The contestants may be there to get their game on, but the organizers are done playing. Competitive gaming can be known as an ugly place, with players that are quicker to shoot vitriol rather than bullets or hadoukens. It has been stated that players consider this type of behavior the norm; a culture of sorts that needs to be preserved to “keep gaming real”. However, one tournament organizer is done enabling hatred and assault.
Riddge “RJ” Mussington is the organizer behind multiple tournaments series in the greater New York / New Jersey area, including “Collision”, “Rescue” and “NYU Brawl”, located in the university’s game center. Mussington also acts as a contributor to Smashtournament.com and the Apex series, the world’s largest Smash event. In light of recent events at the North East Championship, where Ryan “Unknown522” Ford choked Lucas “Inui” Delorenzo not once, but twice, Mussington posted a new rule for all of his events. The rule states:
Any violence that happens on the premises events will have you warned or removed from the venue without a refund. A possible ban may occur from future events depending on the severity of the act. This includes (but is not limited to):
More importantly, Mussington goes on to clarify “Yes, calling a person or action “gay”, and saying “rape” to describe how badly you lost fall under this rule.” Mussington did make a point to clarify that he knows that trash talk is considered a natural part of competitive gaming, but sees a clear distinction between healthy competitive mocking and hateful speech. I had a chance to speak with Mussington about the motivation behind his decision.
Mussington (sitting) converses with Smash player “Kai” while setting up one of his tournaments.
Paul-Anthony LaCen: Were the events at NEC the motivation behind this new rule, or was it a long time coming?
Riddge “RJ” Mussington: I personally feel this was a long time coming. NEC helped shaped the rule to what it is, but since I started in the Smash community, the language and disrespect that people show to one another is almost baffling. I want to help everyone grow as people; in order to grow, we need some form of construct and guidance to go by.
PL: Do you think you’ll be met with opposition from players that normally attend your events?
RJ: Of course. Any form of change will cause people to feel uneasy, since it is a new experience. The use of the words “Gay” and “Rape” are widely used in the gaming community to the point where among us, it almost has a different meaning. However, I feel that the people who use the terms honestly don’t know the true meaning of it, and how hurtful it can be. I am of course now trying to teach people the reasons why.
PL: Will you be encouraging other tournament organizers to adopt this rule as well? With your contributions to the upcoming Apex tournament, do you think it will be adopted at the world’s largest smash event?
RJ: I hope the rule is influential enough so that other tournament organizers will adopt the rule. I will be speaking personally to (Apex organizer) Johnathan Lugo about the rule very soon, and hope that the rest of the Apex Committee will take the rule into its arms as well. However, in order to grow, you need a starting point, and then show it can be done by example. Currently, all of my events (Collision, Rescue, NYU Brawl) and future events that I will be hosting will be the starting points to a hopefully fruitful idea.
Apex co-organizer Cristin DeSaro has another take on discouraging unbecoming behavior, with a new rule restricting contestants from using vulgar player tags. Currently, there is no word as to whether the world’s largest smash event will be following Mussington’s lead, but DeSaro did have one thing to say about the player tag rule.
“I literally would not have thought about it until I watched a video in which one player used “$LUT” as his tag. I want to iron out all these details and all refs/TOs/staff and security will be required to be on the look out for it.”
While professional outlets obviously have a code of conduct that they strictly enforce, this is probably one of the first instances of a community-run event bringing the hammer down on the illusion of the “culture” that some competitive players endear themselves to. This past weekend’s “Fall Brawl” at NYU was Mussington’s first event since instating the rule, which was met with no opposition and few offenses. Hopefully, it’s the first of many.