Creation of a Harassment Task Force

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Dec 19, 2013
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#1
Hello to all players and spectators of the Smash Community:


My name is Josh “Roboticphish” Kassel, currently acting project manager of “The 5” and “The 25”, Events and Brackets Coordinator at the Genesis, Big House, Shine, and Smash and Splash events series, co-founding member of the Stop Your Friendlies Event Team, part-time Falco player, and member of the community for over four years. I am writing to you today as I have taken over a new responsibility on behalf of the 5 and 25, and I wanted to describe in detail what that responsibility is and entails, and how it will affect our tournaments in the future. I will be speaking from the perspective of a Melee player, however it should be noted that I speak for TOs who conduct events for all of our games.


My first smashfest was streaming Apex 2014, and in the few years I have been a part of the scene, I have seen a transformation take place in our culture and scene. My first major was MLG Anaheim, attended by a little over three hundred people and at the time, the fifth-largest Melee tournament of all time. Since then, there have been forty-one tournaments of a larger entry pool, and if you include our sister games, there have been a small handful of tournaments with ten times the entrants that MLG Anaheim had. The benefits of this explosion of size are clear: We are filling stadiums, packing university halls, and jamming our calendars full of events. Friends and rivalries are being made in every local scene across the world, the competition has never been better, and when we all get together for our supermajors, it becomes a transformative experience that hooks everyone who attends.

Yet there has also been an expansion of our ugliest parts as well. Eight years ago, in the height of the Brawl days, our community was still young and brash. The language we used was course; one of the finest combo videos created by our most talented and visible players was literally called “**** x2”, which smashboards won't even let me print uncensored any longer, and the kids in the scene at the time gave little thought to how our behavior might hurt others. We weren’t on tv, we weren’t filling concert halls and drawing eyes and attention, but most importantly, we weren’t in the business of universal acceptance and bringing new people in. There was only one rule to the old Melee family: you had to love Melee. Everything else was up for grabs.


While I understand that that culture may be what attracted many to the scene (including myself!), I also understand that it alienated anyone who was not the most hardcore fan coming in. There are people who enjoy Smash and who enjoy competition, who are looking for new friends and a fun environment to meet people their age with common interests...and yet are not so committed to this game that they are willing to tolerate any level of possible disrespect in order to take part in it. As the size of our community has expanded, so too has it amplified the volume of our culture. What was previously the callous shouts of a dozen people in a church basement has become the angry roar of a thousand rabid fans. What was previously one friend introduced to the scene and harassed until they left has turned into a constant and neverending heartache, both in person and online. It is high time for this to be addressed.


Up until now, our community has been so fragmented and splintered between each region that there has not been a good opportunity to create a code of conduct for us all. There has not been a system to report harassment or rulebreaking, there has not been a concentrated effort to tone down the most harmful rhetoric, and there has been virtually no system outside of the public witch hunts to suspend or ban offending players for their grievances. What affects one region rarely carries over even to the players in their neighbor regions, and almost nothing that happens on the local level carries over to our national level. This has led to a laissez-faire attitude regarding harassment and player conduct, because no one has wanted to step up and and attempt to do something serious about it.

That is a complaint the 5 and the 25 have heard loud and clear, and the responsibility which now falls to me is an effort to correct this “step back” approach to community leadership. A task force has been created with the goal of creating a code of conduct for our tournaments, establishing a program of reporting harassment and rule violations, and establishing concrete systems of suspensions and bans for rule violations. The code we are going to be drafting is being created with the express intention of being used at every major tournament, and the system we are putting in place to deal with player conduct aims to tie behavior at the local level with behavior at the national one. For comparison, here is a compendium of penalties for the League of Legends Championship Series: https://riot-web-static.s3.amazonaws.com/lolesports/Rule Sets/Global_Penalty_Index.pdf
It is our aim with this code of conduct that local tournaments can look once again to the behavior of their national tournament leaders as a positive example. Our goal is to retain the spirit of that original Smash community: we want our local regions to feel like families, and our major events to feel like family reunions. However, it is also time for us to acknowledge that a dysfunctional family can end up causing more damage than good, and when a family is dysfunctional something must be done to attempt to heal the wounds and bring us together. We understand that families don’t always get along perfectly, however there is a certain baseline level of respect that we must demand from anyone who chooses to take part in it. This code of conduct will not be designed without teeth: behavior both in person and online will be considered, and a player’s behavior in their local scene, if egregious enough, will impact their ability to attend national and international tournaments (and vice versa).

