because your quarters were limited and at any moment, your treacherous run could be interrupted by another’s twenty-five cents and a “NEW CHALLENGER APPEARS!”

Those who beat the era’s popular titles were considered skilled, but that new challenger was a true assessment of all that you thought you knew about the game’s mechanics and your character main. It’s the hype around these matches where trash-talking simmered and brewed, waiting to be unleashed when a combo was dropped or the favorite to win toppled by the underdog.

Spectators huddled around the players on-deck. Some coached from the sidelines while others bit their lips in suspense. Feeling froggy? Want to show off? Initiate a mirror-match, a term for selecting the same character as your opponent, even if it’s not your main. A silent shit-talking flex that screams “I’ll beat you at your own game.”

EVO 2019 x Hi Score Girl Collab. Source: Otaquest
Thus, in this majority male scene, was born the most succinct mantra and simultaneous bash in the fighting game community: “Get Good!”

But, that’s the whole point. There was a time when friendly trash talk, for all intensive purposes, encouraged the player to improve or grow. Constructive shit-talking did not attack a person’s beliefs, race, sexuality, or customs. Rather, saying something like “Want some dip for all that chip damage?” after an opponent weathered your storm, was the boxing match equivalent to mind games; the boxer hits his glove against his own chin after eating a heavy punch. The message being “I’m still here. What else you got?”  

Yet, as the esteemed Soul Calibur veteran, Sekirei, pointed out, “...communities were smaller, tighter… and [sic] it was pretty much like all of gaming back then, a boys’ club.” This frat boy mentality, combined with a transition from local arcade play, to console friendlies, then online matches led to a shift in the tone and direction of trash-talk in the community.

Internet and Toxicity 

The late 2000s to early 2010s saw developers’ focus transition from couch co-op to online multiplayer. We went from battling friends in our rooms to waiting in online lobbies for a Virtua Fighter 5 match up with a player in Seoul.

The move closed the social divide, but toxic behaviors marinating in online forums and anonymity hopped in for the ride too. It’s not as if the Internet only brought the benevolent among us together.Growing up alongside the Web, means encountering your fair share of trolls, discriminatory jargon, and hate speech right next to cat videos and “Motivational Monday” posts.
Not the hottest take. Another day on Twitter. Source: Twitter

The main reason for this is a sense of anonymity. Some people are emboldened because they hide behind their custom avatars, computer screens, expressing  themselves without a filter...and getting away with it. Say something reproachful on the street, a physical altercation might ensue, but rage quit online and spew venom at, say,  the LGBTQ+ community and what happens? Twitch might ban you. Twitter may suggest that you “Block” or “Mute” the offender. 

Let’s not even talk about YouTube’s attempt at reparations.

This behavior bled straight into the gaming industry’s online environment. Women in the Overwatch community receive frequent harassment as soon as teammates hear a woman in voice chat. Are you a person of color too? Tack on additional slurs. Your team may even throw the game out of spite.

A better expression of rage than most. Source: The OASG

The FGC was not spared. Quite a few members fail to “...keep it about the game…” as Robert Paul (@tempusrob) wisely suggests. Instead of playfully “dogging” someone’s questionable neutral game, players make it personal. This is not to say that the verbal jousting of old was wholesome and lacked malice. There were always folks that overstepped their boundaries. Yet, Nuzzlemaster and I agree “...that it used to be something that was fun and made matches hype…” between good friends and respected rivals. “But…” as he continued on, “...now it’s more so just for toxic reactions and...people take it too far.”

Within the last few days, FGC Twitter has been in an uproar because of one person’s rage quitting and discriminatory remarks against another. Why? There’s never a reason to be a disrespectful runt to anyone, but the former’s reaction is due to an inability to cope with losing matches and maintaining an image. 

That’s right folks! The clout chasers among us don crude personas with unfiltered vernacular for the ‘Gram, Twitch, whatever shocks enough to make a buck. It’s no wonder trash talking is not what it used to be.

YouTube’s Core-A-Gaming, a channel I highly recommend for quality fight game discourse, recently interviewed a well-known player with a turtle style: Justin Wong. What did past competitors have to say about his defensive play? They called it “lame” and “unexciting.” But, if the method is effective, it’s up to the opponents trash talking Wong to adapt their skills.

Garbage Day

So what happened to trash talk? Sekirei’s theory is that there are three degrees of competitive jousting:
  1. “Trash talking between friends”
  2. “Trash talking between random players”
  3. “Harassment disguised as trash talk”

The familiarity in level one permits trash talk as long as no one is offended by the remarks. Meanwhile, levels two and three are garbage.  Two lacks the background and character development between both parties. In other words, a jab thrown in level 1 could be funny, while the same jab in level two can have a negative impact. Level three is self-explanatory.

So where do we go from here?

Realistically, shit-talking will never dissipate in its entirety. I love playful verbal pokes between friends. That said, a bud and I also had our friendly BlazBlue game interrupted at a convention by a guy looking to stroke his ego before a tourney for the same game. No, we did not think we were “hot shit” because we beat him once-- especially since we had never touched the game before a day in our lives and ArcSys titles are complex as hell. But, what did it say about that player that he had to spit trash to hype himself up?

Maybe it’s about time we try cleaning things up and taking out the garbage.

Until Later Guys,


Special thank you to Nuzzlemaster (@nuzzle_master) and Sekirei (@__sekirei) for taking out the time to share their thoughts with me.Follow them on Twitter using the links above. Also sending a thank you to others that helped mull over this topic during all times of the day. 

I leave you with a great display of classic, chill, good ol' shit talk.

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