“This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20-years-old and the sexual harassment is part of a culture,” said competitive fighting game player Aris "Aris" Bakhtanians on a recent live stream for Capcom's Cross Assault show, “and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community.”
Then, the Starcraft Player Orb’s use of the n-word was captured here:
I think it’s time we raised awareness on these issues, set firm standards of conduct and evolve the eSports culture into something that can truly be called “professional.” If we are “professional gamers” and if there is a “professional eSports industry,” then our standards must separate us from “gamers.” If we want to be treated as professionals, then we don’t get to edit out the parts of professionalism we don’t like. We must stop making excuses for bad behavior.
Before I get to the proposal, if there are any questions about my credibility on this issue, I would like to share that I am uniquely positioned within the eSports community to not only comment on these issues, but also propose standards.
Since its founding, vVv Gaming has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to people and to diversity as demonstrated in the fourth pillar of our community. As vVv has grown and expanded throughout the world, its players and community members have become more diverse. vVv believes that this diverse community helps the organization realize its full potential. Recognizing and developing the talents of each individual brings new ideas to vVv. We benefit from the creativity and innovation that results when our gamers (who have different experiences, perspectives and cultures) work and play together.
This is what drives innovation and performance at vVv. We believe a well-managed, diverse community expands our base of knowledge, skills and cross-cultural understanding, which in turn, enables us to understand, relate and respond to diverse and changing gamers throughout the world, connecting them to the power of eSports.
In my day job, I am the Director of Research and Advisory Services for multiple business-to-business magazines, of which one is Diversity Executive magazine. If you did not already know, changing global demographics make it crucial for organizations to look outside their comfort zones to seek and retain a competitive business advantage. These trends allow new ideas and perspectives to emerge that support innovation, influence effective decision making and create strong connections to a diverse community and client base.
Today's marketplace also has made organizations more socially conscious. Doing business with women- and minority-owned companies, purchasing products from economically challenged regions of the world and bringing awareness to social causes and humanitarian efforts improves businesses' status as good community leaders and employers of choice.
Diversity and inclusion are no longer just good for business, they are business. Diversity Executive magazine provides strategies to create a more diverse and inclusive business culture and help leaders leverage diversity for maximum organizational gain, moving the needle beyond awareness into action.
I hope this rests any concerns about my credibility or ability to comment.
If we do not tackle this head on, then we are missing an opportunity. I want to remind you that Diversity IS business. I won’t bore you with Return on Investment (ROI), Return on engagement (RoE) and other measures, but they all point to few important facts.
- A diverse, workforce is the sustainable competitive advantage that differentiates one organization from another (Just ask Facebook, Google or Apple). Diversity is essential to win in the marketplaces, workplaces and communities around the world.
- An inclusive, flexible work environment must value differences that motivates employees to contribute their best. Allow people to bring their whole selves to work and play.
- To better serve customers fans and our communities, we must attract, develop, promote and retain a diverse player base, workforce and community.
- Trust, mutual respect and dignity are fundamental beliefs that are reflected in our behavior and actions.
- Accountability for diversity and inclusion goals will help drive the growth of eSports.
My proposal (Call to Action)
- All Leagues, organizations and individuals associated with eSports (especially senior leaders and sponsors) should set a zero tolerance policy on any homophobic, racist or sexist language or behavior.
- Train your staff and employees in these policies
- We “self-police.” I am not asking for a witch hunt, but I am asking that you reach out to players and PRIVATELY point out their bad behavior. If they fail to cease inappropriate behavior immediately, then bring it to the attention of their managers and sponsors (who should have zero tolerance for this). First, give the player a chance to correct their own behavior.
- Hold leaders accountable. If leadership of any organization or sponsor fails to act, we immediately hold them accountable through social media, boycotts and pressure on customers, fans and any revenue streams they may have.
- I ask that Twitch.TV and Justin.TV ensure they a zero tolerance policy in place and have a transparent, fair process by which to handle diversity and inclusion issues. Partnered/Featured channels and content providers should be held to high standards,
- We hold online events to raise awareness of this issue in various communities (SC2, FGC, CoD, etc.)
It's our turn to make a 100% clear commitment that eSports is working hard to join the ranks of other industries in relation to our commitment to diversity and inclusion. We should lead on diversity, not follow. We should do it now.