The logistics of the task force will be simple. There are nine members of the panel, with myself acting as an organizing manager and possible tiebreaker in the case of absentia, whose job it will be to draft up the comprehensive list of penalties and rules, and who will be tasked with establishing a concrete and discrete system of reporting and mediation for any reported issues. Once the comprehensive list has been finalized, it will pass to the 5 and 25 for ratification into the official ruleset, and then tournament organizers will be asked to become signatories onto it. Our goal is to get every regional and major tournament to sign the code of conduct and agree to abide by the penalties and rules we have determined.


This process will not happen overnight, but we are aiming to have the complete code and system prepared for the summer tournament season. If you have any further questions about the logistics of the process, you are encouraged to tweet me roboticphish roboticphish , or to inquire with other members of the task force listed below. If you have ideas for rules amendments or changes to the ruleset, you are encouraged to please submit a redlined amendment to ssbmrulescc@gmail.com. Thank you all for reading.

Sincerely,

Josh “Roboticphish” Kassel


Task force members:


  • Emily “Emilywaves” Sun

  • Sheridan “Dr. Z” Zalewski

  • Daniel “Tafokints” Lee

  • Chuck “Mudkyp” Vigus

  • John “SleepyK” Lee

  • Kelly “Kupo” Goodchild

  • Kyle “Dr. Piggy” Nolla

  • Alan “Alan” Moore

  • Alex “SweetDee” Grove
 
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Scribe

I wanna say I'm sorry for stuff I haven't done yet
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#2
It's awesome to see something like this take form. Kinda wish the Smash Wii U community had something similar, but hopefully we'll see that happen going into Smash for Switch.
 

Bones0

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#3
I'm not a huge fan of a standardized code of conduct that treats everything as black and white and deals with everyone in the same way. A big problem with social situations is they have tons of context that needs to be taken into account, something codes of conduct are famously bad at. What I'd much rather see is reaching out on a local level and establishing 3-5 people per region who are open to dealing with social situations. This allows local communities to deal with their own problems which is not only more efficient, but enables those important contextual details to be taken into account because the panel in question will have had at least some interaction with the parties involved in the dispute. This also makes prevention of issues before they get too serious much more feasible compared to a list of rules that are primarily focused on punishing offenders instead of settling disputes before they become full blown social media storms.

Another benefit is the people responsible for the harassment or whatever will be more likely to take responsibility and correct their behavior if confronted from someone in their local scene.Someone being linked a League of Legends code of conduct to explain why they've been banned by a panel they've never met is very impersonal and less likely to change their behavior. This also goes back to not every situation being treated the same. Local communities should be the ones deciding how to deal with bad behavior since they know the history and temperament of the people involved. There are already scenes that have demonstrated their ability to deal with these types of problems, and I think modeling those communities and making sure similar systems are in place for every region is what should be the focus.
 

Scribe

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#4
I'd definitely support local initiatives, tho I feel like there are so many local scenes out there and some of them are too small to really form those formalized structures, and some are just so ****ty that expecting them to self-regulate will make things worse. When you have cases of local community leaders perpetrating or at least enabling harassment, putting them in charge of curbing it would create a conflict of interest and potentially make things even worse. The whole point of having this sort of community-wide infrastructure is to deal with stuff that can't be tackled on a local level - either due to it seeping out into the wider community or due to the local community being unwilling or unable to deal with it.
 
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